Shoichi Yokoi

Wikimedia CommonsShoichi Yokoi was deployed with the the 29th Infantry Division in the Mariana Islands and landed on Guam in 1943. When Americans took the island in the 1944 Battle of Guam, Yokoi and 10 other soldiers in his group went into hiding. The others were gone by 1964, leaving Yokoi alone.

In Hiding

Chicomiranda/WordpressHe hunted at night to survive and used plants to make his clothing, bedding, and day-to-day items. He was living out his days in a narrow cave when two fishermen were out checking their shrimp traps along a river and spotted him. They were shocked when Yokoi attacked them. Together, the two men restrained Yokoi and brought him out of the jungle on Jan. 24, 1972.


Shosei/aflo/Score by Aflo/Getty ImagesFlying toward Japan, he burst into tears when Mount Fuji came into view. “It is with much embarrassment, but I have returned.” These were his words to the Japanese people when he returned to his home country. The words are now famous.


Keystone-france/Gamma-Keystone/Getty ImagesYokoi lived in his cave for 28 years in the middle of the jungle. He knew the war ended in 1952, but was afraid to come out of hiding. He said he and his men were told “to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive.” So he didn’t surrender and didn’t come out of the jungle on his own.

In The Jungle

NOAA Photo Library/Flickr/Creative CommonsAfter returning home, Yokoi received a tiny amount of back pay, and eventually married and settled down in a rural part of Japan. He died at age 82. He was one of around 1,000 troops who hid in the jungle after the Battle of Guam, but the others were captured, killed, or died of exposure.


Keystone-france/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

When Yokoi returned to Japan, the world had changed. He didn’t know about television, jet planes, or the Vietnam War. He still adapted to his new life quickly, and lived out his days giving lessons on thrifty living and teaching survival skills. His triumphant return to Japan prompted the government to find other holdouts from World War II.

Hiroo Onoda

Greenshack Dotinfo/YouTube“It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you.”

This was part of the orders that Hiroo Onoda received when he was deployed along with a group of soldiers to Lubang Island, in the Philippines. He was told not to surrender, not to die by his own hand, and to live on coconuts if that’s what it took. Onoda took those orders seriously.


Christian Aslund/Lonely Planet/Getty ImagesHis cell of four escaped and evaded the Allied forces, and they continued their guerrilla tactics against the locals. The locals sent pamphlets into the jungle after the war ended, telling them to come out, but the soldiers thought it was a trick from the Allies. If the war really was over, their superiors would come to get them.

Jungle Man

Soft_light/iStock/Getty ImagesThe Filipinos subsequently dropped flyers over the jungle, brought Japanese dignitaries in with loudspeakers to broadcast that the war was over, and even dropped photographs and letters from the soldiers’ family members. But the messages didn’t make sense. The messages said Japan had surrendered, and that couldn’t be. Onoda and his cell, you see, didn’t know about the atomic bomb.

After 29 years in the jungle, the other three were gone. Onoda was alone in 1974, and still engaging in guerrilla tactics against the locals because he thought they were involved with the Allied Forces. He thought the war was still going on. He’d been told to wait, and he was waiting.

No Surrender

News 163By now, Onoda had reached legendary status. He was even known to college student Norio Suzuki, who wanted to travel the world. There were several things he wanted to see on his adventure, including the Abominable Snowman and Onoda. He went to the island and walked through the jungle … and found him. Suzuki talked at length with the soldier, but Onoda refused to leave. He’d been told by his commanding officer to stay, and no one but his commanding officer was going to make him leave.

Final Order

Simon Gurney/Hemera/Getty ImagesSuzuki went to Japan and found Major Taniguchi, who was retired from military service and working in a book store. Suzuki took Taniguchi to the island and led him into the jungle, straight to Onoda. Taniguchi told Onoda that Japan lost the war, and ordered him to give up his weapons and surrender to the Filipinos.

The War’s End

Jiji Press/AFP/Getty ImagesOnoda walked out of the jungle almost 30 years after World War II came to its end, still dressed neatly in his uniform. He submitted his weapons and surrendered his cause with perfect military bearing. And that’s how his 30-year mission ended.

“I felt like a fool.” Onoda talked about the experience, in his own words, later. “What had I been doing for all these years?”

30 Years Of War

National Post NewsHe was pardoned by the Philippines and welcomed home to Japan with parades, but he moved to Brazil to set up his own cattle ranch shortly after his return to civilization. In 1984, he founded Onoda Shienjyuku. It was a training camp for young Japanese children that taught survival and camping skills. After three decades in the jungle, Onoda had those in abundance. He published a book called “No Surrender: My Thirty-year War.” He died of pneumonia in 1984 at the age of 91. In an interview with ABC, he said he would have felt shame if he failed to carry out his orders.