Daily Archives: 6 June 2004

Japanese-speaking Chicano ‘Pied Piper’ on Saipan, 1944

In the 6 June 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin, reporter Gregg K. Kakesako profiles Guy Gabaldon, a Chicano kid raised by a Japanese family in East Los Angeles who single-handedly convinced 1,500 Japanese soldiers to surrender on Saipan in July 1944. Of course, being an American reporter in the 21st century, he emphasizes his subject’s victimhood more than his heroism.

Some say “The Pied Piper of Saipan” never got the proper credit for single-handedly capturing 1,500 Japanese prisoners in World War II….

He corralled more than 800 prisoners on July 8, 1944. Gabaldon was only an 18-year-old Marine Corps private first class who had learned the language while growing up with a Japanese family in East Los Angeles.

“The first night I was on Saipan, I went out on my own,” said Gabaldon, who now lives in Old Town, Fla. “I always worked on my own, and brought back two prisoners using my backstreet Japanese.

“My officers scolded me and threatened me with a court-martial for leaving my other duties, but I went out the next night and came back with 50 prisoners. After that I was given a free rein.”

His pitch simply was that the Japanese would be treated humanely….

“I came from such a large Latino family that no one objected when I moved in with a Japanese family. They were my extended family. It was there I learned Japanese, since I had to go language school with their children everyday.”

But when the war broke out his Japanese family was relocated to a detention camp in Arizona and he went to Alaska and worked in a fish cannery and as a laborer until he decided to enlist in the Marine Corps at the age of 17.

Gabaldon’s story inspired the 1960 motion picture “Hell to Eternity” starring no one that looked Chicano. (But at least the Japanese general was played by the prolific Sessue Hayakawa.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Japan, U.S., war

The EU and Armenia’s Nuclear Power Plant

The Argus has a fascinating post on the EU’s efforts to shut down Armenia’s Chernobyl-style nuclear power plant. (In addition to reactor design problems, Armenia is in a region prone to major earthquakes.)

The EU, true to form, dealt with the problem in the only way it knows how – it threw money at it. It agreed an aid package for which, in return, the Armenian government had to work to close the plant before the end of its lifespan in 2016. An alternative source of energy is available – the EU money was meant to go towards funding a gas pipeline from Iran. The trouble is, Armenia doesn’t seem to want to/doesn’t seem able to set a date.

So why isn’t Armenia playing ball? Why won’t it set a date and relieve the EU of its money? Basically, because the Iranians are not a particularly reliable partner for a country that has massive energy security issues. Armenia is a primarily Christian country; Iran isn’t. Although Iran supported Armenia in its war with Islamic Azerbaijan, the Armenian government remains suspicious that Iran’s friendship is one of convenience, and may not last into the long term. What if Iran were to shift its allegiance in any future conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan? What if a future conflict in Iran were to cut off supplies? With no nuclear power, Armenia would find itself in dire straits. Already fearing that Azerbaijani oil-wealth will embolden it in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia must secure its future energy supplies. Without them, its position relative to Azerbaijan will only get weaker.

The EU thinks that by withdrawing the aid money it is going to be able to effectively bully Armenia into making a decision. Once it realizes that 100 million Euros are slipping out of its grasp, Armenia will back down. After all, it will have to close the Metsamor plant sometime – it might as well get paid for doing so. But I think it underestimates how important this issue is to Armenia. It simply cannot do without a reliable energy supply and is so desperate it may well consider extending the plant’s lifespan to ensure it….

Already 25% of Armenia’s electricity comes from hydro power, and there is plenty of scope for expanding that – in fact new plants are already being built. The EU itself is over-reliant on imported energy and taking steps to diversify its supply. It would be a shame if it didn’t apply the lessons it has learnt to other countries in a similar position.

Leave a comment

Filed under Iran