Shoichi Yokoi

Shōichi Yokoi was a Japanese sergeant in the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War. He was among the last three Japanese hold-outs to surrender after the end of hostilities in 1945, being found in the jungle of Guam in January 1972, almost 28 years after the island had been liberated by US forces in 1944 and appears to be the last Japanese soldier to have been told about the Japanese capitulation.

An enlargeable map of the United States Territ...

Map of Guam

Yokoi was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941. 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. Guam had been lost, but they had no idea their country had surrendered. In the 20 years that followed they would unfortunately get separated from each other or tragically die of starvation. The last eight years – being the last man standing – Yokoi lived entirely alone in the Guam jungle.

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. He had made his own loom and eel trap.

On the evening of January 24, 1972, Yokoi was discovered in the jungle. He was found by Jesus Dueñas and Manuel De Gracia, two local men who were checking their shrimp traps along a small river on Talofofo. They had initially assumed that Yokoi was a villager from Talofofo, but were surprised to find him willing to fight. However, underfed and weak as he was, Yokoi was overcome and brought back by Dueñas and De Gracia to Talofofo were the truth was discovered.

For twenty-eight years, he hid in an underground jungle cave, fearing to come out of hiding even after finding leaflets declaring that World War II had ended, believing them to be mere allied propaganda.

“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.

This newspaper photograph was described as Yok...

Yokoi’s first haircut in 28 years

Yokoi was officially the third-to-last Japanese soldier to surrender after the war but appears to be the last soldier to have been told about the Japanese capitulation. Yokoi’s surrender preceded that of Hiroo Onoda who had received orders to surrender in 1944 but refused to do so. After 30 years his friends came to get him from the Philippines in 1974. Seven months later the last Japanese soldier to surrender was a Taiwanese-born Amis recruited by the Japanese army during the war called Teruo Nakamura. He was discovered in the Taiwanese jungle in November 1974. Nakamura was the last of the so-called stragglers – Japanese soldiers who continued to fight after the Japanese capitulation.

After a whirlwind media tour of Japan, Yokoi married and settled down in rural Aichi Prefecture. He would eventually receive the equivalent of $300 in back pay, along with a small pension. In 1991, he was granted an audience with Emperor Akihito, a meeting which he considered the greatest honour of his life. Yokoi died in 1997 of a heart attack at the age of 82. He was buried at a Nagoya cemetery, under a gravestone that had been commissioned initially by his mother in 1955.

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