Editor’s Note: In celebration of My CHamoru, the Pacific Daily News is partnering with the Guam Museum to share historical and cultural artifacts and images from the museum’s archives and collections. The information and photo below are courtesy of Dr. Michael Bevacqua, curator at the Guam Museum.
It was 50 years ago this month, January 24, 1972, that Sgt. Shoichi Yokoi, was found by two CHamoru hunters in the jungles of southern Guam. Yokoi had been stationed in Guam during the Japanese occupation, and like thousands of other Japanese soldiers, rather than surrender, he hid in the island’s caves and jungle.
In the 1970s, there were still rumors and sightings of trails, especially in the southern part of Guam. But it was assumed that everyone who hid had been captured or had died by then.
Manuel Tolentino De Gracia and Jesus Mantanona Duenas, two hunters were checking fish traps in the Talo’fo’fo’ river, when they came across Yokoi. After a brief struggle, they took him to the police. Yokoi expected to be killed and to be ashamed of his capture, but instead became an international celebrity. In this image, he is pictured with the governor at the time, Carlos Camacho, as well as Jesus and Manuel, the two hunters who found him.
No longer found
In 1972, it was assumed that Yokoi was the last holdout of World War II, hence the international attention he received. When he returned home that year, he did so in front of cheering and cheering crowds. After its discovery, 28 years after the end of the war on Guam, new searches for stragglers were launched across Southeast Asia, leading to the discovery of a handful more.
Yokoi returned to Guam several times before his death in 1997. Artifacts and photos of him can be found at Jeff’s Pirates Cove as well as the “I Hinanao-ta” exhibit at the Guam Museum.