The Second World War, which ended for all mankind in 1945, did not end for the soldiers of the Japanese army. Hiding in the woods for a long time, they lost track of time, and were firmly convinced that the war was still going on.
Loyal soldier Hiroo Onoda
Events of that time developed in the southern part of the island of Mindanao, one of the islands of the Philippine archipelago. It all started with the discovery of a lieutenant, corporal and several other soldiers of the former Japanese imperial army in the rugged jungle. They have been hiding there since the end of World War II. The reason for being in the forest was trivial: the soldiers went into the forests out of fear of being punished for unauthorized abandonment of combat positions. The soldiers who were hiding from punishment did not even imagine that the Second World War was over long ago.
But this is how he became in old age!
Currently, these "very elderly deserters", who have already turned 80 years old, are waiting for the decision of the local authorities, which are in thought: by what laws to judge these soldiers who violated the samurai's code of honor? Is it even worth judging the guilty people behind the age of years?
Another case, when a former lieutenant of 87 years old was found in the same place in the Philippines, and with him a former corporal, 83 years old. Purely by chance, they were discovered by the Philippine counterintelligence, conducting operations in this area. Lieutenant Yoshio Yamakawa and Corporal Tsuzuki Nakauchi once served in the Imperial Army's infantry division. In 1944, she landed on the island of Mindanao. As a result of intensive bombing by American aviation, the unit suffered significant losses. All the survivors of that operation were later sent to Japan, but several soldiers did not manage to arrive on time and involuntarily became deserters. Hiding all these decades in the jungle, the survivors, almost wild from permanent residence in the forest, the lieutenant and corporal are still afraid of a military tribunal, and therefore fear returning to their homeland. Somehow, by chance, they met a Japanese man who was looking for the graves of dead soldiers on the island. According to his stories, Yamakawa and Nakauchi have papers confirming their identities.
This is how Hiroo went to fight (left), and this is how he surrendered (right).
Yamakawa and Nakauchi are not the only ones trapped in the forests during wartime. A soldier of the imperial army, who did not assume that the war was over long ago, was previously met in the rugged areas of the Pacific Islands. So, in 1974, junior lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was found in the forests of Lubang Island. And two years earlier, in 1972, a private infantryman was found on the island of Guam.
It is said that dozens of "lost" soldiers still roam the jungle of the Philippines.
Infinitely loyal to their emperor and the samurai code of honor, they continued to bury themselves in the jungle for many, many years, choosing a half-starved, wild life instead of the shame of captivity. Many Japanese warriors died in the tropical wilderness, confident that World War II was still going on.
Hiroo with soldiers of the Philippine army.
The warriors of the imperial army were descendants of the samurai. And the samurai, as mentioned above, had their own code of honor, which laid down the rules that every warrior must strictly follow, and above all: unconditional obedience to their commanders, serving the emperor and death in battle. Captivity for a samurai was unthinkable. Better to die than surrender!
Fearless warriors died in hundreds of thousands. There were also many who preferred suicide to captivity. Moreover, the samurai code prescribed this to be done by real warriors. Scattered across countless islands, the soldiers did not even know about the surrender of the Japanese army, and therefore preferred life in the forest to shameful captivity. These warriors did not know about the atomic bombing of the cities of their small homeland, and they did not know about the terrible air raids on Tokyo, which turned the city into ruins.
In the tropical wilderness, of course, did not reach the news about the signed on the American battleship "Missouri", located in Tokyo Bay, the act of surrender of Japan and the subsequent occupation. The warriors isolated from the whole world firmly believed that they would still fight.
Legends about the military legion, lost somewhere in the impenetrable forests, were passed from mouth to mouth for many years. Village hunters told that they saw in the thickets "people-devils" who live like wild animals. In Indonesia, they were nicknamed the "yellow people" who walk through the forests.
Exactly 16 years after the surrender of Japan, in 1961, a soldier, Ito Masashi, "materialized" from the rugged forest thickets of Guam. He went out to surrender. Imagine Masashi's surprise that the time in which he lived until 1945 was completely different. The war is over, the world has become different, unusual, alien. And, in fact, there was no one to surrender. Private Masashi went missing in the tropics on October 14, 1944. Deciding to lace up his boots tighter, Ito fell behind his own. As it turned out, it saved his life. The convoy without Masashi went far ahead and was ambushed by the Australian army. Hearing the shooting, the straggler Masashi, along with his companion, Corporal Iroki Minakawa, fell on the forest floor. While shooting rang out from behind the trees, they crawled deeper into the forest. This is how their "Robinsonade" began, lasting as long as sixteen years …
At first, the "deserters" were hunted by the soldiers of the allied army, then by the villagers with the dogs (but they seem to have hunted for the "people-devils"). But Masashi and Minakawa were very careful. For their own safety, a special, silent, and therefore very reliable language was invented. These were special finger clicks, or just hand signals.
First, the private and the corporal finished their soldiers rations, then it came to the larvae of the insects, which were looked for under the tree bark. The drink was rainwater, which was collected in dense banana leaves, and even edible roots were chewed. So they switched to what they would now call "pasture". Snakes that could be caught by snares were also a good source of protein.
They built their simple dwelling by digging it in the ground and throwing it from above with tree branches. Dry foliage was thrown on the floor. Several holes were dug nearby, stuck with sharp stakes - these were game traps.
For eight long years they wandered in the jungle. Masashi later recalled: “During our wanderings, we came across other similar groups of Japanese soldiers who, like us, continued to believe that the war was continuing. I knew that I had to stay alive in order to fulfill my duty to continue the struggle. The Japanese survived only because they stumbled upon an abandoned landfill.
This dump saved the lives of more than one escaped warrior. The very uneconomical Yankees threw away a bunch of all kinds of food. At the same dump, the Japanese found cans, which were immediately adapted for dishes. They made sewing needles from bed springs, and used tents for bed linen. The sea gave them the salt they lacked. At night, they went out to the seashore with jars, took sea water, and then evaporated the salt from it.
As it turned out, the annual rainy season became a serious test for the Japanese: for two whole months in a row they sat in shelters, looking longingly at the streams of water pouring from the sky, which, it seemed, would never end. The food consisted only of berries and nasty frogs. Masashi later admitted that the situation in the hut was very difficult.
After ten years of almost primitive life, they will find leaflets on the island. The leaflets were printed on behalf of the Japanese general, who called for the surrender of all the soldiers who had settled in the forests. Masashi had no doubt that this was a cunning move, bait for the fugitives. Ito's indignation knew no bounds: “For whom do they take us ?! I swore an oath to my emperor, he would be disappointed in us."
Early one morning, Minakawa put on his hand-made wooden sandals and went hunting. A day passed, and he still did not return. Masashi sensed something was wrong. “I realized that I could not live without him,” he recalled. - Looking for a friend, I climbed all over the jungle. Absolutely stumbled upon Minakawa's things: a backpack and sandals. For some reason, there was confidence that the Americans had taken him. Then a plane flew over my head, and I rushed to flee into the jungle, deciding that it was better to die than surrender to the enemy. Climbing the mountain, I made out four Americans who were waiting for me. With them was Minakawa, whom it was extremely difficult to recognize: his carefully shaved face radically changed him. Iroki said that, making his way through the thickets of the jungle, he came out to people who persuaded him to surrender. He also said that the war had ended long ago. However, it took many months for me to finally believe in this. Even more shocking was a photograph of my own grave in Japan with a tombstone that said I was killed in action. The mind refused to understand what was happening. It seemed that life was spent in vain. But my turmoil ended there. In the evening I was offered to wash in a hot-heated bath. I felt no greater happiness. In conclusion, for the first time in so many years, I went to bed in a clean bed and fell asleep absolutely happy!"
But this is not the end of the story. It turns out that there were Japanese warriors who lived in the jungle much longer than Masashi. An example of this is the Imperial Army Sergeant Choichi Ikoi, who served in Guam.
During the storming of the island by the Americans, the Choichi Marine quietly disappeared from the regiment and took refuge at the foot of the mountains. He, like Masashi, found leaflets calling for surrender. But the warrior loyal to his people and the emperor refused to believe it.
The sergeant lived all alone. His meager food consisted only of frogs and rats. He replaced his completely dilapidated, frayed clothes with an “outfit” made of bark and bast. A sharpened piece of flint served as his razor.
Here is what Choichi Ikoi said: “For an infinite number of days and nights I was all alone! Somehow I wanted to scream away the snake that had crept into my dwelling, but instead of a cry, only a pitiful squeak escaped from my throat. The vocal cords had been inactive for so long that they simply refused to work. After that, I began to train my voice daily: I sang songs or loudly said prayers."
Only at the beginning of 1972, the sergeant was miraculously found by the hunters. At that time he was 58 years old. Ikoi did not know about the atomic bombings of Japanese cities, about the surrender of his homeland. And only when it was explained to him that his going into the jungle and living there turned out to be meaningless, he fell to the ground and went into sobs.
The outrage of the Tokyo public was so great that the government was forced to equip an expedition to the Philippines in order to rescue any remaining old soldiers from their huts.
Tons of airplanes scattered leaflets over the Philippines, urging soldiers to come to their senses and get out of their voluntary confinement. But the hermit warriors, as before, did not believe the calls and considered it an enemy provocation.
In 1974, on the distant Philippine island of Lubang, 52-year-old Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda came out of the wild into the light of God to the local authorities. Six months earlier, Onoda and his fellow soldier Kinsiki Kozuka ambushed a local patrol, mistaking it for an American one. In the skirmish, Kozuka died, but they failed to capture Onoda: he instantly disappeared into the impenetrable thickets.
The enemy's courage always commands respect. At a press conference with Hiroo Onoda.
Onoda flatly refused to believe that the war was over long ago. They were even forced to deliver his old commander - the old samurai did not trust anyone. Onoda asked earnestly to take the sacred samurai sword, once buried on the island back in 1945, as a keepsake.
Returning to a peaceful life was a tremendous shock for Onoda. The old samurai, a faithful warrior, came to a completely different time. He kept repeating that a great many of the same warriors, like him, are hiding in the jungle. That he knows the places where they hide, their conditioned signals. But these warriors will never come to the call, because they think that he was discouraged, broke and surrendered to the enemies. Most likely, they will find their death in the forests.
Well, in Japan, a very exciting meeting of Onoda with his old parents took place. The father, looking at his son with excitement, said the following words: “I am proud of you! You acted like a true warrior, listening to what your heart told you."