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Silver Starlight of G. Louis Gabaldon

April 8, 2007 |  8:12 pm

April 8, 1957

Paul V. Coates
Confidential File

I found another hero today, a local boy who made good in battle.

What he did on the island of Saipan perhaps equals in achievement and guts any story of any man in any war.

His name is Guy Louis Gabaldon. He's an American of Mexican descent. He grew up on the Eastside, one of a family of seven children. But at 11, he decided that he wasn't getting enough attention at home.

So he quietly checked out.

He moved in with a Japanese American couple, parents of a friend of his. They gave him the attention he wanted and kept him attending school.

The next few years were fairly pleasant ones for Guy. He even learned to speak Japanese.

But when he was 16, the United States went to war with Japan. And Guy's "foster parents" were taken away from him to an internment camp.

He was on the streets again and not having much fun, so finally he joined the Marines. He was 17 and just tall enough to meet the Corps' height requirement.

At 18, he went ashore on the third wave of 2nd Marine Regiment troops to invade Saipan.

He had a Browning automatic rifle in his hands and military records show he used it to kill 33 Japanese soldiers the first day.

But after the landing, because he could speak Japanese, he was pulled back to work with regimental intelligence.

Guy found it awfully dull. And the next morning he sneaked off into the jungle by himself. He came back with five prisoners.

His achievement made him a minor hero and his superiors ignored the fact that he'd disobeyed orders by leaving and then thrown his rifle and helmet away to replace them with a lighter carbine and a more comfortable Seabee cap.

Japanese soldiers didn't surrender easy and Guy was pretty proud. So he slipped off the following morning and returned with 10 more.

His knowledge of East Los Angeles Japanese was paying off. "Usually," he said, "I'd flush 'em out. But sometimes I'd just walk through the jungles and call out and promise 'em things."

From that day, Guy became a one-man Marine Corps and a legend. His daily collections of prisoners ran as high as 30 and his buddies would make bets every morning on how many he'd bring back.

"I kept going out and hoping I'd get killed and get a medal," he said. "so they could send it home to show people I did something good."

After a month of lone forays, he hit a bigger jackpot.

He sneaked up on six Japanese soldiers in an open field and got the drop on them. While their hands were over their heads, he talked to them. He told them they were going to be treated well and given water and food and medical care.

"I'm keeping three of you here," he said. "The other three can leave and bring some friends back."

But if they didn't come back, he warned, he'd blast the hell out of the three left behind.

They came back with half a dozen more prisoners, but Guy wasn't satisfied. Again, he sent half of the group out. They came back with more and still more were sent out.

In seven hours, Pfc. Gabaldon was surrounded by 800 prisoners.

Two patrolling Marines spotted the operation through field glasses and went to the scene. Guy dispatched them for more aid and trucks and his day's work was done.

A couple weeks later, Guy was shot in the arm and hand on a similar mission and his fighting career ended.

As recognition, he received the Silver Star. "For the capture of over 1,000 enemy."

This is where the story should end, but of course it doesn't.

Guy returned to the States, went AWOL, was forgiven because of his record and then discharged.

Since then, he married, settled down a bit, had three children.

He jumped from job to job--fisherman, truck driver, TV repairman, farmer. He never owned much, never did much, he admits.

And debts started piling up.

A couple weeks ago, on his 31st birthday, Guy Gabaldon started proceedings to declare himself bankrupt.

Note: The Daily Mirror is pleased to introduce a new generation of readers to Paul Coates, a regular in the Mirror, The Times and on TV, who died in 1968 at the age of 47. Look for more Coates columns in the future.