Japanese holdout

Japanese holdouts (Japanese: 残留日本兵, romanized: Zanryū nipponhei, lit.'remaining Japanese soldiers') were soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during the Pacific Theatre of World War II who continued fighting World War II after the surrender of Japan in August 1945. Japanese holdouts either doubted the veracity of the formal surrender, were not aware that the war had ended because communications had been cut off by Allied advances, or were bound by honor to never surrender.

After Japan officially surrendered in August 1945, Japanese holdouts in Southeast Asian countries and Pacific islands that had been part of the Japanese empire continued to fight local police, government forces, and Allied troops stationed to assist the newly formed governments. Many holdouts were discovered in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands over the following decades, with the last verified holdout, Private Teruo Nakamura, surrendering on Morotai Island in Indonesia in December 1974.

Newspapers throughout East Asia and Pacific islands reported more holdouts and searches for them were conducted until the late 1980s, but the evidence was too scant and no further holdouts were confirmed. Nevertheless, holdouts continued to be allegedly spotted until the late 1990s. Investigators now believe that the last alleged sightings of Japanese holdouts were stories invented by local residents to attract tourists.

Some Japanese soldiers acknowledged Japan's surrender and the end of World War II, but were reluctant to demobilize and wished to continue armed combat for ideological reasons. Many fought in the Chinese Civil War, Korean War, and local independence movements such as the First Indochina War and Indonesian National Revolution. These Japanese soldiers are not usually considered holdouts.



Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda in 1944 while in Lubang Island, Philippines before becoming a Japanese holdout.
Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi was discovered in Guam on 24 January 1972, almost 28 years after the Allies had regained control of the island in 1944.
Person Date found Duration since WWII end Short summary
Yamakage Kufuku January 6, 1949 3 years, 130 days Yamakage Kufuku and Matsudo Linsoki, two Imperial Japanese Navy machine gunners, surrendered on Iwo Jima.[1][2] While the original news article did not correctly report their names, their correct names became known when they co-authored a book in 1968 of their experiences under the names Rikio Matsudo (松戸利喜夫) and Kōfuku Yamakage (山蔭光福).[3]
Matsudo Linsoki January 6, 1949
Yūichi Akatsu March 1950 4 years, 210 days Private 1st Class Yūichi Akatsu continued to fight on Lubang Island in the Philippines from 1944 until surrendering in the village of Looc in March 1950.[4]
Murata Susumu 1953 8 years, 120 days Murata Susumu, the last holdout on Tinian, was captured in 1953.[5]
Shōichi Shimada (島田庄一) May 1954 8 years, 271 days Corporal Shōichi Shimada (島田庄一) continued to fight on Lubang until he was killed in a clash with Filipino soldiers in May 1954.[6]
Noboru Kinoshita November 1955 10 years, 89 days In November 1955, Seaman Noboru Kinoshita was captured in the Luzon jungle, but shortly afterwards committed suicide by hanging himself rather than "return to Japan in defeat".[7]
Bunzō Minagawa May 1960 14 years, 261 days Private Bunzō Minagawa held out from 1944 until May 1960 on Guam.[8]
Masashi Itō May 23, 1960 14 years, 264 days Sergeant Masashi Itō, Minagawa's superior, surrendered days later, May 23, 1960, on Guam.[9]
Shoichi Yokoi January 1972 26 years, 151 days In January 1972, Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, who served under Masashi Itō, was captured on Guam.[10][11]
Kinshichi Kozuka October 1972 27 years, 59 days In October 1972, Private 1st Class Kinshichi Kozuka, who had held out with Lt. Onoda for 28 years, was killed in a shootout with Philippine police.[12]
Hiroo Onoda March 1974 28 years, 210 days In March 1974, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda surrendered on Lubang after holding out on the island from December 1944 with Akatsu, Shimada and Kozuka. Onoda refused to surrender until he was relieved of duty by his former commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, who was flown to Lubang to formally relieve Onoda.[6]
Teruo Nakamura December 18, 1974 29 years, 107 days Private Teruo Nakamura, an Amis aborigine from Taiwan and member of the Takasago volunteer (Amis: Attun Palalin), was discovered by the Indonesian Air Force on Morotai, and surrendered to a search patrol on December 18, 1974.[10][13] Nakamura, who spoke neither Japanese nor Chinese, was the last confirmed holdout.
Fumio Nakahara (中晴文夫) January 1980 Not confirmed The Asahi Shimbun reported in January 1980 that Captain Fumio Nakahara (中晴文夫) was still holding out on Mount Halcon in the Philippines. A search team headed by his former comrade-in-arms Isao Miyazawa (宮沢功) believed they had found his hut.[14][15][16] Miyazawa had been looking for Nakahara for many years.[17] However, no evidence that Nakahara was still alive at the time has been found.


Second Lieutenant Sakae Ōba, a Japanese holdout, photo from 1937.
  • On January 1, 1946, 20 Japanese Army personnel who had been hiding in a tunnel at Corregidor Island surrendered to a US serviceman after learning the war had ended from a newspaper found while collecting water.[18]
  • Lieutenant Ei Yamaguchi and his 33 soldiers emerged on Peleliu in late March 1947, attacking the U.S. Marine Corps detachment stationed on the island believing the war was still being fought. Reinforcements were sent in, along with a Japanese admiral who was able to convince them the war was over. They finally surrendered in April 1947.[19]
  • On May 12, 1948, the Associated Press reported that two unnamed Japanese soldiers had surrendered to civilian policemen in Guam the day before.[20]
  • On June 27, 1951, the Associated Press reported that a Japanese petty officer who surrendered on Anatahan Island in the Marianas two weeks before said that there were 18 other holdouts there. A U.S. Navy plane that flew over the island spotted 18 Japanese soldiers on a beach waving white flags.[21] However, the Navy remained cautious, as the Japanese petty officer had warned that the soldiers were "well-armed and that some of them threatened to kill anyone who tried to give himself up. The leaders profess to believe that the war is still on." The navy dispatched a seagoing tug, the Cocopa, to the island in hopes of picking up some or all of the soldiers without incident. After a formal surrender ceremony all of the men were retrieved.[22] The Japanese occupation of the island inspired the 1953 film Anatahan[10] and the 1998 novel Cage on the Sea.
  • In 1955, four Japanese airmen surrendered at Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea: Shimada Kakuo, Shimokubo Kumao, Ojima Mamoru and Jaegashi Sanzo. They were the survivors of a bigger group.
  • In 1956, nine soldiers were discovered and sent home from Morotai.[10]
  • In November 1956, four men surrendered on the island of Mindoro: Lieutenant Shigeichi Yamamoto and the Corporals Unitaro Ishii, Masaji Izumida and Juhie Nakano.

Alleged sightings (1980s to 1990s)

In 1981, a Diet of Japan committee mentioned newspaper reports that holdouts were still living in the forest on Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands. Searches for holdouts were conducted by the Japanese government on many Pacific islands throughout the 1980s, but the information was too scant to take any further action, and the searches ended by 1989.[23] Holdouts were allegedly spotted as late as 1998; however, no proof of their existence has ever been found, either living or dead. Investigators believe these late reports may be stories invented by local residents to attract Japanese tourists. It is practically certain no living holdouts remain as of 2020.[24]

See also

  • Volunteer Fighting Corps, planned Japanese resistance post-occupation
  • Shindo Renmei, Brazilian Japanese emigres refusing to believe Japan's surrender
  • Siege of Baler, Spanish soldiers in the Philippines who refused to believe the end of the Philippine Revolution and SpanishAmerican war

Post World War II resistance

  • Cursed soldiers, Polish post-World War II resistance fighters
  • Forest Brothers, Baltic post-World War II resistance fighters
  • Werwolf, planned German resistance World War II post-occupation



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  2. "Profiles of Known Japanese Holdouts | Yamakage Kufuku". Wanpela. Archived from the original on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  3. Iōtō Saigo no Futari (硫黄島最後の二人). 読売新聞社. 1968.
  4. "Three Jap Stragglers Hold Out on Tiny Isle", The Lima (O.) News, p. 5, April 8, 1952
  5. "Registry". No Surrender Japanese Holdouts. Archived from the original on 2012-02-04. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  6. "Onoda Home; 'It Was 30 Years on Duty'", Pacific Stars and Stripes, p. 7, March 14, 1974
  7. "Gettysburg Times - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Archived from the original on 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2017-10-15.
  8. "Japanese Soldier Finds War's Over", Oakland Tribune, p. 1, May 21, 1960
  9. "Straggler Reports to Emperor", Pacific Stars and Stripes, p. 1, June 8, 1960
  10. "Final Straggler: the Japanese soldier who outlasted Hiroo Onoda". A Blast from the Past. September 15, 2015. Retrieved 2015-09-22.
  11. Kristof, Nicholas D (September 26, 1997), "Shoichi Yokoi, 82, Is Dead; Japan Soldier Hid 27 Years", The New York Times, archived from the original on February 1, 2009, retrieved February 9, 2017
  12. "The Last PCS for Lieutenant Onoda", Pacific Stars and Stripes, p. 6, March 13, 1974
  13. "The Last Last Soldier?", Time, January 13, 1975, archived from the original on May 22, 2013, retrieved May 30, 2008
  14. Asahi Shimbun, January 18, 1980
  15. "Still fighting, 35 years after V-J day" (PDF), Finger Lakes Times, Fulton History, p. 1, April 10, 1980, archived (PDF) from the original on May 13, 2012, retrieved November 6, 2011
  16. "Soldier's hut found in Philippines", Milwaukee Sentinel, p. 3, April 5, 1980, archived from the original on November 23, 2015, retrieved November 22, 2015
  17. 宮沢, 功 (1957). "連載 サラリーマン男のロマン ミンドロ島戦友捜索奮戦記". 実業之日本. Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha. 83 (6): 102–105.
  18. "Hidden Japanese surrender after Pacific War has ended - Jan 01, 1946 - HISTORY.com". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  19. "Profiles of Known Japanese Holdouts | Lt Ei Yamaguchi, Surrendered – April 1947". Wanpela. Archived from the original on 2012-08-30. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  20. "Hirohito Photo with MP's Induces Japs to Give Up". Albuquerque Journal. May 12, 1948. p. 6.
  21. "Pacific War Finally Ends for 19 Die-Hard Japanese". Pacific Stars and Stripes. Jun 27, 1951. p. 1.
  22. "Japanese Surrender in 1951 at Island of Anatahan". 7 July 2016. Archived from the original on 2018-10-20. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  23. "第094回国会 社会労働委員会 第7号 昭和五十六年四月十四日(火曜日)" (in Japanese). Kokkai.ndl.go.jp. Archived from the original on 2014-01-04. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  24. "No Surrender Japanese Holdouts After WWII". www.wanpela.com. Archived from the original on 2016-02-04. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
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