Monday, June 20, 2011

The Story of a WWII Japanese Straggler on Guam- Sgt. Shoichi Yokoi

If you are a World War II history buff and have followed the war in the pacific involving the Nation of Japan and the Japanese Imperial Army against the military forces of the United States, you have got to get yourself down to Jeff's Pirates Cove's Seaside Museum. Here you will find the largest photo exhibition on Guam of the infamous World War II Japanese straggler Sgt. Soichi Yokoi. Sgt. Yokoi spent 28 years hiding and surviving in the jungles of Guam after World War II was over.

Here is a brief overview of his story as reflected on the Official Jeff's Pirates Cove website.

"According to news accounts, Sergeant Yokoi (Imperial Japanese Army) was found and captured January 25, 1972, after hiding in the jungles of Guam for twenty-eight years. The capture of Sergeant Yokoi was headline news worldwide. The story of the lone man's twenty-eight years of hiding and surviving with very little contact with "civilization" captured the attention of the world. When Yokoi stepped out of Guam's jungles he stepped out from the silence of the Talofofo river valley into the jet age. Remarkably Yokoi had correctly calculated the time that had passed while in the jungle and knew that the year was 1972 when he was captured."

"A tailor by trade, Yokoi was uniquely suited for survival on the island of Guam. He was practical to a fault, rarely imagined problems, or let his imagination hinder his perceived need to hide. Yokoi was not alone in the jungles of Guam all of the time he was in hiding. Eight years prior to Yokoi's capture, two other Japanese soldiers died of malnutrition and disease. The two soldiers that hid out in the same area were the only humans Yokoi had any contact with. It was agreed between the three Japanese soldiers that they should limit their contact between each other as to avoid detection. Yokoi buried his compatriots in a cave and directed officials to this site soon after he was captured."

"Yokoi was able to keep from getting ringworm, lice infestations and other infectious diseases by bathing frequently and thoroughly. He was remarkably healthy when he was found. He lived by trapping shrimp, fish, and rats and eating jungle vegetation. His movements were restricted to the night hours. The thick jungle in the area where Yokoi stayed helped him remain hidden."

"Jesus Duenas and Manuel DeGracia were out checking fish traps when they saw Yokoi near a small river. Manuel and Jesus though at first that Yokoi was a young man from their village who sometimes roamed the jungle. Approaching Yokoi under this impression, they surprised Yokoi. DeGracia and Duenas were able to subdue Yokoi and brought the man out of the jungle tied and only slightly bruised."

"Little credit seems to be given to the fact that Manuel DeGracia was gentle with the man. Japanese stragglers were ruthlessly hunted down and killed by local men who despised the Japanese as a result of atrocities committed by Imperial Japanese forces during their occupation of Guam."

"Two grenades and a 155mm artillery shell were the only weapons found in the caves. The cave where the two compatriots were buried, as well as Yokoi's cave, were cleverly concealed and absolutely impossible to find if you did not know where to look."

"Yokoi's twenty-eight years of hiding and deprivation can be seen as testimony to the strength of the human spirit, or as just another sad episode in the ongoing saga of warfare. Yokoi returned to Guam several times since his capture. He visited Jeff's Pirates Cove and enjoyed our great food and seaside setting. Sergeant Yokoi died in 1997."

Here are some of the photos that you can see at the Jeff's Pirates Cove Seaside Museum.


 The Pirate Captain himself, Jeff Pleadwell with Sgt. Yokoi during one of Yokoi's many return visits to Guam.

 Another photo of the Pirate Captain Jeff with Yokoi a few years later.

 Interior of Yokoi's cave.

Yokoi's cave entrance.

Here are various news media photos of Sgt. Yokoi...

Yokoi's first haircut after being captured.

Jacket that he wove out of natural fibers found in the jungles of Guam.

Sgt. Soichi Yokoi went back to Japan shortly after his capture, married and lived a long life. 

Here is one web link about Sgt. Yokoi.

Here is Yokoi's Story story in the BBC News Magazine
Here is another link to Sgt. Soichi Yokoi's obituary.

One fantastic story of human survival and endurance. And you can view more pictures at the Seaside Museum located at Jeff's Pirates Cove in majestic Ipan, Talofofo. So come on by and explore for yourself....

The Pirate awaits you.....


  1. When my father was stationed on Guam, I was a young lad of 16. I remember this story when it unfolded. I was so amazed and impressed, this Japanese soldier survived 28 years in the jungles there. I used to go motor bike riding many times in the area where he was captured.
    I remember catching a glimpse of him while riding my motor cycle in the Governor's back yard when Sholchi was invited as a guest to the Governor's mansion. We used to live a few doors down from the Governor of Guam, next to the US Naval Hospital Base.
    He was hailed as a real hero. Not only to the people of Japan but to the people of Guam. I couldn't read enough about him. I remember reading in the Pacific Daily News the local newspaper, what he though about those big 747 jet liners flying over head. His reply was "very strange aircraft". He couldn't hardly believe he could be back in Japan in three hour flight. He was impressed with the techno advancements since he "dropped out" of civilization 28 years earlier. As I remember he got married and honeymooned in Guam.
    My father too couldn't read enough about him. He was also impressed with this most unusual drama.
    Over the years, every now and then there would be a story I'd catch and it would takes me back to those eventful days.

  2. I was stationed on Guam in 1976 at the Naval Magazine on the south end of the island. Several times myself and other Marines made boonie stomps into the jungle to the cave where Soichi Yokoi lived. I have always been fascinated by this story. I met some of the locals that told me they would leave food and clothing out for him. Even though Yokoi said he didn't have contact with anyone I do believe my friends story. Of course leaving something for him to pick up isn't exactly what I would call contact. Either way it's still a fantastic story.