Friday, June 28, 2013

Guy Gabaldon

Beachcombing's Bizzare History Blog has the story of possibly the greatest US Marine in the second world war.  Before I send you off to his web site...  I should point out WHY I find this man so interesting.

Years ago, I read a story about a fellow who went to Japan to get one of the elusive high number Dans you can only get over there.  He had earned the award, and was going home with his Sensei on the Tokyo subway.  A big son of a gun had been in his cups and saw him sitting over across the aisle, and strode over to get into the American's face. The American, the one telling this story, was thinking "hey, my Sensei is right here, now I can show him how much I have learned".  There was the usual give and take of annoying testosterone driven bullshit familiar to anybody who ever attended high school, and just as the American was about to take a round out of the bruiser, his sensei told him to "sit down".  Then he addressed the big guy respectfully, asking him what had happened that day.  Turns out the guy's wife had been unfaithful, and in anger he showed up drunk to work, and he had been given an unscheduled "vacation".  Firing is nearly never done, but such a "vacation" can have very long term career implications.  The man's life was in shambles, and he needed to lash out, preferably at somebody "different".  The "different one's" Sensei took the energy, turned it around into a healing moment and the big guy ended up sobbing his story out right there on the subway.  
          I think the story is so unlikely that it must be true.  The next day the American continued his training, to learn the power of words, diplomacy and emotions.  These are, in my opinion, MUCH more powerful than mere kicks, elbow smashes and hammer fist punches.  I am sure that anybody who thinks about these things will agree that the study to become effective in the art of verbal Jujutsu would really take a lot of years. 

Then we need to go to the case of Guy Gabaldon.  

It is hard to imagine how effective verbal Jujutsu is until you are presented with a scenario like the one that Guy Gabaldon was presented with.  His crowning achievement was when he single handedly brought in (took prisoner) 800 fully armed veteran soldiers, dug in with plenty of ammunition, and with a history of suicidal attacks.  I'll let him tell it in his own words.

This is reality.  Not Rambo bullshit. 

(beachcomber says...) His greatest moment of triumph came 8 July 1944 as the Saipan campaign was rolling up. After an insanely brave and insanely ineffective banzai charge the last of the Japanese troops on the island had taken to hiding in caves and cliffs on the coastal fringes of the island. GG went to work talking to two Japanese sentinels. 
I pointed to the many ships we had lying off shore waiting to blast them in their caves. ‘Why die when you have a chance to surrender under honorable conditions? You are taking civilians to their death which is not part of your Bushido military code.’ The big job was going to be in convincing them that we would not torture and kill them – that they would be well treated and would be returned to Japan after the war. I understood that their Bushido Code called for death before surrender, and that to surrender was to be considered a coward. This was going to be a tough nut to crack. It was either convincing them that I was a good guy or I would be a dead Marine within a few minutes. I knew that there were hundreds of die-hard enemy at the bottom of the cliffs and if they rushed me I would probably kill two or three before they ate me alive. This was the final showdown. Can I pull this off? I had beat the odds so far, but now the odds are almost insurmountable against being able to get these suicidal Nips into surrendering.  I finally talked one of my two prisoners to return to the bottom of the cliffs and to try to convince his fellow Gyokusai Banzai survivors that they would be treated with dignity if they surrendered. I kept the other one with me, not as a hostage, but because he said that if he went to the caves with my message and they did not buy it, off with the head. I couldn’t help agreeing with him. The one that descended the cliff either had lots of guts or he was going to double-cross me and come back with his troops firing away. Who was the prisoner, me or the Japs? This was the first time that I was caught in this type of predicament. I had many close calls in shoot-outs and forays into enemy territory, but this was mixing it with those bent on killing seven Marines to one Jap.
 This passage tells you all you need to know about Gabaldon. On the one hand, we have this bluff LA-er who seems to think he is in a war movie rather than a war and who uses all the clichés of his trade, not least rather insensitive language for ‘the Nips’. But read this again and you’ll see that GG understood the Japanese – ‘Bushido Code’ etc – and as importantly he didn’t feel that visceral hate for the Japanese that many US servicemen honed through their battles: take his respect for the prisoner who goes down to negotiate and his understanding of the man who refused.
Here he comes with twelve more military personnel, each with a rifle. This is it! This time I can’t tell them to drop their weapons, I can’t tell them they are surrounded. I am now a prisoner of the fanatical Manchurian campaign veterans. They don’t say a word. They just stand there in front of me waiting for the next move. They’re not pointing their weapons at me, but on the other hand, they don’t have to. If I go to fire they would have the drop on me. They’d chop me down before I fire a round. I must keep my cool or my head will roll. ‘Dozo o suwari nasai!’ (Please sit down). I must make them feel that I have everything under control. This is the first time that I think of being too young to demonstrate authority, but what else can I do? ‘Tabako hoshi desu ka?’ (I offer them cigarettes). Okay, let’s get down to serious business. I’m building up courage within myself. ‘Heitai san,’ (Fellow soldiers!). ‘I am here to bring you a message from General Holland ‘Mad’ Smith, the Shogun in charge of the Marianas Operation.’ ‘General Smith admires your valor and has ordered our troops to offer a safe haven to all the survivors of your intrepid Gyokusai attack yesterday. Such a glorious and courageous military action will go down in history. The General assures you that you will be taken to Hawaii where you will be kept together in comfortable quarters until the end of the war. The General’s word is honorable. It is his desire that there be no more useless bloodshed.’ The Japs didn’t know General Smith from General Pancho Villa. But they respected the word, ‘Shogun.’ ‘Heitai san, Amerika no Kaigun no Kampo de anata tachi minna korusu koto ga dekimas.’(The American Navy with its firepower can kill all of you). I point to the hundreds of ships off shore. I am making headway. They mumble among themselves, but the very fact that they came to talk with me shows a breakthrough. They could have easily shot me from behind the rocks on the edge of the cliffs. This scam has to work or adios mother. The one in charge is a Chuii (First Looey). He reaches over and accepts a cigarette, a break. They’re coming around. I try something else, the Japanese adage I learned in East L.A., ‘Warera Nihonjin toshite hazukashii koto o shitara ikemasen.’ They smile, probably at my poor pronunciation. They know that I am not Japanese. I look like a typical Chicano. The Chuii asks me if we have a well equipped hospital at our headquarters. Madre mia, they are going to buy my proposition. I tell him, ‘Tabemono, nomimono, chiryo o agemasho. Amerika Oisha takusan orimasu. Anata no heitai ga kegashita ka?’ (we have fine, well equipped doctors – do you have many wounded?) The Chuii gazes at the ships just a few hundred feet off the cliffs. He has to know that to resist is sure death for all, me included. I can see that this guy does not want to die or he would have done himself in last night during the Gyokusai attack. ‘So da yo! Horyo ni naru!’ (So be it! I become your prisoner!) My thought was, ‘Guy, you short-ass bastard, you did it!’
And he had. Within half an hour eight hundred Japanese soldiers and civilians had surrendered to a single American marine.  It is difficult not to admire Guy Gabaldon. By the time the battle was over, he had persuaded 1500 soldiers and civilians to surrender

Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve)
Headquarters & Service Company, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division
Date of Action: June 15 - August 1, 1944
The Navy Cross is presented to Guy L. Gabaldon, Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism while serving with Headquarters and Service Company, Second Marines, Second Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Saipan and Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands, South Pacific Area, from 15 June to 1 August 1944. Acting as a Japanese Interpreter for the Second Marines, Private First Class Gabaldon displayed extreme courage and initiative in single-handedly capturing enemy civilian and military personnel during the Saipan and Tinian operations. Working alone in front of the lines, he daringly entered enemy caves, pillboxes, buildings, and jungle brush, frequently in the face of hostile fire, and succeeded in not only obtaining vital military information, but in capturing well over one thousand enemy civilians and troops. Through his valiant and distinguished exploits, Private First Class Gabaldon made an important contribution to the successful prosecution of the campaign and, through his efforts, a definite humane treatment of civilian prisoners was assured. His courageous and inspiring devotion to duty throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.[10]

Learn this well.


  1. Check out the Bullshido site. They have a "Badass of the Month" section profiling various tough guys throughout history.

  2. I liked their profile of Dermot O'Neil, the character showcased in the movie "The Devil's Brigade". In the movie, he called himself "Patric O'Neil", but his real name was Dermot. Only his friends called him "Pat", a term they used for every Irish soldier.