RIP, Pied Piper of Saipan

Danny Kaye had his first staring role in 1944’s Up In Arms. It’s quite a silly movie — with “silly” being a redundant adjective because we’re talking about Danny Kaye (whom I loved as a child and like as an adult).

In the movie, Kaye plays a hypochondriac who is drafted. (Dana Andrews, as his best friend, is desperate to be called up and to serve his country, a plot point that is impossible to imagine nowadays.) The bulk of the movie is taken up with sight gags based on Danny Kaye’s hypochondria, and his unrequited love for a pretty blond nurse (all while he is oblivious to the fact that pretty redhead Dinah Shore is in love with him). The movie ends with Kaye, through a spectacular bluff, becoming a war hero after rounding up a Japanese platoon. I now wonder if the movie was written before or after reports came back from Saipan about Guy Gabaldon.

Right about now, of course, you should be asking “Who is Guy Gabaldon?” His name is not turning up in all the PC, multi-culti quota materials our children are getting. It turns out, though, that Gabaldon was quite a guy. When only 18, using a spectacular bluff, he was able to persuade over a thousand Japanese troops to surrender to him — and he died the other day:

Guy Gabaldon, who as an 18-year-old Marine private single-handedly persuaded more than 1,000 Japanese soldiers to surrender in the World War II battle for Saipan, has died. He was 80.

Gabaldon died of a heart attack Thursday at his home in Old Town, his son, Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Hunter Gabaldon, said Monday.

Using an elementary knowledge of Japanese, bribes of cigarettes and candy, and trickery with tales of encampments surrounded by American troops, Gabaldon was able to persuade soldiers to abandon their posts and surrender. The scheme was so brazen — and so amazingly successful — it won the young Marine the Navy Cross, and fame when his story was told on television’s “This Is Your Life” and the 1960 movie “Hell to Eternity.”

“My plan, as impossible as it seemed, was to get near a Japanese emplacement, bunker, or cave, and tell them that I had a bunch of Marines with me and we were ready to kill them if they did not surrender,” he wrote in his 1990 memoir “Saipan: Suicide Island.”

“I promised that they would be treated with dignity, and that we would make sure that they were taken back to Japan after the war,” he wrote.

The 5-foot-4-inch Gabaldon used piecemeal Japanese he picked up from a childhood friend to earn the trust of the enemy, who believed his story of hundreds of looming troops. In a single day in July 1944, Gabaldon was said to have gotten about 800 Japanese soldiers to follow him back to the American camp.

His exploits earned him the nickname the Pied Piper of Saipan.