Japanese Holdouts: Registry

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September 1945
140,000 Japanese soldiers went into service with the Communist Red Army, or went on living independently in Communist held areas. Some of these soldiers had been stranded without transportation back to Japan, or were unwilling to return to the American occupied home islands. Others feared disgrace from their families for surrender. Many choose to fight for the Chinese, Russians or the warlords in the region. Others permanently relocated, beginning a new life and starting families where the war had left them. These ex-Japanese soldiers knew the war was over, but for various reasons opted to never return home.

Late 1948
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.



Occupied by the Japanese, and scene of intense fighting in 1945. 4,000 of the 114,000 troops in the Philippines as of August 1945 were still unaccounted for six months after the end of the war, in mid-1946. In the late 40's, only 109 miles from Manila, signs warned about Japanese soldiers still in the hills.

December 1945 - Holdout on Corregidor
A Japanese military person hid out alone in the tunnels under Corregidor for nine months after the island was recaptured by the Americans (March 1945).

January 25, 1946 - Mountain Battle between Filipinos and Japanese
On January 25, 1946 a Japanese unit of 120 men was routed after a battle in the mountains 150 miles south of Manila. The Japanese were armed with small arms and at least one light machine gun. 72 were killed by a Filipino battalion, led by American "Black Hawk" 86th Infantry Division. The survivors were tracked down and most were apprehended.

February 1946 - Post WWII island campaign
In February 1946 on 74 square mile Lubang Island, 70 miles southwest of Manila Bay a seven week campaign to clear the island was begun by the Filipino 341st and American 86th Division.

February 22, 1946 - Lubang island Allied casualties in a post WWII battle
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. In early April, 41 members of the Japanese garrison on Lubang island came out of the jungle, unaware that the war had ended.

April 1947- Mortar Team Surrenders
Seven Japanese troops armed with a mortar launcher emerged from Palawan Island.

April 1947 - Fifteen Armed Soldiers
Fifteen armed stragglers emerged from Luzon

January 1948 - Party of 200 Japanese Troops
200 well organized and disciplined troops finally gave themselves up on Mindanao.

March 5, 1974 - Lubang Island - 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda
Probably the most 'famous' of the Japanese holdouts, Onoda was the only survivor of a group of four.  He surrendered 29 years after Japan's formal surrender, and 15 years after being declared legally dead in Japan. When he accepted that the war was over, he wept openly.

April 1980 - Captain Fumio Nakahira on Mindoro
Captain Fumio Nakahira of the Japanese Imperial Army, held out before being discovered at Mt. Halcon in Mindoro.

January 1997 - 85 Year old Sangrayban discovered on Mindoro
"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. On Mindoro, 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 that the war was over were a propaganda trick. After his companions died, he went native, living among the Mangyan tribe for 54 years. He married a Mangyan women and had four children. He has blocked out all his memories of pre-WWII Japan, but he still speaks an old fashioned form of Japanese. When discovered, he was in "very good health". He does not want to leave his sick wife and is unlikely to return to Japan." NOTE - This story was later proved to be a hoax.

Saipan Secured July 1944

December 1, 1945 - Saipan Island
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. The story of 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. American Memorial Park Website [ Website Down ] with pictorial history of the event an newspaper clippings. Oba, today deceased. Some of his men made several return visits to Saipan. The book, "The Last Samurai" by Don Jones tells Oba's story.

Oba's troops surrender their flag.

June 30 1951 - Anatahan Island
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. For more information, read Saipan Oral Histories of the Pacific War by Bruce Petty, page 78, 119-120.


Guam Secured August 1944

March 1946
A Japanese band of unknown size attacked and killed a six man patrol on Guam.

Two Japanese soldiers hid in the jungle for 16 years after the war. There story is told in a book called The Emperor's Last Soldiers.

Roy Wiggs who was stationed on Guam recalls:
"I remember when they found the two soldiers but other than the fact that one of them was shot and wounded by an overexcited Guamainian while he and his comrade were trying to steal some food. The other one surrendered because he was scared to death and half starved, I don't remember when just that I was there at the time."

January 1972
Corporal Shoichi Yokoi was found by two hunters while he was fishing along the Talofofo River. He brought back his army-issue rifle, which he said he wanted to return to "the Honorable Emperor," adding: "I am sorry I did not serve his majesty to my satisfaction." He had seen reports of Japan's surrender in leaflets and newspapers scattered about the island but refused to surrender because he thought they were American propaganda. "We Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive," he said. He died on September 23, 1997 click to read his obituary

"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," - Shoichi Yokoi, 1972.


Tinian Secured August 1944

1953 - Murata Susumu
Holdout Murata Susumu was captured in 1953. He was living in a small shack near a swamp since the war. For more information on his capture, read the account of Cristino S. Dela Cruz, who captured him in the book
Saipan Oral Histories of the Pacific War by Bruce Petty, page 40

4 September 1945
Larry Richter reports:
"Aboard the US Coast Guard 83 foot patrol vessel CG83434 commanded by Lt. (jg) Robert Tyrol, USCGR. 2nd Lt. Kinichi Yamada surrendered the Aguijan Island garrison on that day aboard the CG83434 while she was anchored off Aguijan Island. Rear Admiral Marshall R. Greer, USN, Comm Fleet Air Wing 18 in Tinian was aboard to sign for the United States. I have a picture of that signing. I obtained pictures of that event from Lt Tyrol's widow. She sent me a number of pictures. CG83434 along with a number of other Coast Guard 83 footers were part of ABHD Force, Advanced Base Harbor Defense Force in the Saipan Area. Aguijan Island is located just off the SW tip of Tinian. I think the total including civilians surrendered was about 200"

Peleliu Island Secured November 1944

March 1947 - Ei Yamaguchi's Band Attacks US Marines
Peleliu is a small six mile long by three mile wide island. It was originally secured by American Marines in November of 1944 after fierce fighting. A band of 33 Japanese soldiers 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.

March 1947 - Ei Yamaguchi's Band
Lead by Ei Yamaguchi band emerged from the jungle in two groups in late April, who turned over his sword and unit's battle flags. Among them is Tsuchida, one of the men in Yamaguchi's group.  He returns to Peleliu to search for Japanese war dead.

Iwo Jima Secured March 25, 1945

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.


Papua New Guinea  

194? - Commander Namotaro Nagai
Holdout in the mountains above Kaiapit in the Markham Valley just west of Nadzab. In the local language `Naganishi means to eat a little. Thus, Nagai himself may have survived the war period on little food, due to lack of supplies as a result of allied blockage of the supply lines. Nagai had a little hideout behind the hills overlooking the entire Markham valley towards Lae and further up towards Dumpu.
Thanks to Phil Bradley for this research.

An account in Australian War Memorial Archives:
"The next day we arrived at Sauruan Village, where the present Kaiapit station is located. This is where the battlefield was, as there was already a Japanese base here before the arrival of the Allied troops after having set up the Nadzab air base. At Sauruan we interviewed Ben Pipias, who also told us of the killing on the Patrol Officer Harry Lumb. There were a lot of tunnels built by the Japanese in preparation of the allied advances. Native labor was used and the people lived with the Japanese."

1949 - Eight Japanese Soldiers Survived in Jungle, with Help of Village Chief
Four years after the end of the war, eight Japanese soldiers from the forces that had withdrawn across the Finisterres from Finschhafen six years previously were found living 100 kilometers inland from Madang. A sympathetic village chief, had taken pity on them and had helped them to survive in the jungle. In February 1950 they arrived back in Japan. Here they were accepted not as soldiers but as exotic creatures to headlines of "Tarzan lifestyle in the jungle: five years on mice and potatoes." Thanks to Phil Bradley for this research.


Solomon Islands  

Vella Lavella (secured August 1944)
The fighting on this island was brief, and many of the Japanese soldiers were withdrawn. About 300 were left on the island, and hid in the interior. Since 1959, locals have reported seeing Japanese men hiding in the rainforest, with long beards and wearing loin cloths, attracting Japanese veterans in hopes of finding them.

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.

David Cram adds:
"I have a surrender notice leaflet that I found in the bush in Vella la Vella in 1995 that was dropped by the Japanese Embassey when they were looking for stragglers in the 1960s. I'll get a scan of that for you if you like. It was printed on water proof paper and as such was able to survive relatively intact."

1989 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.

Other reports include:
"As recently as 1978 a Japanese straggler was found on Vella Lavella, and rumors of additional Japanese soldiers still holding out in the bush have long been circulated, in hopes of attracting Japanese tourists to the island!" This is from "The South Pacific Handbook" (sixth edition)by David Stanley. It is one of the Moon Travel handbooks. "South Pacific Handbook" 6th Edition by Moon Travel Publications, page 853.

Guadalcanal (secured by American forces Early February 1943)
The land fighting officially ended in February 1943, but small bands of Japanese were encountered throughout the rest of the war. Years after the war, skeletons of starved or killed Japanese soldiers were discovered. Bombs and ammunition are still being discovered and defused.

October 27, 1947 - Holdout Captured Stealing Food
Four and a half years after the battle of Guadalcanal, and two years since the war ended, the last Japanese soldier surrendered. He was captured while breaking into the Honiara Police compound to steal food. His belongings included a water bottle, a broken Australian bayonet and a Japanese entrenching tool.

Holdouts Near Mt. Makarakomburi(?)
Rob Crawford adds:
"I also have some friends on Guadalcanal that gave me approximate cordinates of several Japanese stragglers hiding near Mt. Makarakomburu. [Highest peak in Solomon Islands, 2,447m] I have heard little recently about stragglers the last time being 2001. A friend of mine who is a local customs authority claims some villagers had being supplying a straggler with medicine and clothes, blankets etc, but respect his wishes not to be found. Particularly by Japanese."

Kolombangara (bypassed by Mid-September-1943)
Island north of New Georgia that was held by the Japanese but by passed by September 1943. In early 1944 Allies maintained a small force on the island.

Veteran Bill Sable recalls from 1944:
"We never saw any live Japanese while I was there. Only equipment and their living quarters left behind after they vacated the island. The natives never talked about them to me so I can't help you there.

Possible Holdouts(?)

Rob Crawford adds:
"I heard in 1992 several independent accounts of 2-3 surviving japanese on Kolombangara. Several people on that island have vegetable stolen on a regular basis but do not object as they know the stragglers are just trying to survive. They were sighted several times but reluctant to stay around. The Japanese government has sent scouts to locate them but I am told they are fully aware the war is over and do not want to leave the island, so they hide. . I have heard through a friend of mine (a few times since) that there are still sightings and missing clothes and food supplies from time to time.There are friends of mine connected to Agnes lodge at Munda (opposite Kolombangara) that support such sightings"



Late 1954 - Japanese 18th Army Survivors
Four stragglers were found who were the remnants of an 18th Army unit ordered to march from Wewak (in New Guinea) to Hollandia (Dutch New Guinea) in April 1944. Of the 89 men who set out originally, 30 had drowned crossing a swollen river and most of the others had died from hunger or disease. The 21 men remaining were in Vanimo when they found out that Hollandia had fallen so they took to the jungle to await help. Initially using stolen rations to survive, they were soon discovered and attacked, driving five of them deeper into the jungle and across the border into Dutch New Guinea where they endeavored to live off the land. In 1947 one man died from malaria and in 1951 they were discovered by native people of the region. Still not grasping that the war was over, it was not until 1954 that a police detachment brought them out of the jungle. Thanks to Phil Bradley for this research.

Morotai December 18, 1974 - Private Nakamura Teruo
Rumors of Japanese soldiers doggedly hiding out on the island had prompted Japanese officials to coax the loyal troops out from the mountainous interior by playing the wartime national anthem by loudspeaker.

Private Nakamura Teruo was spotted by a pilot of the Indonesian Air Force in an isolated clearing on Morotai around September 1974, but it took two months for the rumour to reach the Japanese embassy in Jakarta Nakamura, who spent more than twenty years in complete isolation, did not know the war was over, and was convinced he would be killed if he was found. Nakamura was coming out of his little hut on the morning of 18 December 1974 when he found himself surrounded by Indonesian soldiers. He handed over a well maintained rifle and his last five rounds of ammunition. Nakamura was a Formosan who had been drafted into the Japanese Army early in 1944, and he was repatriated to Taiwan, and died three years later.



Late 1960's - Early 1970's
When the Americans took the island they simply sealed off the Northern end of the island and left it up to the Japanese to surrender themselves. The last holdout known on Okinawa was captured in this area in the late 1960's or early 70's. (Unconfirmed)

Japanese Army Lieutenant's Non-Surrender
Dennis Moran recalls:
"The individual I refer to is someone I met in the village of Henoko, Okinawa, in 1963. He was tending a small store in an area of the village not frequented by Americans. I attempted to communicate my wants in my best broken Japanese, while he patiently listened. Then, he responded to me in perfect English. I asked where he had learned that English, and he said he had gone to college in the U.S. in the late 1930's. I asked what he was doing running a small store in Henoko when his language skills were surely of corporate value and, obviously, he was college-educated. He said he preferred a nondescript and low-key life. He peaked my curiosity, and he told me what had happened. He said he was drafted into the Japanese Infantry and commissioned a Lieutenant in WW2. He ended up on Okinawa, and near the end of the battle he surrendered what was left of his unit, recognizing the battle as totally lost. He said he then put on civilian clothes and simply mixed himself into the population. He said his family probably thought he was dead and that he and they were probably better off for it. He said he knew others who had done the same thing. He struck me as being very Westernized in some of his thinking. I didn't ask for any real particulars, as the war had been over for 18 years and I believed he was entitled to the life he had made. I don't think he was kidding. His English articulation was better than mine, and he was completely out of place. The U.S. military had long since lost interest in any Japanese military remnants on Okinawa who had become a part of the population, and they were no doubt aware of a substantial number who had assimilated. It was just a sleeping dog that was just as well to left lie. These guys are all in their 80's now - those that are still alive - but they may still want to protect the feelings and cultural values of siblings, and perhaps even of descendants. So at the time, and still, I reported nothing to the Japanese liason searching for the (for the most part, remains of) Japanese MIA's.



Two Japanese Survive As Communist Guerrillas 1989
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.)

When the Malaysian Communist Party surrendered in Southern Thailand in 1989, there were at least two former Japanese soldiers with them. About 200 Japanese consisting of soldiers and civilian employees joined the MPAJA. While most of them joined soon after the end of the war, some who could not support the oppressive Japanese policies deserted the Japanese army to join the MPAJA during the war. They were resolved, together with the Malayan people, to liberate Malaya from British colonial rule. When the MCP finally decided not to wage an anti-British war, Lai Tek considered them to be obstacles to the implementation of this peaceful line. In accordance with his order, nearly 100 Japanese members were killed. Of the remaining one hundred, only two managed to survive the protracted armed struggle that ended in 1989. Thanks to John Baker for this information

A reference to this same event is in "The Japanese Army 1931-45 (Vol. 2)" by Phillip Jowett, the last and provides the names: Kiyoaki Tanaka and Shigeyuki Hashimoto, but lists the date of their surrender as January
1990. Thanks to Jim Moore for this information