LIBERATION Guam Remembers
A Golden Salute for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Guam
The soldier who did not surrender
Compiled by PAUL J. BORJA AND JOSEPH SANTO TOMAS
In February 1943, Shoichi Yokoi arrived on Guam from
Manchuria, a 28-year-old sergeant assigned to the Japanese naval
garrison defending the island.
In February 1972, Yokoi departed from Guam, 56 years
old and in all likelihood the Emperor's last soldier of World War
After U.S. forces liberated the island in July 1944,
Yokoi lived the next 28 years as a straggler and recluse. Hiding in the
island jungles, first evading American Marines and soldiers and then the
Chamorros serving in the Combat Patrol, Yokoi systematically and calmly
re-established his life.
A native of Aichi prefecture, in Nagoya, Japan, Yokoi
became an unregistered resident of Talofofo, living for 25
years in the hills and recesses of the Talofofo River
basin. Apparently the first three years of his life as a straggler were
spent on the run, his hideout at different locations around the
Yokoi was not the first straggler from Guam to be
found in the island's jungles. Two other men, Minagawa and Ito, were
repatriated to Japan in 1960. Bunzo Minegawa was found by two local men
harvesting breadfruit and captured; a few days later, the Japanese man
would help officials persuade Ito to come out of hiding. The two
stragglers lived in the Talofofo area as did Yokoi, but apparently had
no knowledge of him.
When Yokoi was "captured" in late January 1972, his
captors weren't soldiers or Marines on patrol - they were villagers from
Talofofo hunting in the area near Yokoi's hideout, a cave he had dug
near a creek's banks. Apprehending Yokoi, and instantly making him a
legend in Guam and Japan, were Jesus M. Duenas and Manuel D. Garcia.
The men initially thought that the thin man they saw
by the creek's banks was a boy that often strayed from the village.
Yokoi was along the creek's edge, checking a fish trap that he had made
from bamboo. After seeing the villagers, Yokoi dropped the trap and then
rushed them in attack, Duenas told the press later.
The men overpowered the slight man, his hair long and
matted and with a scraggly beard. They then took him to Agana to police
Yokoi's habitat was inspected thoroughly, its
contents both shocking and intriguing. Initial investigations were put
on hold to safely move a bomb found in the back of the cave. Later,
authorities found ingeniously made shrimp traps, simple handmade tools
and weapons from the war that were rusted beyond use.
In a January 1972 press conference
hosted by then Guam Gov. Carlos Camacho, at left, World War II soldier
Shoichi Yokoi talks about his experiences as a straggler. He spent
nearly 28 years in Guam jungles.
A tailor in Japan before the war, Yokoi had no
trouble clothing himself. He wove a simple, yet quality wardrobe from
old burlap sacks, coconut and pago fibers and other materials gathered
from the jungle. His needles were handmade; his buttons for his suits
made from discarded plastic and the various utensils used for his daily
life as a hermit were handmade as well.
He made fire by rubbing sticks between calloused
hands, and kept himself clean by bathing in the Talofofo River to avoid
infections and sicknesses.
Yokoi's capture captivated people all over the world,
particularly in Japan, where his loyalty to the Emperor was lauded. A
simple man was thrust into the spotlight after 28 years of solitude.
Not used to the attention, he later said through an
interpreter, "You know, I wish I didn't cause so much trouble to
everyone. I should have just stayed in my cave until I died."
In meetings with the press, he noted that he knew
that the war was over but was afraid that he would be killed by
Chamorros or the military if he surrendered.
One of Yokoi's desires after his capture was to pay
respects to the families of two men, also stragglers, who had died in
Guam. Shichi Mikio, a soldier, and Nakabata Satow, a civilian worker for
a labor battalion, apparently died of poisoning after eating federico
nuts and toads. Both are poisonous if improperly cooked and prepared,
and food was apparently scarce at the time because of the devastation of
Guam by Typhoon Karen in November 1962.
Having never traveled aboard aircraft, Yokoi was
astounded and unbelieving when he was told that he could travel from
Guam to Japan in three hours. In a touching moment before the media,
Yokoi cried when he heard the tape-recorded voices of relatives from
Japan. Not at all familiar with the technology, he conversed with his
relatives, asking them questions.
Commending his treatment by Guam officials and then
Governor Carlos G. Camacho, Yokoi returned to Japan on Feb. 2, 1972, as
a hero and symbol of enduring loyalty.
On March 30, 1972, in a celebration noted by all in
Japan, Yokoi celebrated his 57th birthday.
15 August 1945
In a radio broadcast which was the first public speech by a Japanese
emperor, Emperor Hirohito announces the surrender of Japan.