During WWII, Shoichi Yokoi had been transferred from Manchuria to Guam, and he served as a sergeant in the supply corps. When the Americans came, he and nine other men hid in the jungle. Their numbers gradually dwindled to three. He knew from a leaflet he found in 1952 that the war was over but never gave himself up because “we Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive.” Eight years before he was found, the other two men died, leaving him alone. Yokoi proved to be a real “survival skills” expert living for almost 28 years in adverse conditions. On January 24, 1972, two residents of the village of Talofofo in the southern part of Guam were out hunting along the Talofofo River when they spotted a very old and wild appearing Japanese man carrying a shrimp trap. After a few confused words, they subdued 56-year-old Shoichi Yokoi and took him back to their home. Eventually, the police were summoned, and the story of Shoichi Yokoi’s saga became known.
During this period, Yokoi built little traps and caught shrimp and eel from the river. Yokoi had fashioned a rat trap from wire for rat meat. He wove cloth from the beaten fibre, and sewed the pieces together to make a total of three “suits” during his 28 years on the island. In the beginning, Yokoi used a lens for fire-starting. At some point he lost this lens and he is said to have made his fire by “rubbing two sticks together.” One of his shelters was a small house made from rushes he collected. He also lived in a hole that he dug under a bamboo grove. The entire cave was dug with a trowel that Yokoi fashioned from an old cannon shell. Inside, he had a toilet hole so well designed that it would flow off naturally to the river below. On another end of the cave — the “kitchen” — Yokoi had some shelves, and a hearth with a cooking pot. He carefully cut a Japanese canteen in two, and made a frying pan from one half and a plate from the other half. He took cylinders of bamboo and used them to collect rainwater and as dippers to collect water from the river.
Two weeks after his discovery in the jungle, Yokoi returned home to Japan to a hero’s welcome. He was besieged by the media, and was regularly invited to speak at universities and in schools across the country.