Japanese holdouts(残留日本兵,Zanryū nipponhei?, "remaining Japanese soldiers") or stragglers were Japanese soldiers in the Pacific Theatre who, after the August 1945 surrender of Japan ending World War II, either adamantly doubted the veracity of the formal surrender due to strong dogmatic or militaristic principles, or simply were not aware of it because communications had been cut off by the United Statesisland hopping campaign.
They continued to fight the enemy forces, and later local police, for years after the war was over. Some Japanese holdouts volunteered during the First Indochina War and Indonesian War of Independence, to free Asian colonies from Western control despite these having once been colonial ambitions of Imperial Japan during World War II.
Captain Sakae Ōba, who led his company of 46 men in guerrilla actions against US troops following the Battle of Saipan, did not surrender until December 1, 1945, three months after the war ended.
Major Sei Igawa (ja:井川省?) volunteered as a Viet Minh staff officer and commander. Igawa was killed in a battle with French troops in 1946.
Navy Lieutenant Hideo Horiuchi (堀内秀雄?) volunteered as an Indonesian volunteer Army Lieutenant Colonel. Horiuchi was arrested by Dutch troops on August 13, 1946, while his wounds were being treated in a village after the battle with Dutch troops.
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. 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 AP reported that two Japanese soldiers surrendered to civilian policemen in Guam.
Yamakage Kufuku and Matsudo Linsoki, two IJN machine gunners, surrendered on Iwo Jima on January 6, 1949.
Major Takuo Ishii (石井卓雄?) continued to fight as a Viet Minh adviser, staff officer and commander. He was killed in a battle with French troops on May 20, 1950.
The Associated Press reported on June 27, 1951 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. The Japanese occupation of the island inspired a movie.
Private 1st Class Kinshichi Kozuka held out with Lt. Onoda for 28 years until he was killed in a shoot out with Philippine police in October 1972.
Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who held out from December 1944 until March 1974 on Lubang Island in the Philippines with Akatsu, Shimada and Kozuka, was relieved of duty by his former commanding officer in March 1974.
The Asahi Shimbun reported in January 1980 that Captain Fumio Nakaharu (中晴文夫) still held out at Mount Halcon in the Philippines. A search team headed by his former comrade-in-arms Isao Miyazawa (宮沢功) believed it had found his hut. Miyazawa had been looking for Nakahara for many years. However, no evidence that Nakahara lived as late as 1980 has been documented.
In 1981, a Diet of Japan committee mentioned newspaper reports that holdouts were still living in the forest in Vella Lavella, and said searches had been conducted several times over the decades, but said the information was too scant to take any further action.
In 1989, two Japanese soldiers who had defected to the Malayan Communist Party around 1945 laid down their arms along with the party, and returned to Japan in 1990. They had become veteran "internationalist" fighters.
In popular culture
One episode of the American TV comedy Ensign O'Toole titled "Operation Holdout" shown on October 28, 1962, the crew finds four stranded soldiers on an isolated island, two American and two Japanese, who think World War II is still underway.
A 1965 episode of the series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea entitled "And Five of Us are Left..." involves a group of Americans and one Japanese who have been trapped in an undersea cave for twenty-five years. The Japanese refuses to believe the war is over, and hampers rescue efforts.
One episode of the American TV comedy Northern Exposure features a Japanese businessman who pretends to be a holdout until his business textbooks are discovered.
The February 1978 episode of Three's Company, "Days of Beer and Weeds," had Jack remarking on the size of Mr. Roper's garden by saying, "There are still pockets of Japanese soldiers in there that don't know the war is over."
The second episode of 1979 TV series Salvage 1, Shangri-la Lil, centers on the accidental discovery (and reintegration) of a Japanese holdout.
The album Nude (1981) by the British rock band Camel reworked the story, with a twist–after returning to "civilisation", the soldier was so appalled by what society had become that he later disappeared, presumed headed back to the peace and serenity of his island.
The novel The Seventh Carrier, written by Peter Albano in 1983, describes a situation where a fictitious Yamato-class battleship-turned aircraft carrier named Yonaga — like the real-world carrier Shinano — and its crew were trapped in a secret base in Siberia's Chukchi Peninsula just before Operation Z was to be launched in 1941. Trapped there until 1983, the remaining crew escaped with their ship and launched an attack on the forty-second anniversary of their comrades' attack, causing considerable damage even with antiquated aircraft and bombs against then-modern attack helicopters and jet fighters.
The film Savage Beach (1989) featured a Japanese holdout who resided on a remote island which was used to stash gold bars from the Philippines.
The 1997 novel "Flying to Pieces" by Dean Ing is about a group of aging American WWII pilots who hear about a cache of Japanese warplanes stashed on a remote island in the Philippines and go to investigate, only to discover the planes have been maintained and are operational, having been tended to for over 50 years by a Japanese holdout.
The 1999 children's novel Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo is set in the 1990s and centres on the friendship between a Japanese straggler and a lost British boy.
The action thriller Shima (2007) explores the psychological trauma faced by an officer of the Imperial Army. The film is loosely based on the life on Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda and other Japanese holdouts.
The fictional Asian island nation of Panau in the video game Just Cause 2 includes an island occupied by Japanese holdouts. These men, several of them centenarians by the time of the game, had been building a superweapon for the Imperial Japanese Army, a giant tower which emits an electromagnetic pulse, disabling any approaching aircraft and disrupting radio communications. Thus, they never got the news that the war was over.