That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

If you’ve read the book Saipain: Suicide Island, watched the movie Hell to Eternity, or you’re a World War II buff, then you may have heard of the heroic actions of Corporal Guy Gabaldon.

However, there are many who don’t know about the remarkable, true story of Corporal Gabaldon, a U.S. Marine who earned the Navy Cross after single-handedly capturing around 1,500 Japanese soldiers during the Battles of Saipan and Tinian.


Here is his full story:

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

(Travel and Leisure)

Born in Los Angeles, California to a Mexican family, Gabaldon was one of seven children. At the age of 10, he helped his family by shining shoes and also got involved in a local, multi-cultural gang known as the “Moe Gang.”

At the age of 12, he moved to live with the Nakanos, a Japanese-American family he considered an extension of his own. He couldn’t have known at the time, but the experience of growing up in a Japanese household would later serve him well during his time as a U.S. Marine.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
U.S. Marine reinforcements arrive on Saipan in June, 1944.
(Japan Times)

While he lived with the Nakano family, he learned about Japanese language and culture, gaining knowledge that would later give him a unique advantage in war. Unfortunately, the Nakanos were relocated to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming at the outbreak of World War II, forcing Gabaldon to move to Alaska and work in a cannery until his 17th birthday, when he joined the Marine Corps.

In 1943, Gabaldon signed up to fight in the Pacific and was assigned to Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division to be a scout and observer and when the United States began their invasion of Saipan. Gabaldon would soon prove that Marines are badasses, even without weapons.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(World War II Database)

For his actions, he earned the nickname, “The Pied Piper of Saipan.”

On his first night on Saipan, Gabaldon put what he had learned from the Nakono family to use. First, he went out on his own and convinced two Japanese soldiers to surrender and return to camp with him.

Despite capturing two prisoners without firing a shot, he was reprimanded and threatened with court-martial for abandoning his post. That didn’t stop him from going back out that night and doing it again. This time, he found a cave where the Japanese were hiding. Gabaldon killed one of the guards and yelled into the cave (speaking Japanese), convincing the others to surrender peacefully. He returned with 50 prisoners the next morning.

Now, instead of being chewed out by his superiors, they decided to authorize him to capture more soldiers, operating as a “lone wolf.” He then captured two more guards, sending one back to his hiding spot to convince others to surrender as well. Soon enough, a Japanese officer showed up to talk with Gabaldon. They would negotiate for a time before agreeing to terms of surrender, taking more than 800 soldiers and civilians out of the fight against the Americans.

He didn’t stop there.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
Guy Gabaldon on Saipan at age 18.
(PBS SoCal)

During the battle for the Tinian Islands, Guy Gabaldon continued to persuade Japanese soldiers to surrender. Eventually, his negotiations resulted in the surrender of approximately 1,500 soldiers and civilians across both Saipan and the Tinian Islands.

For his actions, he was recommended for a Medal of Honor. This request was denied, and he was instead awarded a Silver Star, which was elevated to a Navy Cross in 1960.

In 2005, the Pentagon honored Gabaldon and other Hispanic Americans who fought in World War II. In 2006, he passed after a battle with heart disease.

Currently, the Department of Defense is reviewing his case to see if his Navy Cross is to be upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

Articles

This is how the Alamo Scouts became the first Special Forces

General Walter Krueger needed the most up-to-date intelligence against a strong and lethal opponent. For the U.S. Army fighting the Japanese in WWII, good intel could avert a catastrophe and save thousands of lives. Given the nature of the war, it would be a dangerous job.


Krueger sought volunteers who would go deep behind enemy lines to get troop strengths, numbers, and unit types, as well as information about their locations and destinations.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
An Alamo Scout in camouflage training. (U.S. Army photo)

To be an Alamo Scout required problem-solving skills and quick-thinking. It demanded physical strength – not necessarily athleticism, but the ability to withstand the rigors of long marches and missions. And of course, it required observation skills, land navigation, and cover and concealment. Anyone who expressed a burning desire to “kill Japs” was turned away.

The Scouts’ rigorous training center at Kalo Kalo on Fergusson Island, New Guinea also served as a base of operations. After six weeks of intense training, 700 men dwindled down to 138, who formed 6- to 7-man fire teams. There were no prescribed uniforms and they didn’t pay much attention to rank.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
General Douglas MacArthur meets representatives of different American Indian tribes in the Alamo Scouts, representing the Pima, Pawnee, Chitimacha, and Navajo. (U.S. Army photo)

What started as an elite recon mission soon became an intelligence asset that could coordinate large-scale guerrilla operations in the Philippines. Alamo Scouts could move 30 or 40 miles in a day with little rest or food.

Their first mission came in February 1944: to get intel on the Japanese on Los Negros in the Admiralty Islands. No one knew if there was a Japanese presence there; it was presumed to be evacuated. An Alamo Scout team was landed by a PBY Catalina. Once there, they had 48 hours before the 1st Cavalry Division landed.

Alamo Scouts came to within 15 feet of Japanese lines on Los Negros. Not only were the Japanese there, they were well-fed and well-armed–an estimated 5,000 troops remained in garrison. After a few close calls with unknowing Japanese fighters, the Scout teams were able to report enemy numbers to the invading forces, who successfully overtook the island.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
The Alamo Scouts Team who infiltrated Los Negros (U.S. Army photo)

The invasions of Madang, Wewak, Sarmi, Biak, Noemfoor, Sansapor, and Japen Island were all subsequently preceded by recon operations conducted by Scout teams. They also liberated 66 Dutch POWs from their prison camp on New Guinea.

Their most famous feat was their recon and support for the 6th Rangers during the raid on the Cabanatuan POW Camp in the Philippines in 1945. The two Army units, along with Filipino partisans, liberated 511 prisoners and captured 84 Japanese POWs.

To get the most accurate information, Alamo Scouts approached to within a hundred yards of the camp’s fence dressed as Filipino rice farmers. The recon operation was never discovered.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
The Alamo Scouts after the raid on Cabanatuan. (U.S. Army photo)

Alamo Scouts were also to be used preceding the Allied invasion of the Japanese Home Islands, but the unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces in 1945 ended their reconnaissance mission. They were added to the occupation Army and then disbanded later that year.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(U.S. Army photo)

Over their careers, the Alamo Scouts performed 106 missions deep in enemy territory over 1,482 days of sustained combat. Not one was ever killed or captured, though two were wounded in the Cabanatuan Raid. In 1988, the Alamo Scouts were added to the U.S. Army’s Special Forces lineage and its veterans were acknowledged with the Special Forces tab.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 4 most poorly named military weapons

Some military vehicles are given names that accurately reflect what they do and how well they do it. Others, however, are not so fortunate — they’re given military monikers that simply don’t fit.

The following tools of war were either given names so lofty that it makes a mockery of their actual performance or a name so low-class that it’s a disgrace to the weapon.


That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

At Midway, the Devastator got devastated by Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” fighters.

(U.S. Navy)

Douglas TBD Devastator

This plane’s name would have you thinking it’s something that can deliver a huge amount of firepower, sufficient enough to destroy whatever ship lays in its path. Unfortunately, this was far from the reality of the Douglas TBD Devastator.

At the Battle of Midway, a total of 41 Devastators attacked the Japanese carriers. Torpedo Squadron Eight, based on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 8) and accounted for 15 of those Devastators — all of which were wiped out. In total, only six Devastators survived. ‘Devastated’ is a much more fitting title.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

The KC-97 Stratofreighter was really an aerial refueling tanker, as seen in action with these A-7 Corsairs.

(USAF)

Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter

This plane found quite a bit of success in its lifetime: 811 were built by the United States and it saw plenty of peacetime work. It was introduced in 1951 and stuck around until 1978 with the Air National Guard. So, what makes ‘Stratofreighter’ such a poor name choice?

This plane wasn’t a transport — it was a tanker. This plane refueled the bombers and fighters who took the fight to the enemy. Really, this plane should have been called the ‘Stratotanker’ (a name later used by the KC-135) because there’s no ‘freighter’ involved.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

The only things mauled by the MIM-46 Mauler were the reputations of those who thought it was a good idea.

(U.S. Army)

MIM-46 Mauler

This missile was intended, as the name implies, to maul enemy planes that approached on close-air support missions. Well, as it turns out, the only mauling the missile did was in theory. In reality, it suffered from all sorts of problems, ranging from failing launch canisters to malfunctioning guidance systems.

Ultimately, the Army instead turned to the MIM-72 Chaparral and Navy went with the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow. The MIM-46 was test fired in 1961 and, by 1965, the Mauler mauled no more.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

This was what the M247 Sergeant York was supposed to be. Reality was very different.

(U.S. Army)

M247 Sergeant York

Sergeant Alvin York was known for his marksmanship, earning the Medal of Honor for heroic acts performed during World War I. The M247 Sergeant York, conversely, was anything but a marksman. When it came time to test this vehicle, which was equipped with a pair of 40mm cannon and the radar of the F-16, it couldn’t even hit a hovering drone. The radar simply couldn’t track anything.

Surely, Sergeant York rolled in his grave over sharing a name with this lemon.

What weapons do you think have unfortunate names? Let us know in the comments!

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Washington tried to burn New York to the ground

America’s favorite Revolutionary War hero and first president had a little wish to, uh, checks notes, burn the city of New York to the ground and watch the flames dance in the tear-filled eyes of his enemies. Wait, can that be right?


That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

Yup. Gen. George Washington himself wanted to burn one of America’s most populous and wealthy cities to the mud. But it wasn’t because he wanted the future city that would be named after him to have no rival in the Big Apple, it was actually a decent military strategy at the time (but would be a war crime now).

The proposed destruction was set for 1776 when Washington felt he could not hold the city. The Patriots had predicted that the British military, relying as it did on roads and ships, would sail down the Hudson and split the colonies. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were all east of the river and would be isolated.

And, controlling New York Harbor would give the British a perfect staging ground for joint army-navy operations against New Jersey and the rebel capital in Philadelphia.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

Washington moved the bulk of his forces from Boston to New York just in time for the Battle of Brooklyn in August of 1776. But, the Patriot forces still weren’t strong enough to beat back the British when the British were able to bring their full numbers and logistics advantage to bear.

The Battle of Long Island started Aug. 27, 1776, and was a catastrophe for America, and it nearly ended the war. Washington’s forces were outflanked multiple times, and it took a series of careful withdrawals for Washington to keep his men together and organized. He ended the main maneuvers with his back to the East River and the British arrayed in front of him in strength.

Washington was trapped with the bulk of his troops; easy pickings for the Redcoats. But a storm rolled in and made August 28-29 bad for fighting, and the British commander elected to wait. Washington managed to put together a small flotilla and escape on the water overnight. Washington himself floated out on the last boat, covered only by the mist as the sun slowly burned it off.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

The fog finally cleared and the British found themselves facing an empty battlefield. The Continental Army had escaped.

But New York was now open to the British, and they took it. Washington had asked for permission to burn it to prevent Britain from using it as “warm and comfortable barracks” in the winter of 1776-77, but it was too late. The Redcoats marched in.

Luckily for Washington, New York burned anyway. On the night of Sept. 19, a fire began in Harlem that would consume about a quarter of the city before it was successfully extinguished. It wasn’t as extensive as Washington may have wished, but it was more than enough to piss off the Brits.

The British suspected that Patriot agents were behind the fire. It wasn’t yet illegal to burn a civilian city to prevent its occupation by enemy forces, but it was still frowned upon. And the Redcoats wanted their justice.

British forces captured 100 suspects and hanged one, Nathaniel Hale, as a spy. It would turn out that Hale really was a spy for Washington, so they weren’t too far off the mark.

It can’t be known for sure that the city was burned by Washington’s agents or because of his wishes, but it did serve his purposes.

But, it didn’t stop the British advance. Washington’s men suffered a series of smaller defeats and lost two key forts in New York. But this series of failures is what led Washington to set out on Christmas 1776 to attack the Hessians at the battle of Trenton, salvaging Patriot morale right before thousands of enlistments expired.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The highest-ranking African American in the American Expeditionary Force

When people think of African Americans serving in WWI, the famous Harlem Hellfighters often come to mind. What may come as a surprise is that the highest-ranking African American in the American Expeditionary Force, Otis Beverly Duncan, was not part of this unit.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
Duncan as a Major (Public Domain)

Otis Beverly Duncan was born on November 18, 1873 in Springfield, Illinois. His family was a long-established African American family in the city. In fact, his maternal great-grandfather, William Florville, was Abraham Lincoln’s friend and barber. Duncan attended public school and went on to work as the business manager for an African American newspaper in Springfield called the State Capitol. In 1897, he went to work in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a precursor to the State Board of Education. Duncan would remain in the department for the rest of his career.

Wishing to expand his public service, Duncan joined the Illinois National Guard. Illinois was unique during the Jim Crow era in that it was one of the few states that organized and paid for the training of an all-black regiment in its National Guard. Duncan joined the unit, the 8th Infantry Regiment, as a Lieutenant. He continued his National Guard service alongside his civilian career and rose through the ranks. By 1904, Duncan had reached the rank of Major. In 1916, the 8th Infantry Regiment was called up for national service during the Pancho Villa Expedition into Mexico. During the campaign, Duncan served on the regimental staff.

When America entered WWI in April 1917, the 8th Infantry was still in national service and was reorganized as the 370th Infantry Regiment. The 370th was one of the few black units to join the AEF and retain most of its all-black command structure. As the unit made preparations to deploy, Duncan was promoted to Lt. Col. and given command of the 3rd Battalion. When the regimental commander, Col. Franklin A. Denison, was relieved of his command and replaced by a white officer, Duncan became the highest-ranking African American in the AEF.

In May, the 370th arrived in France. However, the Army’s racist policies restricted black units from fighting alongside white units on the front. Like the Harlem Hellfighters, the 370th was assigned to the French Army. Duncan and his battalion became part of the French 10th Army in the Argonne Forrest. During the fighting, their German enemies gave them the nickname the “Black Devils” for their ferocity in combat.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
Duncan (center) with other black officers wearing their Croix de Guerre (National Archives and Records Administration)

Despite being faced with racism from their own army and bitter fighting from their enemy, the men of the 370th succeeded in pushing the German lines back. They were among the first allied troops to cross into occupied Belgium before the war ended. Duncan’s battalion pursued the Germans all the way until the Armistice on November 11.

Duncan was one of 60 officers in the 370th who were awarded the French Croix de Guerre for valor. “We have given our full contributions to this war, that we have fought, bled, and died for the grand and noble principles of the war,” he wrote in a letter home.

On February 17, 1919, the 370th returned home to a welcoming parade in Chicago. Many African Americans from Springfield made the trip north to attend it. When Duncan and the other Springfield natives returned to their hometown, they were greeted by Governor Frank O. Lowden and a celebratory banquet at the Leland Hotel.

For his successful command of the 3rd Battalion during the war, Duncan was promoted to Colonel and given command of the regiment. He was tasked with reorganizing the reformed 8th Infantry back into the Illinois National Guard. He also resumed his civilian career.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
Duncan was featured in the New York Tribune on February 10, 1919 (Library of Congress)

Col. Duncan retired from public service in 1929. He died eight years later on May 17, 1937 and was buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield. Col. Duncan broke a color barrier at a pivotal moment in American and world history and blazed a trail for colored military leaders in the wars to come.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the most pivotal battle of the Civil War was fought

The three-day Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and one that tipped the scales in favor of the Union, started 155 years ago.

The Union fielded 90,000 troops in the battle, and the Confederacy 75,000, according to historian James McPherson. Eleven thousand died, 29,000 more were wounded, and 10,000 were missing or captured.


The hallowed grounds of Gettysburg, as McPherson described them, witnessed nearly 10 times as many casualties as the D-Day invasion in World War II.

Related video:

There were many engagements over three days of combat — such as Devil’s Den, the Slaughter Pen, and the Valley of Death — but some were more consequential to the battle, and therefore the war itself, than others.

Here’s how the battle unfolded.

Here is a shot of Gettysburg from Cemetery Hill, which was taken in July 1863. The battle started, some historians say, because both armies were looking for shoes in the town. McPherson says this story cannot be proved or disproved, but whatever the case, it was a “meeting engagement” or “encounter engagement.”

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(Library of Congress)

The first day of the Battle of Gettysburg was a skirmish compared with the last two days, as troops from both sides were still filing into the area. Still, as night fell, “three thousand dead and dying soldiers and the moans of many of the additional seven or eight thousand wounded” could be seen and heard on the field, McPherson said. Below is a photo of dead Union soldiers after the first day’s fighting.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(Library of Congress)

Though the Confederates had not captured the Cemetery and Culp’s hills by the end of the day, the prospect of the battle still appeared promising for Robert E. Lee and the Rebel army.

John L. Burns, who is pictured below, is one of the more colorful people to take part in the battle. On the first day of the battle, the 69-year-old Gettysburg resident grabbed his musket and joined the Union ranks, much to the confusion of the Northern officers, when he saw the battle materializing.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(Library of Congress)

He was deployed to the woods and picked off numerous Confederate troops before getting shot in an arm and a leg. When the Confederates found him wounded and wearing civilian clothes, after the Union soldiers had retreated from the area, he told them he was just a lost old man who had gotten caught in the cross fire. This picture, by famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, was taken shortly after the battle.

On the second day of the battle, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee sought to capture the two hills known as Little and Big Round Top. The Confederate troops advanced uphill numerous times, but the Union lines held. Below is a shot of dead Southern troops at the foot of Little Round Top, known as the Slaughter Pen.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(Library of Congress)

One of the heroes of Little Round Top was Col. Joshua Chamberlain. He had been ordered to hold the extreme left of the hill with his 20th Maine Regiment and stop the flanking Rebels. His 360 men were outnumbered and low on ammunition when he decided on a daring, yet successful, bayonet charge. In the end, his regiment took 400 prisoners, and the line held.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(Library of Congress)

Chamberlain was awarded the Medal of Honor for his exploits on Little Round Top. An ardent abolitionist and scholar who could read seven languages, Chamberlain was elected governor of Maine in 1866.

The third day of battle, which culminated with Pickett’s Charge, proved disastrous for the Confederacy. After an insane barrage of Rebel cannon fire to soften the strongly fortified Union positions, Robert E. Lee sent three divisions, about 13,000 men, across a mile-long open field between the Cemetery and Seminary ridges.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(Library of Congress)

When the Rebels were exposed, the Union artillery atop Little Round Top and Cemetery Ridge opened fire. “We could not help hitting them with every shot,” one Union officer said.

The Northern troops, as they were slaughtering the Confederate troops, chanted “Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg,” a crushing earlier defeat for the Yankees. Only a few Confederate soldiers reached the Union lines. In less than an hour, 7,000 Rebel soldiers were dead or wounded.

One of the unsung heroes for the North, a man who graduated last in his class at West Point and would later become famous at the Battle of Little Big Horn, was Gen. George Custer. Before Pickett’s Charge and during the North and South’s dueling artillery barrages, there were numerous cavalry engagements in the field. Custer led several Union regiments, at one point getting his horse shot out from underneath him before jumping onto an empty steed and continuing in the fight.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

The commander of the Northern Army of Virginia, Robert E. Lee, and perhaps the best general of the Civil War, made a costly error with Pickett’s Charge. Brimming with confidence after Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, he believed himself and his men invincible.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(Library of Congress)

After the three Rebel divisions had retreated from the field, Lee asked General George Pickett to rally his division for a counterattack. Pickett replied, “General Lee, I have no more division now.” Lee eventually withdrew his remaining army from Gettysburg, and the Union did not give chase, much to the anger of President Abraham Lincoln.

About 11,000 men were killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest of the Civil War. Company F of the 6th North Carolina regiment lost every soldier. One Minnesota regiment lost 82% of its men in five minutes.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

“Wounded men were brought into our houses and laid side by side in our halls and first-story rooms,” one Gettysburg resident said. “Carpets were so saturated with blood as to be unfit for further use. Walls were bloodstained as well as books that were used for pillows.”

Pictured here are three Confederate soldiers taken prisoner after the battle. It is one of the most famous pictures of the Civil War, which was taken by Mathew Brady. “You see exactly how the Confederate soldier was dressed,” Southern historian Shelby Foote once said. “You see something in his attitude toward the camera which is revealing of his nature.”

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(Library of Congress)

President Abraham Lincoln visited the battlefield on November 19, 1863, to dedicate the Gettysburg cemetery. It was here that he would deliver one of the best-known speeches ever given, the 269-word Gettysburg Address. Lincoln is seen in the middle of the photo in the midst of sitting down. The speech was so short that the photographer did not have time to capture him delivering it.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
(Library of Congress)

Lincoln’s full Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These 10 trailblazers are behind the 19th Amendment

November 2020 is coming in fast, and we’re likely to see a similar pattern in voting turnout as seen in previous elections; of all eligible voters, females turnout in higher proportions than men. This trend has held steady since the 80s, helping the female voice to grow in volume and strength in American politics. This November marks an important milestone for female voters. It’s the 100th year women have had the right to vote!

The 19th amendment was passed by Congress on June 4th, 1919, and formally ratified over a year later on August 18th, 1920. While that breakthrough deserves celebration, it also deserves perspective. While women have had the right to vote for a century, it took nearly a century to win it. Even before the Civil War, reformers and suffragists were discussing the future of women’s rights, paving the way for the liberties we are proud to have today. The 10 amazing women below are just a few of the figures who dedicated their lives to our rights. When you cast your vote this year, don’t forget to say thanks!


Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

One of the most recognizable names in women’s rights history, Susan B. Anthony was raised by her Quaker parents to be confident, independent and dedicated to her beliefs. She was encouraged to believe that men and women should live equally and strive to rid the world of injustice, and she took that message to heart. She started out campaigning for married women to have property rights, before joining abolitionist leagues and speaking out against slavery.

So firmly did she believe in equal voting rights for men and women, however, that she refused to support any suffrage movements for African Americans that only included men. This created a divide between activists, but the two groups eventually joined forces to form the National Woman Suffrage Association with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as its president. Anthony later became the group’s second president, and she dedicated the rest of her life to the suffrage movement she helped to found.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)

Another early suffragette, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a philosopher and a pioneer of the women’s rights movement. She married an abolitionist named Henry Brewester Stanton in 1840 and traveled with him to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. After being told women were not permitted, she was enraged. With the help of other reformers including Lucretia Mott, she planned the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls. It’s reported that 240 people attended, agreeing that women’s rights were non-negotiable and it was time to fight for equality. This was the true beginning of the women’s suffrage movement.

Like Susan B. Anthony, Stanton was against the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which granted Black men voting rights, but not women. While she passed away 18 years before the 19th Amendment was ratified, a statue of her, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott stands at the U.S. Capitol in honor of her achievements.

Lucy Stone (1818-1893)

Lucy Stone was tough as nails. She boldly refused to take her husband’s last name, stating that the age-old tradition “refused to recognize the wife as an independent, rational being” and “conferred on the husband an injurious and unnatural superiority.” She worked hard as a traveling lecturer against slavery and sexism, and unlike some activists, she supported the 15th Amendment.

Stone continued to fight for universal suffrage, however, assisting with the creation of the American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1871, she and her husband founded a feminist newspaper called “The Woman’s Journal,” which remained in publication until 1931, nearly 40 years after her death!

Lucy Burns (1879-1966)

A fiery activist in both the British and American suffrage movements, Lucy Burns was a good friend of fellow activist Alice Paul. They were leaders in the formation of the National Woman’s Party, and Burns in particular was known for her passionate and aggressive tactics. She was among the suffragettes arrested for protesting at the White House, later being force-fed during a hunger strike.

By the time the 19th was ratified, Burns had suffered through a considerable amount of jail time and was understandably exhausted. She retired from activism, reportedly saying, “I don’t want to do anything more. I think we have done all this for women, and we have sacrificed everything we possessed for them, and now let them fight for it now. I am not going to fight anymore.” Her later years were devoted to the Catholic Church and the upbringing of her orphaned niece.

Alice Paul (1885-1977)

Building on the work of earlier activists, Alice Paul was even more bold in her approach to winning the vote. The Quaker suffragette spearheaded the most militant branch of the women’s suffrage movement, working alongside Emmaline Pankhurst in the Women’s Social and Political Union in London. Their tactics were far from “ladylike,” using civil disobedience to capture media attention and raise awareness. When she became the chair of NAWSA’s Congressional Committee, she organized a massive suffrage parade to clash with President Wilson’s inauguration- a mass publicity stunt that ignited further protests. In 1914, she moved on to start her own organization, the Congressional Union.

This soon evolved into the National Woman’s Party, which was responsible for many loud, highly-visible protests including a picket of the White House that lasted for months. As retaliation for this act of rebellion, she was imprisoned and force-fed for weeks, eventually winning the sympathy of the public…and the president. The pickets were one of the final moves leading to the ratification of the 19th amendment.

Paul also proposed an additional Equal Rights Amendment, but 100 years later, it still has yet to be ratified.

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931)

Ida B. Wells started out as a schoolteacher in Memphis. While she was there, she wrote for the city’s Black newspaper, The Free Speech, covering the racial injustice and violence in the South. Many were outraged and violently threatened her, destroying The Free Speech office in an angry mob. She moved north for her own safety, but never stopped campaigning for civil rights.

In addition to her anti-racism activism, she was determined to fight for women’s suffrage- even when she wasn’t welcome. Although most early suffragists supported racial equality, by the beginning of the 20th century that wasn’t always the case. Many white suffragists only joined the cause in hopes of giving “their” women the right to vote to maintain their hold on white supremacy. Many white suffragists didn’t want to march with Black people at all, but that didn’t stop Wells. She marched anyway, continuing to fight for civil rights for the rest of her days.

Frances E.W. Harper (1825–1911)

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper didn’t have the easiest upbringing, but that didn’t slow her down. She was orphaned at a young age and raised by her uncle, William Watkins. He was the founder of the Watkins Academy for Negro youth and an outspoken abolitionist, and Harper followed in his footsteps. She became a teacher at schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but couldn’t return to her hometown Maryland without risking her freedom. Her writing and lectures advocated for both women’s rights and anti-slavery groups. She was one of just a handful of Black women involved in the women’s rights movement in the late 19th century, founding the National Association of Colored Women Clubs. She was also one of the first Black women to become a published author in the United States.

Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954)

Mary Church Terrell was raised in Tennessee by remarkably successful parents. They were once enslaved, but they defied the odds and built extremely successful businesses. Her father became one of the South’s first Black millionaires! After she graduated from college, she worked as a teacher and became an activist, supporting women’s rights and Ida B. Wells’s anti-lynching campaign. She co-founded the National Association of Colored Women Clubs with Wells and acted as the organization’s first president.

Later, she picked alongside Alice Paul in front of the White House. She spoke prolifically on civil rights, trying to engage more Black women in the suffrage cause. She didn’t soften with age, either. When she was over 80 years old, she sued a D.C. restaurant after she was refused service, leading to the desegregation of Washington’s restaurants in the early 50s.

Carrie Chapman Catt (1859- 1947)

Susan B. Anthony had some big shoes to fill when she left her position as president of the NAWSA, but she left it in good hands. Carrie Chapman Catt was elected to take on the role, representing the less confrontational branch of the women’s rights movement. During her many years as an activist, she also contributed to the formation of the Women’s Peace Party and the International Woman Suffrage Association. Once the vote was finally one, she said, “Now that we have the vote let us remember we are no longer petitioners. We are not wards of the nation, but free and equal citizens. Let us do our part to keep it a true and triumphant democracy.”

She retired after the 19th Amendment was ratified, but not before establishing the League of Women Voters. She also co-authored a book called “Woman Suffrage and Politics: The Inner Story of the Suffrage Movement” in 1923.

Lucretia Mott (1793- 1880)

One of the earliest women’s rights activists, Lucretia Mott was a social reformer who sought to change the role of women in society entirely. Her Quaker roots instilled a fundamental belief in equality, inspiring her to attend early women’s rights and abolitionist meetings. When she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton arrived at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, she thought they had been invited as delegates.

Instead, she was taken to a segregated women’s section, furthering her resolve to bring about social change. She helped draft the Declaration of Sentiments during the historic Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, and she didn’t stop there.

When slavery was outlawed, she advocated giving former slaves of both genders the right to vote. She was later elected the first president of the American Equal Rights Convention, and she attempted to use the platform to conduct women’s suffrage and abolitionist movements at the same time. Her skill as a speaker helped further both movements, establishing her as one of the most memorable and accomplished female activists of the 19th century.

Articles

Army Legend Hal Moore Dies at 94

Legendary retired Army Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame died Feb. 10. The commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Ia Drang was days short of his 95th birthday.


That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

According to a report by the Opelika-Auburn Tribune, Lt. Gen. Moore had suffered a stroke on the evening of Feb. 9 and was “hanging tough,” according to a family member.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
Then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley in Vietnam. Plumley died in 2012.

Moore gained immortality from the book, “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” co-written with reporter Joe Galloway, about the battle of the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam. The book was used as the basis for the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” in which Academy Award-winning actor Mel Gibson portrayed Moore.

Moore served 32 years in the Army after graduating from West Point, and his decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross and four Bronze Stars.

According to an official after-action report, the three-day battle left 79 Americans killed in action, and another 121 wounded. None were left behind or missing after the battle. American forces killed 634 enemy troops, and wounded at least 1,200.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
Soldiers of the U.S. Amry 1/7th Cavalry disembark from a Bell UH-1D Huey at LZ X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang. (US Army photo)

While preparing to film the epic movie — which made over $78 million at the United States box office, according to Box Office Mojo — Gibson would develop a deep friendship with Moore. This past summer, while headlines noted that Gibson and Vince Vaughn had eaten at Hamilton’s, an Auburn-area restaurant, what hadn’t been known then was that Moore’s family had recommended the eatery to the A-list superstars.

Below, here are some of the more iconic moments from “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Hal Moore.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Have you seen the Abandoned B29 Bomber Airfield in Herington?

Once the US entered World War II, the government did not have any time to waste in getting new air bases and training facilities up and running. One of such bases was a short eight miles outside of Herington Kansas: the Herington Army Airfield. Construction on the base began in September 1942 with completion just 14 months later. One minute it was a grassy prairie and the next, a rumbling concrete jungle. Who would have thought?

Herington’s Path from Rags to Riches

Herington Army Airfield’s original purpose was to serve as an Interceptor Command Base for B-17 and B-24 Bombers from the Wichita Boeing Assembling Plant. But by June 1944, Herington kicked it up a notch and was transformed into one of the most powerful Air Bases of World War II. 

They expanded the runways for B-29 Superfortress bombers, the largest, most devastating war machines the world had ever seen. The rapid building, modification, and delivery of tons and tons of B-29’s was nicknamed the Battle of Kansas, in part because of all the technical issues these massive aircraft faced in their production. Also, it was up to the already overworked, tired personnel at Herington and other Kansas airfields to get these machines up and running. 

But Herington exceeded expectations. Of all the B-29’s that went to war, 60 percent were processed at Herington. At its height, it processed an average of 76 aircraft and 86 crews per month. It was a B-29 processed by Herington, the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ended the war once and for all. In other words, Herington was as essential to the war as they come. 

Turning a Depression Town Upside-Down

Herington served the people of the US in more ways than providing top-notch fighter planes and crews, however. The war effort turned Herington from a sad Depression town into a booming hotspot in the middle of Kansas. Farmers, housewives, and high schoolers all had to go to work to support the base. People opened their homes and turned spare bedrooms into spaces to accommodate Airmen and their sweethearts.

Herington’s Slow Return to Mother Nature

Then suddenly, the war ended, and Herington Army Airfield was shut down and considered surplus war property. Still, plenty of its structures were salvaged for reuse. This includes buildings that were transformed from housing for troops to housing for farm animals. Next, the infirmary turned into Herington’s municipal hospital. Beech Aircraft Corporation bought the runways for airplane manufacturing. When Beech left Herington in 1960, the former base was all but forgotten for many years. It wasn’t until 1988 when an entrepreneur from California bought the derelict north-end hangar for his company Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation and poured money into its restoration. Today, it technically still serves as a place to restore old warbirds, though sadly, production is now at an indefinite standstill and Mother Nature is slowly taking the area back over as her own.

Related: Here’s what it’s like to train for the Air Force’s elite

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the FBI responded to the worst biological attack in US history

One week after the September 11 attacks on New York City, another devastating terrorist attack targeted our people. On September 18, 2001, letters were mailed to several news stations and Senators. The FBI organized a task force titled Amerithrax to hunt down whoever was responsible and bring them to justice.

As the case progressed it became a media circus, and the stakes were never higher. The FBI themselves called it “one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement.” Across the United States, law enforcement took a stand against terror and through great personal risk took on a killer with the ability to murder millions.

Our greatest fear had come to pass, the FBI found mounting evidence pointing towards one of America’s top research facilities. The worst biological attack in US history was not al-Qaeda — it was an inside job.


That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

The attacks

September 18, 2001 – Five letters are believed to have been mailed to ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and the New York Post, all located in New York City, and to the National Enquirer at American Media, Inc. (AMI) in Boca Raton, Florida.

October 5, 2001 – The first fatal recipient of the anthrax letters was admitted into the hospital with pulmonary problems. Robert ‘Bob’ Stevens reported having symptoms similar to the flu. Doctors believed he had meningitis, but after the doctors completed further testing, it was discovered that he had developed pulmonary anthrax. His death was the first death from anthrax in 25 years. He had come into contact with anthrax through the letter that was mailed to him at American Media in Boca Raton, Florida.

October 9, 2001 – Two more anthrax letters were addressed to two Democratic Senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

At least 22 people developed anthrax infections, half from inhaling the deadly bacteria. Five died from inhaling anthrax.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

Years later

A media circus criticizing the FBI’s inability to bring the investigation to a close placed intense pressure to deliver. The letters and mailboxes were examined in forensic laboratories, the killer left no DNA evidence, and the FBI labs were not equipped at that time to handle the deadly anthrax bacteria.

The FBI sent their evidence to be held at Fort Detrick in the USAMRIDD bio-weapons lab. They wanted to run a series of tests to identify where the anthrax was created. It was a sophisticated strain because for anthrax spores to be seen as a white powder, they would need the support of a state-funded program for the expensive drying process. The US suspected that Iran or Iraq could be capable of sponsoring terrorists with the weapon.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

Steven Hartfill

(CBS)

During this time the Bureau followed up on suspects and made very public raids on Steven Hatfill’s property. He was a bio-weapons expert and (at the time) the primary suspect of the investigation. He refused to be strong-armed into producing a confession and defended himself publicly in the media. He was eventually exonerated.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

The FBI looked into another expert, Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins as another potential suspect. Colleagues of his reported that he had an unusual interest in anthrax and was working extra hours on an unauthorized project. The FBI confirmed the increased activity in August, September, and October. The irony was that he worked at the very lab where the FBI first went to seek help for the investigation, Fort Detrick.

RMR-1029 is the evidence flask that tested positive for AMES, the strain of anthrax used in American laboratories, specifically Fort Detrick. His tests came back negative at the original testing, but when the FBI tested them again, they returned as positive. The FBI believed they caught him trying to intentionally deceive them.

Gov’t: Ivins ‘Sole Suspect’ in Anthrax Case

www.youtube.com

November 1, 2007 – The FBI executes a search warrant of his property and interviews Ivins’ family.

The FBI continued their strong-armed tactics to get a confession out of Dr. Ivins. The pressure of surveillance was so intense that he had a psychotic break during a group therapy session. He stated that he had had enough and was going to go out in a blaze a glory. He had a gun and was going to go into work and shoot all his coworkers and everybody who wronged him. He was arrested the next day.

Two weeks later he was released and returned home. He committed suicide by overdosing on Tylenol PM and died in the hospital four days later from liver and kidney failure.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Listen to a sailor tearfully recall losing a shipmate in the deadly terror attack on his ship USS Cole

The US Navy released a powerful video Monday of retired sailors and a Gold Star mother recounting the deadly bombing of the destroyer USS Cole twenty years ago today.

In one heartbreaking scene, retired Master Chief Paul Abney breaks into tears as he remembers the loss of fellow sailor Operation Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Saunders. Abney said he stood watch with Saunders every day.


“Both of his legs were busted up so bad,” he recalled. “They were out of shape, they were all twisted on the Stokes stretcher they were carrying him on.”

Tears fill his eyes as he continues. “Still the same cheery personality, he gives me two thumbs up and says, ‘They’re taking care of me, master chief,’ as they were carrying him off on a Stoke stretcher.”

“He was the only shipmate who made it off and to the hospital that passed away over there,” he said. “Every other one that we got off the ship and triaged to get off soon enough they made it. The rest of them died before we ever got them off the ship.”

USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in a boat packed with explosives while in port in Yemen on October 12, 2000. The explosion tore a hole in the ship so large the crew spent several days containing the flooding that endangered the ship. “We almost lost her,” retired Command Master Chief James Parlier said in the video.

“The pressure of it knocked me back in my chair,” Abney said. “Along with it, all the lights went out. The next thing that I can really recall from the blast was this putrid, kind of acrid smoke. It was kind of hard to breathe. Everybody was choking from the smoke.”

Seventeen sailors were killed, and another 39 others were injured in the attack.

Among the deceased was James McDaniels. His mother, Dianne McDaniels, learned about the attack on the news. That evening, she was informed that her son was gone. “I’m glad he did what he did as far as serving because that’s what he wanted to do,” she said.

“These were young men and women that you knew personally. We had a crew of 275,” Parlier said. “Respectfully, to put them in a body bag is the worst thing I can ever think of.”

The attack was attributed to al Qaeda, which carried out attacks in the US a little over a year later on September 11, 2001.

It took a little over a year to repair USS Cole and return her to sea. Parlier said that when the ship was finally fixed and sailing again, he felt pride “because we told them son of a b——s that we were not defeated and that we were coming back.”

Remembering the Terrorist Attack on USS Cole (DDG 67), Oct. 12, 2000

www.youtube.com

In January of last year, the US military killed Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi, an al Qaeda operative believed to have helped orchestrate the bombing of USS Cole, in an airstrike in Yemen.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was Nazi Germany’s answer to the Jeep

Prior to World War II, the rising chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler, announced plans to make Germany into a motorized nation. This led to the adoption of the Volkswagen Beetle. But Hitler also ordered military versions of the vehicle developed, and these vehicles would go on to fill the same niche for the Reich that the Jeep served in America.


American Jeep Vs German Kubelwagen: Truck Face-Off | Combat Dealers

youtu.be

The road to the Kubelwagen began in the 1933 Berlin Auto Show. That was when Hitler called for a motorized Germany and then heard the plans for Ferdinand Porsche’s 25-horsepower vehicle with an air-cooled engine. Hitler demanded that it seat four and get good gas mileage, and they were off to the races.

It took a few years for Porsche to finalize the design and begin mass production under the newly formed Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Volkswagens company, soon shortened to Volkswagen.

But Hitler quickly rose from chancellor to Fuhrer, and his SS officers asked this new Volkswagen company if it could make a militarized version of its KdF Volkswagen in January 1938. The company fast-tracked the project, and the first prototypes came off the line in November.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

A Type 82 Volkswagen Kubelwagen

(AlfvanBeem, CC0)

The initial prototypes had some shortcomings in testing. They could not run at walking speed due to their gearing, and they had insufficient ground clearance as well as a less-than-robust suspension. All of these problems were quickly ironed out, though. By the time the Type 82 version, the vehicle’s second iteration, went into production in 1940, it was a capable machine well-liked by the troops.

It was fuel efficient for the time, reliable, and could carry four soldiers and the lion’s share of their gear. It was not, by default, armored or armed, though. So it rarely acted as a front line troop carrier. Instead, it served in a logistics and support role, ferrying spare parts or other key supplies to where they were needed or getting key leaders into position to observe the enemy or their own troops.

So, you know, similar to the Jeep. But there were a number of traits that separated the two vehicles.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death

A Volkswagen Kubelwagen

(Staffan Vilcans, CC BY-SA 2.0)

For instance, the Kubelwagen had a 22.5 hp engine, much weaker than the Jeep’s 60 hp or even the civilian Volkswagen’s 25-hp engine. But the engine was air-cooled, which did make it a little less prone to breakdowns. And it had a wider and longer wheelbase than the Jeep as well as more storage space.

But the Kubelwagen wasn’t the only military version of the Volkswagen. A command vehicle, the Type 87 Kommandeurwagen, had 4-wheel drive and looked more like a Beetle. And the Type 166 Schwimmwagen was the most-produced amphibious car in history.

In all, there were 36 variants of the Kubelwagen as well as numerous versions of the Kommandeurwagen and Schwimmwagen. In all, about 50,500 Kubelwagens were built during the war, and thousands survived as museum and collector’s pieces. And, luckily for the owners, the vehicles shared many parts with the Beetle, and so owners could keep repairing them for decades.

When Allied troops got their hands on any of these variants, the vehicles were generally met with grudging respect. So much so that Americans put together an English-language version of the manual to help other troops maintain their captured vehicles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Japanese office worker who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan

Remember when 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi came out and everyone joked that Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) got bored of his office job at Dunder Mifflin so he left and became an operator? Well, that’s basically what Koshiro Tanaka did in 1985. He hated communists, so he went to Afghanistan to fight them.

After WWII, the Soviet Union retained the historically Japanese Kuril Islands, a major point of contention for Tanaka against both the Soviet and Japanese governments. He believed that Japan should have fought to at least preserve its cultural land. By the 1980s, he saw the growing Soviet presence as an existential threat to his country. Because Japan only had a 250,000-strong Self Defense Force, not a military, Tanaka feared the result of a possible Soviet invasion. “If Japan started fighting a war now, 50 million Japanese would die,” he said. “They [the Soviets] don’t want peace, they want land.”

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
A Japanese office worker fighting with Afghan guerrillas using U.S.-supplied weapons against Soviet troops (Koshiro Tanaka)

Tanaka worked in a typical office job in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district when he decided to take up arms against the Soviets in Afghanistan. However, the 44-year-old was not without any training. Though he never served in the JSDF, Tanaka was a sixth-degree black belt in Kyokushin Karate and an instructor in the martial art. He brought his skills with him to Afghanistan and taught hand-to-hand combat to the U.S.-backed mujahideen.

Though he fought alongside them, Tanaka did not adopt the tenets of Islam that the Afghan guerillas fought under. Rather, he went into battle with the mindset of a samurai. Tanaka found that there were parallels between the two cultures. Where a mujahideen fighter could earn a spot in Heaven through martyrdom in the holy war, Tanaka sought glory and honor in combat like the samurai warriors of old. “I hope in my mind that I will have the samurai spirit when it is time to die,” he said. He even carried an extra grenade at all times to martyr himself rather than suffer the shame of capture.

Tanaka’s first combat experience in Afghanistan was a shock. He accompanied a mujahideen raid on a communist Afghan government post near Jadladak, 25 miles east of Kabul. “I didn’t know how to fight, how to move,” he recalled. “I felt a bullet go by my ear. I got a shot of adrenaline.” After that experience, Tanaka applied the same discipline he used in karate to learning how to fight with a Kalashnikov. He developed a reputation as a foreign fighter and even had numerous propaganda reports of his death published by the Afghan government. During his time in Afghanistan, Tanaka endured malaria, jaundice, kidney stones, and a broken foot bone.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
Tanaka in Afghanistan in 1987 (Koshiro Tanaka)

Between 1985 and 1987, Tanaka made at least seven trips to Afghanistan. However, his actions were frowned upon by his own government and were denounced. “His characteristics are beyond our understanding,” said a Japanese Foreign Ministry representative. “He is kind of strange as a Japanese.” Though Tanaka’s views were shared by some of his countrymen who donated funds to his mercenary trips, he largely paid for them out of his own pocket.

In 1987, Tanaka wrote a book detailing his experiences in Afghanistan called Soviet Soldiers in a Gun Sight, My Battle in Afghanistan. He used the proceeds from the book to fund another trip to Afghanistan and purchased supplies for the mujahideen. “[They] need help, any kind of help,” Tanaka said in a plea for Japanese support. “They need weapons, bread, food, anything.”

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
Tanaka with Mujahideen fighters (Koshiro Tanaka)

Tanaka’s next trip took him to the Panjshair Valley where he linked up with the famous Afghan commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud. The mujahideen leader had taken up karate, but Tanaka reported that, “he’s not so good.” Massoud became a military and political leader in the Northern Alliance alongside Abdul Rashid Dostum of 12 Strong fame, but was assassinated two days before 9/11 in an al-Qaeda/Taliban suicide bombing.

Tanaka’s fight in Afghanistan ended with the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. He returned to karate and has taught in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Hawaii, and Germany. He remains an outspoken supporter of a democratic Afghanistan, often sporting a pin of the Japanese flag alongside the Afghan flag.

That time Guy Gabaldon convinced 1,500 Japanese troops not to fight to the death
Tanaka hosted two members of the Afghan Olympic Committee in Tokyo in February 2020 (Koshiro Tanaka)
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