Japanese Holdouts Accounts

Meeting Ei Yamaguchi in 1994
Account by Eric Mailander
[ Read complete interview on Pacific Wreck Database ]

Background - The band of Japanese Holdouts emerged from the jungle in two groups in late April 1947, lead by Ei Yamaguchi.

During the 50th anniversary return to the island, several Marine veterans asked me to take them to Lt. Yamaguchi's last hideout cave located near the beach. Today a sign is posted near a road about 100 meters or so from his cave. We started trudging through the mangrove swamps and soon found it.

I crawled inside and noticed U.S. gear and supplies scattered inside! I figured the Japanese stole the supplies after the battle. Just as I popped my head out of the cave to was show the vets a U.S. hand grenade that I had found, an entourage of people appeared out of nowhere. It was NBC Dateline camera crews filming Lt. Yamaguchi returning to his hideout along with a few other Japanese vets! Our timing was incredible! One of the camera men asked me to exit the cave so that he could film Yamaguchi's return inside. Without hesitation, I crawled out and photographed the once-in-a-lifetime event. This did not go well with my veteran friends who told me to throw the hand grenade that I was clutching back into the hole after Yamaguchi crawled in! Somehow I don't think that would have went well for U.S. and Japanese relationships! It's interesting how some of the American vets still harbor hatred for the Japanese.

Yamaguchi and his band of holdouts subsided mostly on stolen US goods, including weapons. It seems as though the stragglers favored the M-1 carbine because of its light weight. Many improvised and cut off the end of the barrel making the gun more mobile and light. When I explored Yamaguchi's cave, it was amazing that all the artifacts were US Army/Marine equipment. We found US water cans, pineapple grenades and helmets. Yamaguchi chuckled and told me they "liberated" the stuff from US dumps. He also related his experience of sneaking into the American lines and watching movies on many occasions!

I did talk with Yamaguchi via an interpreter while on Peleliu. Last year Col. Joe Alexander and I interviewed him via a professional translator and had his diary translated. In addition, I have accumulated some great archival photos taken during Yamaguchi's surrender to the Island Command in 1947.

Ei Yamaguchi on Peleliu 1994

Yamaguchi returning
to his cave in 1994