LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Years after his death, there is now a push to award Pfc. Guy Gabaldon the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Credited with single-handedly convincing 1,500 soldiers and civilians to surrender during World War II, the East Los Angeles native died in 2006 never having received the nation’s highest honor.
“That’s an abomination. I think we really have to deal with the fact that Guy Gabaldon was slighted. Some feel that the reason Guy didn’t get the Medal of Honor, which he was recommended for, was because he was of Hispanic descent,” Steve Rubin, a friend of Gabaldon, told CBS2’s Cristy Fajardo.
Rubin created a documentary on the war hero, titled, “East L.A. Marine: The Untold True Story of Guy Gabaldon.”
The film chronicles Gabaldon’s life, including his early days in Boyle Heights. It was there Gabaldon learned to speak Japanese. Most of his friends were “Nisei” as he called them, and when he had trouble at home, a Japanese family took him in.
Then came Pearl Harbor, which resulted in Gabaldon’s adoptive family and friends being sent to internment camps – a story he recounted in the documentary.
“They sent my family to a concentration camp,” he said. “If I give my life, maybe I’ll make my country, my President, and all the authorities regret what they did to other American citizens.”
At the age of 18, Gabaldon joined the Marines and landed on the shores of Saipan with a warning: The Japanese would die before surrendering.
It was there Gabaldon did the extraordinary, capturing two soldiers one day and three the next, even when his commanding officer ordered him not to.
Armed with a rifle, a handgun and his Japanese skills, Gabaldon talked the Japanese into surrendering, about 800 in a single day.
His commanding officer called him the “Pied Piper of Saipan.” Even on the battlefield, he remembered the enemy was human and, like him, was tired of the war.
Gabaldon was put up for the Congressional Medal of Honor, but was awarded the Silver Star instead.
Television appearances followed and even a movie in 1960, titled, “Hell to Eternity.” The Hollywood film was based on his life, but Gabaldon’s ethnicity was changed. He was played by a blue-eyed 6-foot-2, Jeffrey Hunter.
Eventually, Gabaldon received the Navy Cross, but the congressional medal continued to elude him.
Some said his attitude toward superiors cost him the medal, while others blamed racism.
Whatever the reason, there is currently a push to get Guy the medal.
“It’s given the Medal of Honor posthumously. It sends a signal to the world that the Hispanic community was important during World War II. And I think Guy is a symbol of that courage,” Rubin said.