Japanese holdout : 残留日本兵

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 dogmatic militaristic principles, or simply were not aware of it because communications had been cut off by Allied advances.

Some continued to fight the enemy forces, and later local police, for years after the war was over. Others volunteered with local independence movements during the First Indochina War and Indonesian War of Independence.

Intelligence officer Hiroo Onoda, who was relieved of duty by his former commanding officer on Lubang Island in the Philippines in March 1974, and Teruo Nakamura, who was stationed on Morotai Island in Indonesia and surrendered in December 1974, were the last confirmed holdouts, though rumors persisted of others.



  • 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.
  • In China, Shanxi warlord Yan Xishan was notable for his ability to recruit thousands of Japanese soldiers stationed in northwest Shanxi in 1945, including their commanding officers, into his army. He was known to have successfully used a variety of tactics to achieve these defections: flattery, face-saving gestures, appeals to idealism and genuine expressions of mutual interest. In cases where these were not completely successful, he sometimes resorted to “bribes and women”. His tactics in both convincing the Japanese to stay and in preventing them from leaving were highly successful, as the efforts of the Japanese were instrumental in keeping the area surrounding Taiyuan free from Communist control for the four years before the Communists won the Chinese Civil War.
  • On January 1, 1946, 20 Japanese Army personnel who had been hiding in a tunnel at Corregidor Island surrendered to a US serviceman.
  • Major Sei Igawa (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.
  • On January 6, 1949, Yamakage Kufuku and Matsudo Linsoki, two IJN machine gunners, surrendered on Iwo Jima.


  • Private 1st Class Yūichi Akatsu continued to fight on Lubang Island from 1944 until surrendering in the Philippine village of Looc in March 1950.
  • 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 the 1953 film Anatahan and the 1998 novel Cage on the Sea.
  • 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.
  • Lieutenant Kikuo Tanimoto (谷本喜久男) volunteered as a Viet Minh adviser and commander. Tanimoto returned to Japan in 1954, after Vietnamese Independence and division.
  • Seaman Noburo Kinoshita, after his November 1955 capture from the Luzon jungle, hanged himself rather than “return to Japan in defeat”.
  • In 1955, four Japanese Airmen surrendered at Hollandia (Dutch New Guinea): Simada Kakuo, Simokubo Kumao, Odjima Mamoru and Jaegasi Sanzo. They were the survivors of a bigger group.
  • In 1956, nine soldiers were discovered and sent home from Morotai.
  • In November 1956, four men surrendered on the island of Mindoro: lieutenant Sigheichi Yamamoto and the corporals Unitaro Ishii, Masaji Izumida and Juhie Nakano.


  • Private Bunzō Minagawa held out from 1944 until May 1960 on Guam.
  • Sergeant Masashi Itō, Minagawa’s superior, surrendered days later, May 23, 1960, on Guam.


  • Corporal Shoichi Yokoi, who served under Itō, was captured on Guam in January 1972.
  • Private 1st Class Kinshichi Kozuka held out with Lt. Onoda for 28 years until he was killed in a shootout 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.
  • Private Teruo Nakamura, a Taiwan-born soldier (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. He was discovered 29 years, 3 months, and 16 days after the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed.


  • 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 on Vella Lavella in the Solomon Islands, and said searches had been conducted several times over the decades, but said the information was too scant to take any further action.


  • In January 1990, Shigeyuki Hashimoto and Kiyoaki Tanaka returned to Japan from Malaysia. After the Japanese surrender, they joined the Malayan Communist Party’s guerrilla forces to continue fighting against the British during the Emergency, only returning after the CPM laid down its arms and signed a peace treaty.

Since the 1990s a number of holdouts have been allegedly spotted. However no proof of their existence has been found and some investigators believe these may be stories invented by local residents to attract Japanese tourists.

In popular culture

  • Japanese holdout soldiers have been portrayed in a number of films, including Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959), The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark (1980), Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro (1981), and American Ninja (1985).




  1. 終戦を知らされず、あるいは信じず現地で潜伏し作戦行動を継続したもの。
  2. 第二次世界大戦後、欧米諸国の植民地に戻ったアジアの各地で勃興した独立運動に身を投じたもの。
  3. 市街地への空襲や原子爆弾による日本本土の惨状を伝え聞き、家族の生存や帰国後の生活を絶望視したり、復員船は撃沈されるというデマを信じたもの。
  4. 現地人と婚姻関係を持ったもの。
  5. 日本で戦犯として裁かれることを恐れたもの。
  6. 捕虜収容所からの脱走、或いは終戦後の部隊内でのトラブルから復員前に逃亡し、そのまま現地に定住したもの。
  7. 現地語の話者である、あるいは土地勘や地縁があり、復員するよりも現地社会で生きていくことを望み、残留したもの。
  8. 技師やビジネスマンとしての才覚を買われ、現地政府に招聘を受ける、或いは半強制的に現地に留め置かれるかたちで残留したもの。


















中野を題材とした著作、『帰還せず 残留日本兵六〇年目の証言』を著した青沼陽一郎によれば、青沼が2005年時点で取材したアジア各国の14人の残留日本兵は、2014年にインドネシアで小野が逝去した段階で生存者が一人もいなくなったという。














  • 大場栄(陸軍大尉、1945年12月1日までサイパン島タッポーチョ山にて180名ほどの将兵、民間人を連れて潜伏していた)
  • 井川省(陸軍少佐、1946年、ベトナム独立戦争において戦死)
  • 石井卓雄(陸軍少佐、クァンガイ軍政学校、トイホア陸軍士官学校教官、1950年、ベトナム独立戦争において戦死)
  • 中原光信(陸軍少尉、ベトナム独立戦争志願、クァンガイ陸軍士官学校教官。1950年代に帰国。日越貿易会会長)
  • 谷本喜久男(陸軍少尉、陸軍中野学校出身。ベトナム独立戦争志願、クァンガイ陸軍士官学校教官。1954年帰国)
  • 岩井小四郎(ハイフォンで寿司職人をしていて終戦直前に召集。ベトナム独立戦争志願、ヴィエット将軍の配下で偵察大隊長として補佐)
  • 林弥一郎(陸軍少佐、東北民主連軍航空学校で中国共産党空軍創立に寄与。日中友好会会長。1956年帰国)
  • 日向勝(陸軍少尉、中国共産党軍将校として国共内戦参加。参謀、大隊長、砲兵学校教官等。1958年帰国)
  • 横井庄一(陸軍軍曹、1972年までグアム島に潜伏)
  • 小野田寛郎(陸軍少尉、陸軍中野学校出身。1974年までフィリピンルバング島で任務遂行)
  • 中村輝夫(高砂義勇隊一等兵。1974年までインドネシアモロタイ島に潜伏。1975年、台湾に帰国)
  • 深谷義治 (陸軍憲兵曹長、戦後も中国で特殊任務を遂行し、中国当局に逮捕され収監。1978年帰国)
  • 田中清明、橋本恵之(1989年までマラヤ共産党ゲリラに参加。1990年帰国)
  • 石田東四郎(中国残留。1993年帰国)
  • 上野石之助(樺太残留後、ウクライナに定住。2006年に一時帰国)

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