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 or were not aware that the war had ended because communications had been cut off by Allied advances.
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 American and British forces 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.
|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. 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) in 1968.|
|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.|
|Murata Susumu||1953||8 years, 120 days||Murata Susumu, the last holdout on Tinian, was captured in 1953.|
|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.|
|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".|
|Bunzō Minagawa||May 1960||14 years, 261 days||Private Bunzō Minagawa held out from 1944 until May 1960 on Guam.|
|Masashi Itō||May 23, 1960||14 years, 264 days||Sergeant Masashi Itō, Minagawa's superior, surrendered days later, May 23, 1960, on Guam.|
|Shoichi Yokoi||January 1972||26 years, 151 days||In January 1972, Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi, who served under Masashi Itō, was captured on Guam.|
|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.|
|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.|
|Teruo Nakamura||December 18, 1974.||29 years, 107 days||Private Teruo Nakamura, a Taiwanese-born Takasago volunteer (Amis: Attun Palalin), was discovered by the Indonesian Air Force on Morotai, and surrendered to a search patrol on December 18, 1974. 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. Miyazawa had been looking for Nakahara for many years. However, no evidence that Nakahara was still alive at the time has been found.|
- Captain Sakae Ōba, who led his company of 46 men in guerrilla actions against United States troops following the Battle of Saipan, did not surrender until December 1, 1945, three months after the war ended.
- 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.
- 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.
- On May 12, 1948, the Associated Press reported that two unnamed Japanese soldiers had surrendered to civilian policemen in Guam the day before.
- 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. 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. The Japanese occupation of the island inspired the 1953 film Anatahan 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 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 had been conducted several times over subsequent decades, but the information was too scant to take any further action. Holdouts were allegedly spotted as late as the 1990s; 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.
- 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 Spanish–American 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
- Block-Heads, 1938 Laurel and Hardy film in which Stan Laurel is found holding out in a World War I trench 20 years after the Armistice.
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