Little Bits of History

Never Surrender

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 24, 2012

Shōichi Yokoi

January 24, 1972: Shōichi Yokoi is found. He was born in Saori, Aichi Prefecture, Japan in 1915 and was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941 – age 26. Yokoi was a sergeant and served first in Manchuria and then in Guam. Guam is the largest and most southern island of the Mariana chain and was a strategic base during World War II. The Japanese held the island from December 1941 until retaken by US troops in June 1944. Most of the 22,000 Japanese troops were killed in the battles to retake the island. But not all.

Yokoi hid out in the jungle along the Talofofo River. Two villagers heard a noise and went to investigate. They found an old man carrying a shrimp trap. The two villagers captured and subdued the now 56-year-old sergeant and walked him out of the jungle and back to the village. Yokoi had been in the supply corps. Ten men hid in the jungles as the Americans took over the island. They lived in caves dug out of the ground. Their numbers dwindled over time. In 1952 the three surviving men found a leaflet and knew the war was over, but did not give themselves up as it would have been a disgrace. Yokoi became the sole survivor in 1964 and lived the last eight years in seclusion.

Yokoi lived off the land. Finding enough food was the most difficult and time-consuming task. He built traps for both water and land creatures and ate whatever he managed to catch. He could not afford to be a picky eater. While water was plentiful, he always boiled it as a precaution. His clothing was made from beaten pago bark. He sewed pieces of pago fabric into clothing. He had been a tailor prior to being a soldier. He started fires using a lens until it was lost and then was forced to use two sticks rubbed together. He lived in several places over the 28 years but preferred a cave he dug out for himself under a bamboo grove.

Yokoi was not the longest holdout after the war. Some soldiers hid for a time and then assimilated into the local villages. The last true holdout – a man in hiding – was discovered in 1980 on Mindoro Island, the Philippines. The most famous holdout was 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onada found on Lubang Island, the Philippines in 1974. Onada would not surrender until he received a direct order from his old commander. Yokoi adjusted to modern Japanese life and became a minor celebrity. He received ≈ $300 in back pay and a small pension. He died of a heart attack in 1997 at the age of 82.

It is with much embarrassment that I have returned alive. – Shōichi Yokoi

Mankind’s common instinct for reality has always held the world to be essentially a theatre for heroism. In heroism, we feel, life’s supreme mystery is hidden. – William James

It is not a disgrace to fail. Failing is one of the greatest arts in the world. – Charles F. Kettering

Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength. – unknown

Also on this day:

Badminton – In 1900, the Newcastle Badminton Club opened, the oldest such club in England.
Be Prepared – In 1907, the Boy Scouts were begun by Robert Baden-Powell.
“Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River” – In 1848, James W. Marshall spies gold in the American River, sparking the  California Gold Rush.

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