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|Born||(1915-03-31)March 31, 1915
Saori, Aichi Prefecture, Empire of Japan
|Died||September 22, 1997(1997-09-22) (aged 82)
|Allegiance||Empire of Japan|
||Imperial Japanese Army|
|Years of service||1941–1952|
Shōichi Yokoi (横井 庄一, Yokoi Shōichi, March 31, 1915 – September 22, 1997) was a sergeant in the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during the Second World War, and was among the last three Japanese holdouts to be found after the end of hostilities in 1945. He was discovered in the jungles of Guam on 24 January 1972, almost 28 years after U.S. forces had regained control of the island in 1944.
War years and post-war survival
Initially, Yokoi served with the 29th Infantry Division in Manchukuo. In 1943, he was transferred to the 38th Regiment in the Mariana Islands and arrived on Guam in February 1943. When American forces captured the island in the 1944 Battle of Guam, Yokoi went into hiding with nine other Japanese soldiers. Seven of the original ten eventually moved away and only three remained in the region. These men separated, but visited each other periodically until about 1964, when the other two died in a flood. For the last eight years, Yokoi lived alone. He survived by hunting, primarily at night. He also used native plants to make clothes, bedding, and storage implements, which he carefully hid in his cave.
On the evening of 24 January 1972, Yokoi was discovered in the jungle by Jesus Dueñas and Manuel De Gracia, two local men checking their shrimp traps along a small river on Talofofo. They had assumed Yokoi was a villager from Talofofo, but he thought his life was in danger and attacked them. They managed to subdue him and carried him out of the jungle with minor bruising.
Yokoi later told reporters that he expected to be killed shortly upon capture; instead the locals sent him to the local Commissioner’s office for questioning, after stopping at their house on the way for hot soup. Upon arrival, Yokoi apologized to the commissioner and his captors and confessed his identity. A physical examination found him to be thin and weak but relatively healthy.
"It is with much embarrassment that I return," he said upon his return to Japan. The remark quickly became a popular saying in Japan.
Despite having hidden for twenty-eight years in a jungle cave, he had known since 1952 that World War II had ended. He feared coming out of hiding, explaining, "We Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive."
Yokoi was the antepenultimate Japanese soldier to surrender after the war, preceding Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda (relieved from duty by his former commanding officer on 9 March 1974) and Private Teruo Nakamura (arrested 18 December 1974).
After a whirlwind media tour of Japan, he married and settled down in rural Aichi Prefecture.
Yokoi became a popular television personality and an advocate of austere living.
He was featured in a 1977 documentary film called Yokoi and His Twenty-Eight Years of Secret Life on Guam.
Although he never met Emperor Hirohito, while visiting the grounds of the Imperial Palace, 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."
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.
The Shoichi Yokoi Memorial Hall opened in 2006 in Nakagawa-ku, Nagoya. Admission is free.
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