Japanese WWII Soldier Found Hiding in Guam Jungle (1972)
Shōichi Yokoi (横井 庄一 Yokoi Shōichi, March 31, 1915 – September 22, 1997) was a Japanese sergeant in the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during the Second World War. He was among the last three Japanese holdouts to be found after the end of hostilities in 1945, discovered in the jungles of Guam in January 1972, almost 28 years after US forces had regained control of the island in 1944.
Yokoi was born in Saori, Aichi Prefecture. He was an apprentice tailor when he was conscripted in 1941.
War years and post-war survival
Initially, Yokoi served with the 29th Infantry Division in Manchukuo. In 1943, he was transferred to the 38th Regiment in the Mariana Islands. He arrived on Guam in February 1943. When American forces captured the island in the 1944 Battle of Guam, Yokoi went into hiding with ten other Japanese soldiers. Seven of the original ten eventually moved away and only three remained in the region. These separated, but they visited each other until about 1964, when the other two died in flooding. The last eight years he lived alone.
Yokoi survived by hunting, primarily at night. He used native plants to make clothes, bedding, and storage implements, which he carefully hid in his cave.
On the evening of January 24, 1972, Yokoi was discovered in the jungle by Jesus Dueñas and Manuel De Gracia, two local men checking their shrimp traps along a small river on Talofofo. They had assumed Yokoi was a villager from Talofofo, but he thought his life was in danger and attacked them. They managed to subdue him and carried him out of the jungle with minor bruising.
“It is with much embarrassment, but I have returned”, he said upon his return to Japan. The remark would become a popular saying in Japanese.
For twenty-eight years, he had hidden in an underground jungle cave, fearing to come out of hiding even after finding leaflets declaring World War II had ended, believing them to be false Allied propaganda.
Yokoi was the third-to-last Japanese soldier to surrender after the war, preceding second lieutenant Hiroo Onoda (relieved from duty by his former commanding officer March 9, 1974) and Private Teruo Nakamura (arrested December 18, 1974).
After a whirlwind media tour of Japan, he married and settled down in rural Aichi Prefecture. Yokoi became a popular television personality and an advocate of austere living. He was featured in a 1977 documentary called Yokoi and His Twenty-Eight Years of Secret Life on Guam. He eventually received the equivalent of US$300 in back pay, and a small pension.
Although he never met Emperor Hirohito, while visiting the grounds of the Imperial Palace, Yokoi said, “Your Majesties, I have returned home…I deeply regret that I could not serve you well. The world has certainly changed, but my determination to serve you will never change.”
Yokoi died in 1997 of a heart attack at the age of 82, and was buried at a Nagoya cemetery, under a gravestone that had originally been commissioned by his mother in 1955, after Yokoi had been officially declared dead.
Hiroo Onoda discovered March 1974, Lubang Island, Philippines
Teruo Nakamura discovered December 1974, Morotai Island, Indonesia
^ a b c d e “Shoichi Yokoi”, Ultimate Guam.
^ a b Lanchin, Mike (24 January 2012). “Shoichi Yokoi, the Japanese soldier who held out in Guam”. BBC.
^ Mendoza, Patrick M. (1999). Extraordinary People in Extraordinary Times: Heroes, Heroes, and Villains, p. 71.
^ Lewis, John. “Japan’s WWII ‘no surrender’ soldier dies”, CNN. September 23, 1997.
^ a b Kristof, Nicholas D. “Shoichi Yokoi, 82, Is Dead ; Japan Soldier Hid 27 Years”, New York Times . September 26, 1997.
Hatashin, Omi and Shoichi Yokoi. (2009). Private Yokoi’s War and Life on Guam, 1944-72: The Story of the Japanese Imperial Army’s Longest WWII Survivor in the Field and Later Life. London: Global Oriental. 10-ISBN 1-905246-69-2; 13-ISBN 978-1-905246-69-4; OCLC 316801727.
Mendoza, Patrick M. (1999). Extraordinary People in Extraordinary Times: Heroes, Sheroes, and Villains. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited. ISBN 1-56308-611-5; ISBN 978-1-56308-611-3.