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 lon 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 Manul 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.