My experience is the very last one came out of the jungle in the 60's and maybe 70's but the japanese press romanticizes these stories. Typically the soldiers go feral, living with a native family etc but they make it sound like they were crawling through the jungle hiding from an enemy.
Chronology Japanese Holdouts in the Pacific
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September 2, 1945
Japan surrender aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor.
Officially ends the war in the Pacific and WWII.
December 1, 1945 Guam
Captain Oba and about forty-six other members of his force surrendered to U.S. forces. These were the last organized hold-outs of the Japanese forces in Saipan. Captain Oba's company of Japanese soldiers who held out after the Battle for Saipan hiding in the caves and jungles, carrying out occasional guerrilla actions against U.S. forces.
January 25, 1946 Philippines
A Japanese unit of 120 men was routed after a battle in the mountains 150 miles south of Manila.
February 1946 Philippines - on Lubang Island.
70 miles southwest of Maillia Bay a seven week campaign to clear the island was begun by the Filipino 341st and American 86th Division. Intense fighting developed on February 22, 1946 when troops encountered 30 Japanese. Eight Allied troops were killed, including 2 Filipinos. The Filipino and Americans sent for an additional 20,000 rounds of small arm ammunition, but not future battles occurred of this magnitude.
March 1946 Guam
A Japanese band of unknown size attacked and killed a six man patrol on Guam on March 1946.
Early April Philippines - on Lubang Island.
Forty-one members of the Japanese garrison come out of the jungle, unaware that the war had ended.
End March - early April 1947 Peleliu Island - Band of Japanese lead by Ei Yamaguchi
A band of 33 Japanese soldiers, commanded by Lt. Ei Yamaguchi renews fighting on the island by attacking a Marine patrol with hand grenades. At that time, only 150 Marines were stationed on the island, with 35 dependents. Reinforcement were called in to hunt down the hideouts. American patrols with a Japanese Admiral sent to convince the troops that the war was indeed over finally convinced the holdouts to come out peacefully. The band emerged from the jungle in two groups in late April, lead by Ei Yamaguchi who turned over his sword and unit's battle flags.
April 1947 Philippines - on Palawan Island.
Seven Japanese troops armed with a mortar launcher emerged from the jungle.
June 1947 Philippines
4,000 of the 114,000 troops in the Philippines as of August 1945 were still unaccounted for in mid 1946. Only 109 miles from the capital, Manila, were signs warning about armed Japanese soldiers still in the hills.
October 27, 1947 Guadalcanal Island
The last Japanese soldier surrenders. belongings included a water bottle, a broken Australian bayonet and a Japanese entrenching tool.
January 1948 Philippines - Mindinao Island
200 well organized and disciplined troops finally gave themselves up on Mindinao.
Late 1948 China
An estimated 10-20,000 well equipped Japanese troops were trapped in the mountains of Manchuria and did not surrender until late in 1948. They were caught in a no man's land of civil war stuck between the warring Nationalist and Communist forces and were unable to surrender.
January 6, 1949 - Two Holdouts Found
Two former IJN soldiers, machine gunners, Matsudo Linsoki and Yamakage Kufuku (24) are discovered on the island and surrender peacefully. They had been living under the shadow of American forces and stealing supplies.
June 30 1951 Anatahan
A group of stranded survivors of a Japanese vessel sunk by the American military found their way to the island of Anatahan, 75 nautical miles north of Saipan. The island's coast line is precipitous with landing beaches on the northern and western shore and a small sandy beach on the southwest shore. It's steep slopes are furrowed by deep gorges covered by high grass. This brooding cone jutting from the sea floor is a large, extinct volcano with two peaks and a grass covered flat field, the final resting place for a B-29 Superfortress that crashed upon returning from a bombing mission over Nagoya, Japan on January 3, 1945 killing the aircraft's crew.
By 1951 the Japanese holdouts on the island refused to believe that the war was over and resisted every attempt by the Navy to remove them. This group was first discovered in February 1945, when several Chamorros from Saipan were sent to the island to recover the bodies of the Saipan based B-29, T square 42, from the 498th Bomb Group, 875th Squadron, 73rd Wing under the command of Richard Carlson Stickney, Jr. The Chamorros reported that there were about thirty Japanese survivors from three Japanese ships sunk in June 1944, one of which was an Okinawan woman.
Pamphlets had been dropped informing the holdouts that the war was over and that they should surrender, but these requests were ignored. They lived a sparse life, eating coconuts, taro, wild sugar cane, fish and lizards. They smoked crushed, dried papaya leaves wrapped in the leaves of bananas and made an intoxicating beverage known as "tuba", (coconut wine). They lived in palm frond huts with woven floor matting of pandanus. Their life improved after the crash of the aircraft . They used metal from the B-29 to fashion crude implements such as pots, knives and roofing for their hut. The oxygen tanks were used to store water, clothing was made from nylon parachutes, the cords used for fishing line. The springs from machine guns were fashioned into fish hooks. Several in the group also had machine guns and pistols recovered from the aircraft.
Personal aggravations developed as a result of being too long in close association within a small group on a small island and also because of tuba drinking. The presence of only one woman, Kazuko Higa, caused great difficulty as well. Six of eleven deaths that occurred among the holdouts were the result of violence. One man displayed thirteen knife wounds. Ms. Higa would, from time to time, transfer her affections between at least four of the men after each mysteriously disappeared as a result of "being swallowed by the waves while fishing." In July 1950, Ms. Higa went to the beach when an American vessel appeared off shore and asked to be removed from the island. She was taken to Saipan aboard the Miss Susie and, upon arrival, informed authorities that the men on the island did not believe the war was over.
Meanwhile, officials of the Japanese government became interested in the situation on Anatahan and asked the Navy for information "concerning the doomed and living Robinson Crusoes who were living a primitive life on an uninhabited island", and offered to send a ship to rescue them. The families of the Japanese holdouts on the island of Anatahan , were contacted in Japan and requested by the U. S. Navy to write letters advising them that the war was over and that they should surrender. In January 1951, a message from the Governor of Kanagawa Prefecture was delivered.
The letters were dropped by air on June 26 and finally convinced the holdouts that they should give themselves up. Thus, six years after the end of World War II, "Operation Removal" got underway from Saipan under the Command of James B. Johnson, USNR, aboard the Navy Tug USS Cocopa. Lt. Commander James B. Johnson and Mr. Ken Akatani, an interpreter, went ashore by rubber boat and formally accepted the last surrender of World War II on the morning of June 30, 1951 which also coincided with the last day of the Naval Administration of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
Japanese soldier Murata Susumu was captured in 1953. He was living in a small shack near a swamp since the war.
1965 Vella Lavella Straggler
One Japanese straggler was located. Sited by a women in her garden, the Solomon's Japanese ambassador flew to the island. Fliers were dropped saying the war was over, and he was returned home to Japan with full honors.
January 1972 Guam
Shoichi Yokoi, was found along the Talofofo River. He brought back his army-issue rifle and said "I am sorry I did not serve his majesty to my satisfaction." "We Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive,"
Private Teruo Nakamura surrendered after 33 years hiding on a small island of Morotai.
2nd Lt. Hiroo Onada
Probably the most 'famous' of the Japanese holdouts, Onoda was the only survivor of a group of four. 29 years after Japan's formal surrender, and 15 years after being declared legally dead in Japan.
Suspect Holdout Sighting in Rabaul
Report by Lian Tanner
Philippines - Mindoro Island
Captain of the Japanese Imperial Army, Fumio Nakahira, held out until April 1980 before being discovered at Mt. Halcon.
1989 Thailand - Two Japanese Soldiers Surrender
Two x-Japanese Army soldiers: Kiyoaki Tanaka and Shigeyuki Hashimoto went onto fight with the Malaysian Communist Party (Malaysian Communist Party), in Southern Thailand. The two were part of a group of x-Japanese Army soldiers and civilians fighting with the MPAJA.
(NOTE - Although fascinating, these two were not true hold-outs because they knew the war was over. Rather, they were former Japanese Army Soldiers who went on to fight with another faction and never returned home.)
1989 Vella Lavella - Holdout Sighting(?)
Near Vorambare Bay, villagers believe there might be one or two still in that area. Or, this might be designed in a hope of brining more Japanese tourists to the area.
January 14, 1997
Sangrayban was Mangyan, not Japanese!
Apparently, according to the Japanese news media, they were about to fly to the Philippines to cover the story when they did some checking and realized that the story wasn't true. Apparently they were very eager to find even more holdouts, so when someone said that they recognized Sangrayban, they immediately said he was another lost soldier. But he didn't even know Japanese at all!
Thanks to Julia Silverton for this correction.
This news release managed to make it into many newspapers, even the Canberra Times in Australia:
"WAR IS OVER An 85-year-old Japanese soldier has been found on the Philippine island of Mindoro. Going under the name of Sangrayban, he had been living among the Mangyan tribe for 54 years. He had a wife from the tribe who had given him four children and he was in very good health, according to Rufino Baldo, a member of a team searching for such Japanese stragglers.
Sangrayban was one of a group of soldiers who landed on the island in 1943 with orders not to surrender under any circumstances. He thought that American leaflets dropped over the island in 1945 declaring the war was over were a propaganda trick, so after his companions died he went native. According to one of the search party, "He has blocked out nearly all of his memories of pre-war Japan, but he still speaks an old-fashioned form of Japanese." He does not want to leave his sick wife and is unlikely to return to Japan.
Several Japanese soldiers have been found in the Philippines still fighting World War II, the most famous being Hiroo Onoda in 1974. Onoda was unable to adapt to modern Japan and now lives in Brazil."
CANBERRA TIMES, 14 Jan 1997
Note - this article proved to be FALSE.
Two Japanese Soldiers on Mindanao
A report in early May 2005 talked about two former Japanese Army soldiers found on Mindanao
Reportedly, their names were Yoshio Yamakawa, 87, from Osaka, and Tsuzuki Nakauchi, 85.
Doubts rise over Japanese WWII 'soldiers'
From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
Japanese officials were studying new information to confirm whether two elderly men in the southern Philippines were soldiers left over from World War II, but suspicion was rising of a hoax or a trap set by kidnappers. The story of former Japanese soldiers ready to emerge from the mountains 60 years after the war has attracted a horde of media, mostly from Japan, to the city of General Santos on the troubled island of Mindanao. On the third day of waiting for a Japanese contact to produce the two men, Shuhei Ogawa, the embassy spokesman, said officials had sent information from several sources, including the Philippine government, to Tokyo for analysis. "We have a clearer picture now. That means it's easier to make a decision whether to proceed or not," he told reporters. Japanese officials met the Japanese contact - a trader who only gave his name as Asano, on Sunday, he said. Mr Ogawa said he had been told to wait in General Santos for instructions from Tokyo. He did not give details of the information or say whether it confirmed that the two men were the first cases in 30 years of wartime stragglers being found. Scepticism began to grow three days after the stragglers' story broke in Japan's media, because there has been no credible proof the two elderly men exist. Media named the pair as Yoshio Yamakawa, 87, from the western city of Osaka, and Tsuzuki Nakauchi, 85. The last known Japanese straggler from the war was found in 1975 in Indonesia.