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Posthumous Medal of Honor to WWII Marine who 'captured' 1,500 Japanese?

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Hell yes, says I. Why? Because the "Pied Piper of Saipan," during the July 1944 invasion of that island, single-handedly and repeatedly went off on his own, against orders, to persuade hundreds of Japanese civilians and soldiers to come (relatively) peacefully out of the caves where they'd been holed up against the Americans. Guy Gabaldon died in 2006, but his heroism was such that, after being threatened with court-martial for his first two prisoners and then allowed to do his thing for disobeying with 50 more, no one in U.S. military history has since matched his prisoner record: all in all, 1,500 Japanese voluntarily gave themselves up to Gabaldon.

Like another remarkable man from WWII, if in a very different way, Gabaldon's courage was the kind that can inspire people for zillions of years to come, and an incredible story in itself. Gather 'round for more details after the jump.

You're probably wondering, as I did, how an American talked so many Japanese into surrendering, and the answer isn't as obvious as you'd think. Y'see, Gabaldon did speak some Japanese, but he wasn't a tutored rich kid or descended therefrom, which an 18-year-old at that time would pretty much have to be. He was Mexican-American and grew up in Los Angeles, one of seven kids. As a young'un, he made friends with several other kids and formed the Moe Gang ("Moe" as in the Stooge, not, y'know, that pointless designation for cute non-loli anime girls--I still don't see the need for its own word). More than half of the kids were Japanese-American, and Guy grew so close to the Nakano twins that he pretty much moved in with them and started going to their school when he was 12; it wasn't long before he started picking up a lot of Japanese language and cultural ideas.

But they were separated in 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, thanks to one of the most flat-[censored] awful things the U.S. government has ever done to its own citizens: namely, the "relocation" of any broadly defined Japanese-American person they could get their hands on to internment camps. I'll let the facts speak for themselves on that matter and move on before I pop a blood vessel; the Nakano family was led off to where they wouldn't launch another military attack on U.S. soil - GRAR - and Gabaldon joined the Marine Corps as soon as he turned 17.

Another point should be emphasized going into the tale of military operations on the island of Saipan: we all know about kamikaze attacks, which sprang from absolute fanaticism, including the attitude that surrendering to an enemy made you lower than a chunk of dog crap. The Japanese troops on Saipan had explicit orders to either kill seven enemies for every one of their own, or kill themselves to make up for it. Consider that, and then think of how Gabaldon, on the first day of their arrival, sneaked off by himself and came back with two Japanese he'd persuaded to give themselves up.

As recalled in the video, his superior reamed him for endangering himself and the rest of his division with a solo foray, and Gabaldon humbly agreed not to ever do it again. Then, that night, he slipped out without telling anyone, found a cave full of Japanese, shot the guards, moved close in, and yelled that they were surrounded and had better give up; thanks to his surprising aptitude with the language (again, at the time, a proper "arigatou" alone was pretty impressive), he convinced them that they'd be well treated and not tortured to death like they'd always expected, so that 50 came back with him the next morning. Quite wisely, instead of a court-martial, he was given the okay to go do it again.

Even cooler was his later espionage, when he overheard a huge suicide charge - including civilians - being planned; the charge failed, the Japanese returned to their positions, and Gabaldon followed them. Next day, he caught two guards and got one of them to go back to the cave and pass along terms of surrender, upon which a Japanese officer emerged, talked it over with Gabaldon, and agreed. Over 800 prisoners came from that excursion.

He kept it up till he was wounded by a machine gun and honorably discharged. His C.O. recommended him for the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration of the U.S. government, but instead he got a Silver Star, the third highest. When a movie about his heroism was released in 1960 - Hell to Eternity, starring a white guy - the government upgraded his Star to a Navy Cross Medal, which is the second highest.

Now, understandably, a lot of folks are calling for a posthumous review and award of the Medal in light of the fact that congressional review has repeatedly shown racial bias in WWII awards thereof. I mean, 1,500 captives? Sounds to me like "extreme bravery beyond the call of duty," not to mention that over half of these puppies are awarded posthumously. Unfortunately, I'm not real sure about whether an online petition is gonna do much for this cause. If I'm stopped on the street tomorrow and asked what I think of it, though, I'll say, "Hell yeah, he deserves one! How the hell do you know I know about it?" And we'll go from there! 


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Aoi
Aoi   gamer profile

'Ello, luvs. I be a sometime editor o' Jtor, dependent on my school and work schedule. Thanks for reading! Remember, the first one's free. more + disclosures


 



Filed under... #Honto Sugoi! #japan

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