I was stationed at Andersen AFB, Guam from July 1971 to October 1972. My job was ‘Officer Of The Day.’
I remember very well the day that Japanese Sgt. Soichi Yokoi was captured by two Guamanians, because I was there.
Sgt. Yokoi had been stationed on Guam since February 1943, and was on the island when the Americans attacked Guam on July 21, 1944. He and some of his friends hid out in the jungles and were never captured.
At first there were 10 of them, but nine had died of various illnesses, and he was left alone. The last two died in 1964. Twenty-eight years passed.
He didn’t believe the war was over. He was trained never to surrender, and in his mind the Japanese would never be defeated. It was a disgrace for a soldier to return home defeated.
He was a tailor before he was drafted, and made his own clothes from tree bark. His family had been notified in 1944 that he had died in action on Guam when the Americans attacked.
On Andersen AFB, we were having some problems. Some of the airmen stationed there were married to Guam women. Some of these women were taking their relatives to the USAF Commissary on the base to buy groceries.
They would buy their own food items, then pass their Air Force Dependent ID Card to their relatives, who were waiting in the parking lot.
I’ve seen some of them do this, and I saw one with a grocery cart full of whole chickens.
At a staff meeting the first thing each morning, I was behind the screen, showing the classified slides.
I had a top secret secu- rity clearance. After showing these, I would sit down and listen to what was going on.
The base commander, Col. Dwayne Kelley, told the vice commander and several other high-ranking officers to go to the commissary and check everyone’s ID card.
The first day, 16 ID cards were confiscated.
That day, MSgt. Howard Money and I decided to go to Tolofofo Falls. There was then a very rough road to the falls, but we wanted to walk in the jungle.
We parked the car by the road and walked about a mile. On the way, there were several bamboo thickets scattered about.
We got to the river and followed it to the falls. After eating our lunch of a sandwich we’d brought, we walked back to the car and went back to the base.
That evening, Jan. 24, 1972, two men checking their fresh water shrimp traps in the Tolofofo River, found Yokoi, who was also going to check his own homemade shrimp traps.
After he attacked them, they subdued him and took him to the police station. He told them through an interpreter that he was a Japanese solder, and that he was 58 years old.
He had a cave in a bamboo thicket, no doubt one of the thickets Howard and I had passed earlier that day.
At the staff meeting the next morning, the base commander was informed of the capture of Sgt. Yokoi. There was to be a press conference that afternoon at 1 p.m.
Col. Kelly then said, “Make sure someone is there to get his ID card!”
I’m sure they could hear me laughing behind the screen.
As a footnote to this story, I submit the following:
Sgt. Yokoi still had his rifle, but it was rusted and the stock had rotted off. He wanted to take it with him back to Japan and present it to the Emperor, showing that he had never surrendered his weapon.
The Emperor refused to see him.
Yokoi was paid according the pay he was getting in 1944, and he was given $300 in back pay.
He became disgruntled with the way things were in Japan and moved to South America. He was married to a lady he met in Japan after his return. Later, he moved back to Japan.
Sgt. Soichi Yokoi died in Japan on Sept. 22, 1982, at the age of 82.
He made one more trip back to Guam to thank the people there for being so nice to him.
Two more Japanese stragglers were caught in the Pacific after his capture. While I was stationed on Guam, many people had seen an Oriental man wandering on the beach near Andersen AFB, but he was never captured.