Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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June 24th
The Pied Piper of Saipan
On his first night on the island of Saipan in June 1944, Marine Private Guy Gabaldon slipped out of camp on his own and returned with two Japanese prisoners. His commanders told him that if left his post again, he’d be court-martialed. But the next night he disappeared again and came back with 50 prisoners. After that, his superiors let him go on his “lone-wolf ” missions whenever he wanted.

Gabaldon wasn’t simply after prisoners. He was trying to save lives. American troops had stormed Saipan, in the Marianna Islands, to break the Japanese defense line in the Pacific and secure a site for an air base. The Japanese tried to hold the island with desperate suicide charges. Gabaldon figured that more prisoners meant fewer casualties.

Just eighteen years old, Guy Gabaldon had learned street smarts from growing up in East Los Angeles barrios. He also knew some Japanese, thanks to a childhood friendship with a Japanese-American family. His strategy was simple. Working alone, he would creep up to an enemy-held cave or bunker, call out that the Marines were nearby, and assure the Japanese that they would be treated with dignity if they would lay down their arms.

“I must have seen too many John Wayne movies, because what I was doing was suicidal,” Gabaldon later said. But his plan kept working.

One day Gabaldon persuaded some 800 Japanese soldiers to surrender and follow him back to the American lines. His astounded comrades nicknamed him the “Pied Piper of Saipan.” Before being wounded by machine-gun fire, he captured perhaps 1,500 prisoners.

Gabaldon’s bravery earned him the Navy Cross, and Hollywood made a movie, Hell to Eternity, about him. But his greatest reward was knowing that, in the midst of a bloody Pacific battle, he had single-handedly saved many American lives.

American History Parade
1497
John Cabot, exploring for England, becomes the first European since the Vikings to reach the North American mainland, probably in present-day Canada.

1784
In Baltimore 13-year-old Edward Warren makes the first balloon flight in America, going up in a tethered balloon built by Peter Carnes.

1911
John McDermott becomes the first U.S.-born golfer to win the U.S. Open.

1944
U.S. troops are engaged in the month long Battle of Saipan in the Pacific.

1949
Hopalong Cassidy, the first TV western, begins airing on NBC.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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