Japan's WWII 'no surrender' soldier dies
Hid in jungle until 1972
September 23, 1997
Web posted at: 3:47 p.m. EDT (1547 GMT)
TOKYO (CNN) -- A Japanese soldier who became an instant national hero after it was discovered that he stayed in the jungles of Guam for 26 years after the end of World War II, has died of a heart attack at age 82, hospital officials said Tuesday.
Shoichi Yokoi died Monday at a hospital in the central city of Nagoya.
He became a national hero on his return to Japan in 1972 for his dramatic tale of survival and his adherence to the former Imperial Army's code of never surrender.
His first words upon arriving in Tokyo -- "It is with much
embarrassment that I return" -- were broadcast nationally and
instantly became a popular saying.
Yokoi's exploits in the jungle fascinated the nation. The
Japanese, in the throes of the post-war industrial boom, were
intrigued by his bare diet of nuts, berries, frogs, snails and rats, and how he wove materials from tree bark.
His return triggered a search for other Japanese soldiers
left from the war, and turned up another straggler in 1974, this time in the Philippines.
Unlike Yokoi, whose rifle had rusted and become useless,
former Lt. Hiroo Onoda had kept a working firearm and was accused of killing
several villagers before he was discovered in the Philippine
Yokoi, a former sergeant, was drafted into the army in 1941
and sent to northeastern China, and later to Guam. Japan
occupied Guam during the war and most of its 22,000 troops were killed when U.S. troops recaptured the island in 1944.
Two local hunters discovered him in January 1972 in a remote
Guam jungle. He was wearing a pair of burlap pants and a shirt which he said he had made from the bark of a tree.
He was repatriated to Japan a month later, where he started
life over in a country and a world he hardly knew.
Japan had then become a nation with a limited "self-defense" force instead of an army, and was just beginning to emerge as an industrialized power.
Upon his return, Yokoi, who had been reported as killed in action, was dumbfounded by the changes that had occurred since he left on a military transport more than a quarter century earlier.
At the first news conference since his homecoming, Yokoi,
surrounded by reporters and photographers after nearly three
decades in complete jungle isolation, appeared bewildered and
was unable to answer questions posed to him.
He contracted an arranged marriage in November 1972, and
traded his solitary cave in Guam for a home in Aichi Prefecture with his new wife Mihoko.
He became a regular commentator on television programs,
where he discussed survival skills. He wrote a best-selling book on his experience in Guam and in 1974 ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Japan's upper house of parliament.
Tokyo Bureau Chief John Lewis and Reuters contributed to this report.