Japanese Soldiers in Jungle since WWII Found in Philippines


The BBC reports: Japanese officials are investigating claims that two men living in jungle in the Philippines are Japanese soldiers left behind after World War II.

The pair, in their 80s, were reportedly found on southern Mindanao island.

The men were expected to travel to meet Japanese officials today, but have yet to make contact.

The claim drew comparisons with the 1974 case of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who was found in the Philippines jungle unaware the war had ended.

‘Incredible if true’

The two men on Mindanao contacted a Japanese national who was collecting the remains of war dead on Mindanao, according to government sources.

The men may be unaware of Emperor Hirohito’s death

They had equipment which suggested they were former soldiers.

“It is an incredible story if it is true,” Japan’s consul general in Manila, Akio Egawa, told the AFP news agency.

"They were found, I believe, in the mountains near General Santos on Mindanao Island.

“At this stage we are not saying either way whether or not these two men are in fact former soldiers. We may be in a better position later today,” he said.

According to Japanese media reports, the pair had been living with Muslim rebel groups and at least one of them has married a local woman and had a family.

The BBC’s Tokyo correspondent says the likelihood is that they are well aware the war is over but have chosen to stay in the Philippines for their own reasons.

Remote jungle

Mindanao has seen more than two decades of Muslim rebellion and many areas are out of central government control.

Japan invaded the Philippines in 1941, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, and set up a brutal puppet government.

In the closing months of the war, there was heavy fighting with US troops in the mountainous, heavily forested islands.

The Sankei Shimbun daily said the men would most likely be members of the Panther division, 80% of whom were killed or went missing during the final months of the war.

It speculated there could be as many as 40 Japanese soldiers living in similar conditions in the Philippines.

When Lt Onoda was found on the Philippines island of Lubang in 1974, he initially refused to surrender.

Only when his former commanding officer was flown over from Japan did he agree to leave the jungle.

He later emigrated to Brazil.

TOKYO, May 29 - Philippine rebels are demanding 232,000 dollars in ransom for the return of two elderly Japanese soldiers believed to have been hiding in the jungle since the end of World War II, a daily said Sunday.
Guerrillas controlling part of the lawless island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines initially demanded five million yen (US$46,000) in exchange for delivering'' the two men to Japanese authorities, the Mainichi Shimbun said, citing a Japanese businessman who reported their presence. But the guerrillas have now raised the ransom to 25 million yen (US$232,000), the businessman said. The newspaper did not say if the pair were being held against their will. The Japanese embassy in Manila sent officials on Friday to General Santos city, 1,300 kilometres (806 miles) south of Manila, to meet the two men believed to be on the island. While they have not been seen, Japanese media said they had been living in guerrilla-controlled mountains near General Santos until late this month. It is not known if they knew of Japan's surrender in August 1945 to Allied forces. The Tokyo Shimbun, however, said the two elderly soldiers are expected to meet Japanese embassy officials in a few days. I will let the two meet embassy officials early next week,’’ an unauthorized Japanese middleman who claims to have had contact with the two men told the daily on Saturday.
It was not clear if he was the same man as the businessman referred to in the Mainichi Shimbum report.
I cannot reveal details of their meeting place, but the place is about 150 kilometers (93 miles) away from General Santos,'' said the unidentified man, who was on Mindanao collecting the remains of dead Japanese soldiers. The two soldiers left over there are now living with local guerrillas in the mountains,’’ the negotiator said. The guerrilla side has already agreed'' to allow them to leave the rebel camp, he added. Japan attacked the Philippines, then a US colony, hours after its 1941 air raid on Pearl Harbor and formed a puppet government of Filipino oligarchs. The occupation was brutal, with some one million Filipinos estimated to have died and the sexual enslavement of Filipina women. Japan also carried out the notorious Bataan death march’’ in which thousands of Allied prisoners died as they were forced to march 96 kilometers (60 miles) without adequate food.
Japan was stunned in 1974 when former imperial Japanese army intelligence officer Hiroo Onoda was found living in the jungle on the Philippine island of Lubang. He did not know of Japan’s surrender 29 years earlier.
After being repatriated, Onoda emigrated to Brazil.
Another former Japanese soldier, Shoichi Yokoi, was found on Guam in 1972. He returned home and died in 1997.