Seeing the images of Marines holding babies and young children in the evacuation of Kabul brings to mind another Marine, Guy Gabaldon, who saved 1,500 Japanese during the intense World War II fighting in the South Pacific. 

Guy Gabaldon was a Marine Japanese interpreter who fought on both Saipan and Tinian. He was credited with saving the lives of more than 1,500 Japanese, both military and civilian, on the islands by going out alone and urging them to surrender. 

Known as the “Pied Piper of Saipan” Gabaldon was recommended for the Medal of Honor but the award was downgraded to the Silver Star. In 1960, it was finally upgraded to the Navy Cross.


A Life on the Ghetto and Japanese Influences

Guy Gabaldon was born in Los Angeles, California on March 22, 1926, to a family of Mexican descent, and was one of seven children. Growing up in the slums of East Los Angeles he helped his family out during the Depression by shining shoes on Skid Row as a child.

However, by the age of 12, he had moved out of his home and became a self-described waif on the ghetto streets before being taken in by the Nakano family, who were of Japanese heritage. The family and Gabaldon clicked and he considered them his extended family. He attended language school every day with their children and learned to speak Japanese. He also learned about their customs and culture. This knowledge would come in handy during the war. 

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, the Nakano family was sent to the Heart Mountain relocation camp, the Japanese-American Internment camp in Wyoming. One of his adopted brothers, Lane Nakano, enlisted in the Army and served in the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment. (After the war, Nakano starred in the war film Go For Broke, about the 442nd.)

Because he was just turning 16, Guy Gabaldon traveled to Alaska to work in a cannery. Finally, on his 17th birthday, he enlisted in the Marines.