Monday, November 28, 2016

The Soldier Who Never Surrendered

Shoichi Yokoi, WWII Japanese NO SURRENDER SOLDIER who hid on Guam

Shoichi-san's hideout
Yokoi’s story began August 5, 1941, when he was drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army. Shoichi Yokoi, the son of tailors, was drafted into the Third Supply Regiment for temporary duty.

During World War II, Japan allied with Germany and Italy. Japan invaded China, Southeast Asia, and many Pacific Islands. Hours after Japanese pilots attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked Guam, which was a United States territorial possession. Three days later, Japan occupied Guam. During the two years and eight months Japanese soldiers occupied Guam, they committed many atrocities against the people.

Most of that time, Yokoi was not stationed on Guam. It was not until March 4, 1944, that Yokoi arrived on Guam from Manchuria (China) and was assigned to the supply unit at Talofofo Camp.

U.S. Marines liberated Guam July 4, 1944. Germany surrendered May 7, 1945. Japan surrendered August 14, 1945.

But for Yokoi, the war did not end. Why didn’t he surrender to the American soldiers and go home to Japan like most soldiers who chose not to commit suicide? I studied news articles written and translated from Japanese into English to read what Yokoi himself had to say about his long ordeal hiding in the jungles of Guam. As near as I could figure, he was filled with fear and shame. Japanese soldiers at that time believed their emperor was a god. They were taught that if they were captured they would be severely tortured by enemy soldiers, and if they did not die in battle, or commit suicide, they greatly shamed their families.

Shoichi-san's belongings
 clothes that he made in his years of hiding

Yokoi was a survivor, at all costs. So when the U. S. soldiers liberated Guam, he hid in the Talofofo jungle with two other Japanese soldiers, Mikio Shichi and Satoru Nakahata. At first they hid in natural caves in the rolling mountains in Southern Guam. Later, they built separate huts within the jungle.

But as Guamanians built new houses closer to the Talofofo River, the two soldiers moved to a cave and Yokoi dug a tunnel eight feet underground, and ten feet long. In 1964, Shichi and Nakahata died, possibly of poison. Only Yokoi remained as the last straggler, a term Guamanians called soldiers who never surrendered.

On January 24, 1972, Jesus Duenas and Manuel DeGracia found Yokoi while checking shrimp traps in the Talofofo River.

Yokoi could still speak Japanese and halting English. He told authorities and reporters how he survived for twenty-eight years in the jungle, the last fifteen years underground.

The only fact that has been disputed is whether, in 1950, Yokoi took part in the murders of the two young men, one the brother of Jesus Duenas. When Yokoi was first questioned he admitted to being a participant when his comrades murdered Francisco Duenas, 15, and Jesus Pablo, 26. However, later the Japanese government denied Yokoi had anything to do with murdering the two Chamorros.

After Yokoi returned to Japan he was given a hero’s welcome, promoted to sergeant, and married. He died September 22, 1997, in Japan at age 82.

Check out Christine Kohler’s book “No Surrender Soldier”  available used from 
from: guampedia 

Yokoi returned to Japan in February 1972 to a hero’s welcome. The former soldier, however, found the transition from lone straggler to celebrated hero a difficult one. He arrived in Tokyo where, surrounded by media, he appeared bewildered and unable to answer questions posed to him. His first words, though, were broadcast nationally: 

“It is with much embarrassment that I return.” 

In November 1972, trying to resume a normal life, Yokoi contracted an arranged marriage to his wife Mihoko, 13 years his junior, and the two settled in Yokoi’s home city of Nagoya. According to his nephew, however, Yokoi was like a stranger in modern Japan with its technological advancement and post-war economic development. Heavily militarized before the war, Japan no longer had an army.

Nevertheless, Yokoi’s popularity grew and, according to Japanese scholar Yoshikuni Igarishi, he arguably learned to use the media, too, to rework the story of his activities, loyalties and emotions as a soldier/straggler on Guam. He was frequently invited to interviews and speaking engagements at schools and universities across Japan. He became a regular commentator on television programs, and would often regale audiences with tales of his survival skills. Two years after his surrender, he wrote a best-selling book on his experience in Guam in Japanese, and in 1974 he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Japan’s upper house of parliament.

Yokoi had publicly stated he had wanted to meet the emperor, but although he never met Hirohito (who died in 1989), in 1991, Yokoi had an audience with Emperor Akihito during a reception at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Overcome with emotion, 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.”

As he got older, Yokoi became more nostalgic and would often recall his past years on Guam. In fact, he returned to the island several times before his death from a heart attack on 22 September 1997 at the age of 82. He was survived by his wife of 25 years, Mihoko. Yokoi was buried in Nagoya with a ceremonial headstone that had been commissioned by his mother in 1955, when he was officially declared dead.

Modern interpretations of Yokoi’s experience on Guam point to a man who struggled first with survival in Guam’s jungles to a man who struggled to find his place in the modern world. While initially hailed as hero, there were times in the following decades of his life where people questioned and criticized his loyalty to the Japanese war effort and his bravery as a straggler of the war. His capture led to a search for other Japanese war stragglers, turning up Hiroo Onoda who led a guerrilla task force in the Philippines for many years after the war and who finally surrendered in 1974, and Teruo Nakamura who was found alone on the Indonesian island of Morotai in December 1974. Onoda’s experience contrasted with Yokoi, who had chosen to remain hidden. According to Irigashi, Yokoi once claimed to have killed two Chamorros to demonstrate his bravery while on Guam, then, realizing the backlash this account received in peaceful, post-war Japan, he blamed his two companions, then finally recanted this story altogether. The trauma of his experience on Guam was never fully revealed, and up to his death, Yokoi struggled with nightmares of being chased by enemy soldiers.

Nevertheless, the tailor-soldier from Japan remains a unique figure in Guam history and is remembered for simply surviving so long in the jungle. In 2006, the Shoichi Yokoi Memorial Hall opened in Nakagawa-Ku, Nagoya. His original cave site in Talofofo, however, was neglected and left to crumble, but is still marked in Guam tourist maps. Several of his prized possessions from his time in the jungle of Guam and photographs of Yokoi also can be found in the small museum at local business Jeff’s Pirates Cove located in Ipan. The Guam Museum also has featured Yokoi’s story in an exhibit that included original clothing and artifacts and replicas of Yokoi himself and his cave—reminders, perhaps, that World War II ended on Guam, not in 1945 or with the American liberation, but in 1972 with the surrender of Yokoi.

Shoichi Yokoi, 82, Is Dead; Japan Soldier Hid 27 Years

from:The New York Times  by NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF  SEPT. 26, 1997

Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese soldier who hid in the jungles of Guam for 27 years rather than surrender to American forces at the end of World War II, died on Monday of a heart attack. He was 82.

Mr. Yokoi returned in 1972 to Japan -- an entirely different country than the one he had last seen in August 1940 -- and he stirred widespread soul-searching within Japan about whether he represented the best impulses of the national spirit or the silliest.

''I am ashamed that I have returned alive,'' Mr. Yokoi declared after his return, reflecting the traditional warrior spirit that it is better to die than to give oneself up to the enemy.

''Your Majesties, I have returned home,'' Mr. Yokoi said during a visit to the grounds of the Imperial Palace, where the Emperor and Empress live. ''I deeply regret that I could not serve you well. The world has certainly changed, but my determination to serve you will never change.''

It is not clear what Emperor Hirohito thought, but many young Japanese were embarrassed at such an expression of antiquated values. Although Mr. Yokoi said the one thing he wanted most was a meeting with the Emperor, Hirohito never obliged.

Mr. Yokoi's case highlighted the extraordinary transformation that Japan has undergone -- psychological as well as material -- in the decades since the war.

He was the epitome of prewar values of diligence, loyalty to the Emperor and ganbaru, a ubiquitous Japanese word that roughly means to slog on tenaciously through tough times.

This persistence struck many elderly Japanese as inspiring and moving, while to younger people it seemed pointless and symbolic of an age that taught children to stick to what they were doing rather than to think about where they were going.

Raised in a farming village near the city of Nagoya in central Japan, Mr. Yokoi became a tailor until he was sent to the war in 1940. Japanese troops were encouraged to fight to the death and taught that surrender was deeply shameful, and so when American troops seized control of Guam in 1944, Mr. Yokoi and more than 1,000 other Japanese soldiers hid in the jungle rather than give up or commit suicide.

The others were all captured within a couple of years or died of starvation or sickness. Though he knew that Japan had surrendered, Mr. Yokoi continued to hide out, living in a well-concealed cave and surviving on fruit, nuts, fish, shrimp, frogs, rats and snails. His tailoring skills helped him weave clothing made of bark.

''I continued to live for the sake of the Emperor and believing in the Emperor and the Japanese spirit,'' he later declared.

The jungle saga might have lasted even longer, but in January 1972 two American hunters surprised Mr. Yokoi at dusk as he was about to set fish traps in a river. They marched him at gunpoint to a local police station, where he told his story to the stunned police officers.

Mr. Yokoi became a celebrity in Japan, and even those embarrassed by his constant references to the Emperor felt a measure of admiration at his determination and ganbaru spirit. A few weeks after his capture he was flown back to Japan on a chartered jet, and he burst into tears when he caught a glimpse of Mount Fuji, one of the symbols of Japan.

Hailed as a hero at a welcoming ceremony in Tokyo's airport, as millions of Japanese watched on television, he seemed overwhelmed by the changes in the country to which he had returned. He had never heard of television, atomic weapons or jet planes.

Thousands of Japanese lined the highway waving paper Japanese flags, as he was later driven to his native village. The homecoming was televised live across the nation, and cameras were everywhere as Mr. Yokoi stopped at the village cemetery and wept at the family gravestone, which recorded that he had died on Guam in 1944.

The Japanese public, moved by his earnestness and devotion to traditional values, flooded Mr. Yokoi with money, gifts and offers of marriage.
Shoichi Yokoi and wife Mihoko at Guam Airport, 1973

Many people worried about how he would adjust to the new Japan, but that never seemed to be a problem: he married six months after his return and taught survival skills and gave frequent lectures on how to live more thriftily.

''I can't understand why cities must burn garbage,'' he scolded Japan in 1980. ''My family does not produce garbage. We eat every last bite of food. Parts of food that are not edible are used as fertilizer in my garden.''

Mr. Yokoi, who also urged that golf courses be plowed over and planted with beans, once ran for Parliament but lost, perhaps because many voters found his attitudes unsettling as well as admirable. His saga prompted a search for other Japanese soldiers left behind, and in 1974 a Japanese lieutenant named Hiroo Onoda was found living in the Philippine jungle.

Mr. Yokoi's wife, Mihiko, who is 69, survives him and said that she had shared joy with him for 25 years.

''The treasure in my heart has gone,'' Mrs. Yokoi told reporters after her husband's death. ''I cannot think of anything now. I will be lonely.''

Shoichi Yokoi's final resting-place, Nagoya Cemetery photo: kanesue

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.

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