Friday, 24 January 2014

"It is with much embarrassment, but I have returned"

Shōichi Yokoi  was a Japanese sergeant in the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during the Second World War.

Yokoi was born in Saori, Aichi Prefecture. He was an apprentice tailor when he was conscripted in 1941.Initially, Yokoi served with the 29th Infantry Division in Manchukuo.
In 1943, he was transferred to the 38th Regiment in the Mariana Islands. 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.
Seven of the original ten eventually moved away and only three remained in the region.These men separated but visited each other until about 1964, when the other two died in a flood.
The last eight years Yokoi lived alone.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.

On the evening of 24 January 1972, Yokoi was discovered in the jungle[3] 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.

"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.

For twenty-eight years, he had hidden in an underground jungle cave, fearing to come out of hiding even after finding leaflets declaring World War II had ended, believing them to be false Allied propaganda. Yokoi was the third-to-last 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 called Yokoi and His Twenty-Eight Years of Secret Life on Guam.

He eventually received the equivalent of US$300 in back pay, and a small pension. 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.

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