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Shoichi Yokoi - The Last Japanese Soldier

Shoichi Yokoi, also known as the last Japanese soldier, was discovered hiding in a cave on the island of Guam in 1972, 28 years after the war had ended.

Shoichi Yokoi, also known as the last Japanese soldier, was discovered hiding on the island of Guam in 1972,  28 years after the war had ended.

The American invasion of Guam began on July 21, and lasted until August 8, 1944. During the nearly month long battle American forces recaptured the Island and the Japanese occupiers. As the battle was drawing to an end and defeat was becoming more and more imminent, Shoichi Yokoi and nine other Japanese soldiers slipped away from American forces and disappeared into the thick jungle and made their way towards the mountains.

Once Yokoi and the others reached what they believed to be a safe place the group stopped and discussed what they should do next. Deciding thatyokoi cave smaller groups would be safer and harder to detect, they split up and went in different directions. Shoichi Yokoi and two other men dug a cave in a well-hidden bamboo thicket and went into hiding.

Sometime in 1964, twenty years later, Shoichi Yokoi's two companions decided to leave the cave and go their on way. The reason for the split is unknown but after twenty years it could have been for any number of reasons. But, for what ever reason, the two dug another cave nearby and for a while stayed in contact with Yokoi.

Not long after the group had separated Yokoi found the two men dead in their cave. The cause of their death is not known but most likely it was from either disease or malnutrition. The death of the men left Yokoi alone on the mountain for the next eight years until he was discovered by two locals while Yokoi was fishing in a stream.

Yokoi was hunting for food near a stream one morning when two local shrimp fisherman came upon him. Yokoi attacked the two fisherman but was easily subdued. A fifty something year old man that has been living in a cave for 28 years and eating what ever he could find is evidently easy to overpower. The two kindly fisherman took Yokoi back to their village and fed him before taking him on to the local authorities.

After Yokoi had adjusted to being back in civilization, and around people again, he told that he new that the war had ended some twenty years ago but that he was afraid to surrender in fear of being killed by the Americans. And, if the Americans didn't kill him the Japanese would for him surrendering to the Americans. Sort of a lose lose situation so he decided he was better off just staying in the jungle.

Yokoi was returned to Japan as a National celebrity and the government gave him $300 in back pay. That comes to $1.12 a month. Yokoi presented the Emperor with his rifle, still in pristine condition, as a gift and an apology for not being of better service to his country. Surprisingly, he was not offered a reality show.

Yokoi died in 1992 at the age of 82.

Amazingly Yokoi is not the only Japanese soldier to hide out rather than surrender after the war. Many more have been discovered throughout the years, some longer than Yokoi, hiding in jungles and on islands in the Pacific. As of 2010 it's doubtful that any others remain due to age. The average age of a WWII veteran would be around 89.

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Comments (6)
Bubba Ho-Tep

Sounds to me like Yokoi was a coward who deserted his post and hid. He was afraid to go back to Japan for that reason. And his rifle was in pristine condition because as a coward, he obviously never used it.

Ranked #18 in History

It was a matter of honor that kept Yokoi, along with thousands of other Japanese, from surrendering, not fear.

Bubba Ho-Tep

That sounds nice for your little article, but reality is often far from the story given. I'm sure we all love the image of the honorable Japanese warrior who upholds the Bushido tradition, etc. But the truth is Yokoi is a human being and human beings are creatures of emotion. Fear is a powerful emotion. He ran and hid. And when he was discovered his first thought was probably "Oh crap, the Army executes cowards."

Bubba Ho-Tep

That sounds nice for your little article, but reality is often far from the story given. I'm sure we all love the image of the honorable Japanese warrior who upholds the Bushido tradition, etc. But the truth is Yokoi is a human being and human beings are creatures of emotion. Fear is a powerful emotion. He ran and hid. And when he was discovered his first thought was probably "Oh crap, the Army executes cowards."

Bubba Ho-Tep

That sounds nice for your little article, but reality is often far from the story given. I'm sure we all love the image of the honorable Japanese warrior who upholds the Bushido tradition, etc. But the truth is Yokoi is a human being and human beings are creatures of emotion. Fear is a powerful emotion. He ran and hid. And when he was discovered his first thought was probably "Oh crap, the Army executes cowards."

Ranked #80 in History

I remember when he came out of hiding, -it was news when I was still in high school... There was even a sci-fi/drama series called "Salvage One" based upon the movie of the same name (starring Andy Griffith) that had an episode centered around a Japanese solider in hiding that they 'surrended' to in order to gain his trust and help to get off a deserted island... At the end of the episode, the Japanese solider commented that we (victorious Japan and defeated America could become allies and even friends... it was then that the Griffith character decided to gently tell the soldier the real truth of how the war ended for Japan...)

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