'Pied Piper of Saipan' Dies at 80
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
A hero died last week. Guy Gabaldon was 80. In June 1944 when U.S. Marines fought Japanese troops on the island of Saipan in the Northern Marianas, Gabaldon was a Marine private, and his job entailed talking Japanese soldiers into giving up. He could do that because he could speak some Japanese.
Private GUY GABALDON (Former United States Marine): My ability to speak Japanese is very limited, but it wasn't difficult to say (speaking foreign language), raise your hands and come on out. At night, I'd usually go over to the caves. Saipan is just full of caves, and I'd get to one side of the mouth of a cave, and I'd say you are completely surrounded. I've got a bunch of Marines here with me behind the trees. If you don't surrender, I'll have to kill you, and usually it worked - not always. I'd have to throw grenades in and kill, and I'd get maybe 10, 15, 20 at a time, and one day I got 800.
SIEGEL: Eight hundred Japanese surrendering en masse to one Marine private. That was Guy Gabaldon on TALK OF THE NATION a few years ago. His commanding officer on Saipan was John Schwabe, who joins us now from Portland, Oregon. Do you remember the day when Private Gabaldon took the surrender of 800 Japanese?
Mr. JOHN SCHWABE (Former United States Marine): Yes I do. I remember, and that's when we tagged him with the name of the pied piper.
SIEGEL: The pied piper of Saipan.
Mr. SCHWABE: Yes.
SIEGEL: First you should explain. Mr. Gabaldon was not Japanese by ancestry, but he did pick up some Japanese growing up in California, I gather?
Mr. SCHWABE: That's correct.
SIEGEL: And his missions, because he knew some Japanese, he would go and shout into a cave urging people to give up?
Mr. SCHWABE: This was pretty much his own voluntary work. He would go out on his own and oftentimes without anybody, and sometimes with a small patrol.
SIEGEL: What did he say to Japanese troops that could make them give up?
Mr. SCHWABE: Well, of course I don't speak Japanese, but in asking him what he was saying to them, he would tell them that he would give them water and give them medical attention, and if they didn't come out, they'd probably get their ass shot off.
SIEGEL: After the war, I gather, he was given a medal for what he did, but he felt he deserved - and people who were with him them felt he deserved a more important decoration. Is that right?
Mr. SCHWABE: Well, I recommended him for a Congressional Medal of Honor and he was recommended also for the Navy Cross, and that was reduced to I think a Silver Star, as I recall. And then later on he did get the Navy Cross, but I thought it was just an unbelievable feat for a kid like that to do something like that.
SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Schwabe, thank you very much for talking with us today.
Mr. SCHWABE: Yup, bye-bye.
SIEGEL: John Schwabe was Guy Gabaldon's commanding officer on Saipan during World War II. Gabaldon, who single-handedly captured more than 1,000 Japanese soldiers on Saipan, died last week at the age of 80.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.