This story brings tears to my eyes. General MacArthur in his brief eloquent speech on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay at Japan's surrender spoke how 'we as solders more than any other....hate war'. The General always had tremendous respect for his foe, the Japanese Imperial forces in the Philippines. My Dad (now 84) was in the 503rd regimental combat team - MacArthur's crack paratrooper unit in the Pacific, they parachuted low re-taking Corregidor in Manilla Bay (only 300 ft in this, his last 'battle jump', being Swiss, he did not become an American citizen till he was discharged honorably in early 1946 in California- what is now Beale AFB). In their own way, like MacArthur, the Japanese too believed in duty, honor, country (and their Emperor) too. I hope they too will be found and find peace in the twilight of these solders lives. They too will find some comfort knowing they will be buried on their own home soil....... like my father will one day. Duty bound and honorable men all, trapped in a dilemma that is the wasteful stupidity of war. If this story turns out to be true.....it has been a very long time.
Japanese Trying to Contact WWII Soldiers
May 28, 2005 5:36 PM EDT
GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines - Japanese diplomats pressed ahead Saturday with efforts to contact two World War II soldiers reportedly living in the southern Philippines since they were separated from their division six decades ago.
The men - who would be in their 80s - were said to have been separated from the 30th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army and then stayed in the remote mountains on Mindanao island for fear of being court-martialed in Japan.
The astonishing claim that World War II holdouts may still be alive has attracted huge interest in Japan, where veterans are marking the 60th anniversary of the war's end.
But the Japanese government urged caution, saying the report came from somebody who had not seen the men himself. Efforts to contact the pair also were complicated by the fact that the area in which they supposedly were found is notorious for ransom kidnappings and attacks by Muslim separatists, who have waged war for three decades. Communist rebels also are active there.
Tokyo first learned of the former soldiers in January, from a Japanese trader on Mindanao who has been trying since Friday to arrange a meeting so officials could try to confirm the men's' identities, Japanese Embassy spokesman Shuhei Ogawa said.
But Ogawa stressed that the trader had not seen the men and was relying on a Filipino contact, who himself got word of the mystery soldiers from yet another Filipino.
"You should know this type of information comes in all the time," he said. "We really have no idea if these two people exist."
He said the diplomats who traveled to General Santos city, 600 miles south of Manila, were still "trying to work out (the details of) a meeting."
On Sunday, they will be joined by an official from the Japanese Health Ministry, which is in charge of keeping records of former soldiers who survived as well as recovering the remains of those killed during the war.
According to Japan's Kyodo News agency, the two missing soldiers might be Yoshio Yamakawa, 87, and Tsuzuki Nakauchi, 85.
The Philippines, then a U.S. colony, was a major battleground in the Pacific. The Japanese occupation is remembered as brutal for its massacres of civilians and deaths of hundreds of thousands of U.S. and Filipino soldiers. After the United States retook the islands from the Japanese, the country became independent in 1946.
According to Japanese government records, the men could have been part of a unit of 16,000 soldiers on Mindanao, of which only about 3,000 were believed to have survived the war.
Japan's financial daily Nihon Keizai reported problems negotiating their free passage through jungles controlled by armed groups. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's spokesman, Yu Kameoka, also said that large crowds, including about 100 Japanese journalists, apparently gave the men pause.
The Japanese invaded the Philippines on Dec. 20, 1941. Years after the war ended, there were signs in the Philippines warning about Japanese soldiers still in the hills.
A few surrendered as late as 1948. In March 1974, intelligence officer Lt. Hiroo Onoda came out of hiding on northern Lubang island, but he refused to give up until the Japanese government flew in his former commander to formally inform him the war was over.
The last of the three known former Japanese soldiers to surrender, in December 1974, was Taiwanese national Teruo Nakamura, who fought for the Japanese army on Indonesia's Morotai island. He returned to Taiwan at age 57.
In 1972, Shoichi Yokoi, who had hid for 27 years in the jungles of the Pacific island of Guam without knowing the war had ended, also returned to Japan. He died at age 82 in 1997.
Rumors of other soldiers hiding out have surfaced but were never substantiated.
The Yomiuri newspaper, Japan's largest, reported Saturday that the two missing soldiers currently sought were first seen in August by a Japanese lumber businessman, who relayed "the near-unbelievable tale of their survival" to a veterans' association, which then sent members to the island to contact them.
The two former soldiers reportedly said they feared being court-martialed and executed if they returned to Japan, Yomiuri said, adding the association tried to allay their concerns by sending them old magazines that reported Onoda's case.
Meanwhile, the convergence of Japanese reporters on the bustling port city of General Santos raised security concerns in the volatile area, and the embassy warned them not to venture out in search of the men or follow anyone offering to guide them. Philippine police issued a similar warning.
Associated Press reporter Kenji Hall in Tokyo contributed to this report.
2005 Associated Press.
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