Tuesday, January 25, 2011


One of my favorite classes in high shool was World History.  Not that I was an A student, but because it held my interest.  It fascinated me in many ways....and it opened my eyes to a world that was full of adventure and mystique.  And that's still true today.  I had a little time while waiting for a late morning appointment, so I decided to see what "This Day in Military History" held in store for me.  What a trip back in time, it was.  Think 1972...and see if you can remember this!!!

"I've been waiting for a long time"
1972 - After 28 years of hiding in the jungles of Guam, local farmers discover Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese sergeant who was unaware that World War II had ended. Guam, a 200-square-mile island in the western Pacific, became a U.S. possession in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. In 1941, the Japanese attacked and captured it, and in 1944, after three years of Japanese occupation, U.S. forces retook Guam. It was at this time that Yokoi, left behind by the retreating Japanese forces, went into hiding rather than surrender to the Americans. In the jungles of Guam, he carved survival tools and for the next three decades waited for the return of the Japanese and his next orders. After he was discovered in 1972, he was finally discharged and sent home to Japan, where he was hailed as a national hero. He subsequently married and returned to Guam for his honeymoon. His handcrafted survival tools and threadbare uniform are on display in the Guam Museum in Agana.

Do you remember this story?  I can recollect it, but it was one that I had certainly forgotten about.  Isn't it stunning to think that Yokoi avoided detection for such a long time?  He later recalled he knew the War was over since 1952, but was afraid to come out of hiding.  It's even more bizarre when you dig deeper into the story that he was not alone.  Initially ten soldiers hid out with the Sergeant until years later when eight finally gave up.  Shoichi and his two remaining buddies continued to live together until they decided to go off on their own.  In 1962, Yokoi found them both dead, having died from starvation.  Yokoi lived in a man-made cave and wore clothes that he made from local fibers (hibiscus bark) that he wove himself.  He hunted at night to avoid any detection.  "The only thing that gave me the strength and the will to survive was my faith in myself and that as a soldier of Japan, it was not a disgrace to continue on living", Yokoi said.  On returning to his homeland, he eventually received $300 in back pay and a small pension from the Japanese Government.

Yokoi's Place of Refuge
I once read that you have to know where you have been to know where you are going.  However, when it comes to the God of the Bible,  my past does not predicate my future. "I once was lost but now I am found", was a revelation from John Newton's, "Amazing Grace".  I have to wonder if Shoichi Yokoi ever sang that song.....or if he ever thought of those lyrics when he slid into that man-made cave each and every night.  If he ever read any World History, he would have known about John Newton and what led him to write that song.  A song that would have made 28 years on the run, much easier to endure, or he might have come back to this world alot sooner than he did.  Yokoi died in 1997 at the age of 82 from a heart attack.  Nearly one third of his life was spent on the lam.

I'll leave you with a couple of questions today.  How much of your life have you spent running and hiding, afraid to face reality?  Wasn't that really what Yokoi did?  And where can you find solace, that once found, you can live the remainder of your life to the fullest?  I'll give you a hint on this last one....it begins with the letter "J" and is five letters long.  History tells me so.  The first question you'll have to answer on your own.



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