Guy Louis Gabaldon – Private First Class, United States Marine Corps

Guy Gabaldon, 80, who as an 18-year-old Marine Private single-handedly persuaded more than 1,000 Japanese soldiers to surrender in the World War II battle for Saipan, died August 31, 2006. at his home in Old Town, Florida, after a heart attack.

Using an elementary knowledge of Japanese, bribes of cigarettes and candy, and trickery with tales of encampments surrounded by U.S. troops, Mr. Gabaldon was able to persuade troops to abandon their posts and surrender.

The scheme was so brazen and successful that it earned the young Marine the Navy Cross, the highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor. He also won fame when his story was told on television's “This Is Your Life” and in the 1960 movie “Hell to Eternity,” in which he was portrayed by Jeffrey Hunter.

Mr. Gabaldon wrote in his 1990 memoir, “Saipan: Suicide Island”: “My plan, as impossible as it seemed, was to get near a Japanese emplacement, bunker, or cave, and tell them that I had a bunch of Marines with me and we were ready to kill them if they did not surrender.

“I promised that they would be treated with dignity, and that we would make sure that they were taken back to Japan after the war,” he wrote.

The 5-foot-4-inch Gabaldon used piecemeal Japanese he had picked up from a childhood friend to earn the trust of the enemy, who believed his story of hundreds of looming troops. In a single day in July 1944, Mr. Gabaldon was said to have gotten about 800 Japanese soldiers to follow him back to the U.S. camp.

His exploits earned him the nickname Pied Piper of Saipan.

The private acknowledged that his plan was foolish and that, had it failed, it could have resulted in a court-martial.

Born March 22, 1926, in Los Angeles, Mr. Gabaldon signed up for the service on his 17th birthday and arrived on Saipan on D-Day. His military career was cut short after 2 1/2 years by injuries from machine-gun fire.

He spent the years that followed running a variety of businesses, including a furniture store, a fishing operation and an import-export firm, and he unsuccessfully pursued a California congressional seat in 1964.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 03/22/1926
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/31/2006

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