January 1972: Japanese Soldier Found in Guam 28 Years after the End of WWII

In our modern minds this might seem like an unbelievable story, that a Japanese soldier hid out in the jungles of Guam rather than face his country’s defeat in WWII.  But Soichi Yokoi, who was discovered in the jungles of Guam on January 24, 1972, was actually not the only one.  Another Japanese soldier, Hiroo Onoda was found in the Phillipine jungles in 1974, after hiding there for 30 years.

投稿者が出典雑誌より取り込み, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

According to a New York Times article about Soichi’s death in September of 1997, “Japanese troops were encouraged to fight to the death and taught that surrender was deeply shameful, and so when American troops seized control of Guam in 1944, Mr. Yokoi and more than 1,000 other Japanese soldiers hid in the jungle rather than give up or commit suicide.”

Soichi spent his time in Guam, according to Wikipedia, hunting and fishing and built himself an underground living space. Soichi had been a tailor in Japan before being drafted in 1941 and arriving Guam in 1943.

Upon his arrival back in Japan, he uttered his now famous statement, “It is with much embarrassment that I return.”  The New York Times interpreted this statement a little differently as, “I am ashamed that I have returned alive.”

Soichi wanted to meet the Emperor to express his regret at not having done more to win the war, but was never given an audience. He did, however, receive a hero’s welcome and quickly settled back into regular life.

He even married six months after his return and spent 25 years with his wife until his death from a heart attack at the age of 82. 

According to the New York Times, “He was the epitome of prewar values of diligence, loyalty to the Emperor and ganbaru, a ubiquitous Japanese word that roughly means to slog on tenaciously through tough times.”

A nephew, who wrote a book about Soichi’s journey said that toward the end of his life, his uncle became very nostalgic about his past and returned to Guam to visit several times with his wife.

It’s nearly impossible to envision a world where hiding in the jungles is preferable to taking your chances in civilization….or maybe it isn’t that hard to imagine.

Here are few resources to help you learn more about Soichi Yokoi:

When FDR and Churchill Created the United Nations

People have varying opinions about the United Nations (UN), which is a 75-year-old intergovernmental peacekeeping organization. But whatever your opinion, there is no doubt that the UN has played a major role in shaping world history since its inception on New Year’s Day, January 1942.

Source: Wikipedia The Poster, created by United States Office of War Information and made by the United States Government Printing Office.

Before the United Nations, there was the League of Nations, which was initiated at the close of World War I during the Paris Peace Conference. The Covenant under which the League of Nations was organized only involved the five major superpowers at the time, namely, France, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, a fact that is pointed to as a reason the organization failed.  Also, there is the not so small issue that regardless of covenants or organizational structure, the League of Nations failed to prevent World War II.

The United Nations, whose name was coined by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was formed during the course of World War II, not after, and consisted of a group of countries intent on putting down the Axis powers and reinstating world peace.

Roosevelt and British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, led the charge to form the United Nations and were initially joined by the head of the USSR and China in signing the initial brief declaration document on January 1, 1942. The next day, 22 other countries joined the party including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Poland, Union of South Africa and Yugoslavia.  

Later this group was joined by Mexico, Philippines, Ethiopia, Iraq, Brazil, Bolivia, Iran, Colombia, Liberia, France, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Venezuela, Uruguay, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon. (Source: The UN)

The initial declaration talked about the “common struggle against savage and brutal forces seeking to subjugate the world.”  These were powerful words during a frightening time.

Three years later in June of 1945, the details of how the United Nations would work and exist were hammered out at the San Francisco Conference by the initial signers of the declaration (a/k/a the group listed above). 

By the time the San Francisco Conference was held, Roosevelt had died and Harry S. Truman was now President. Truman spoke to the delegates ahead of the conference with eloquent wisdom that really captures the focus on the UN at that time. He said: “If we do not want to die together in war, we must learn to live together in peace.” (Source: UN Foundation)

Another famous quote about the United Nations that is often wrongly attributed to Churchill read, “The UN was not created to take humanity to heaven, but to save it from hell.” If you are thinking about buying a kitchen magnet on Amazon with Churchill as the author, don’t.  That comment was actually made later during the 1950s by the second secretary-general of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld.

What Churchill did famously say, which many people attribute to the UN was, “It is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.”

If you have the opportunity to buy THAT refrigerator magnet, do it, but just know that Churchill didn’t actually say it about the United Nations.  He said it in June 1954, while speaking to Congress about the threat of the spread of communism, as reported by the New York Times.

But the UN has used that line, often, even in their job recruitment materials.  And they should, it’s classic Churchill, and perfect.

Through the years, the UN has expanded to include agency organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and further extended its initial charter beyond peacekeeping to other issues such as human rights.

World leaders have remained largely supportive of the UN, but there have also been a few critics.  US President Donald J. Trump voiced his opinion in a 2017 speech arguing that the United States “bears an unfair cost burden, but to be fair if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals — especially the goal of peace — this investment would easily be well worth it.” (Source: GlobalCitizen.org)

Despite these comments, the United States, even during the Trump presidency, has remained the largest supporter of the UN and has not followed through with any significant funding cuts.  Trump has, however, been incredibly critical of the WHO’s handling of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.