happened to the 20 soldiers?
month after the total defeat of the Japanese was reported, around August
15, 1945, the Corregidor was under the complete rule of the U.S.
military. There were
a few dozen surviving Japanese soldiers on the island. Under American
occupation, those men were bound to be shot to death once spotted. They
were cornered to the west end of the island, and hid in caves in groups
of 2 to 3 or 3 to 4. They were
fighting, not to win over the enemy anymore but to sustain their own
in the daylight were impossible, so they came out of the caves at night,
searching for food in what the Japanese warehouse used to be, or they
searched for water. The major water resource was already taken by the
Americans, so their lives depended on any
natural spring of water. The Americans also
knew they could find the Japanese in such places, so
could be deadly without the keenest precaution. Their active hours were
limited to a few hours at night, when the American soldiers were mostly
asleep. Cave dwellings were always set up as far away from each other as
possible. And they kept moving on to new sites. They acquired habits of
sleeping during the day and moving about at night, like nocturnal
animals. Once a cave is found by the enemy,
was burned up with a flame thrower, or smoked up with a smoke candle, so
the men inside will be forced to go out to be shot.
Japanese had lost the military structure, which once defined their order of
direction, as well as differentiation between army and navy; yet the men
were bonded strongly to each other for their survival, and for the
brotherhood that they used to fight for the same motherland. (To be
precise, though, even when the Japanese military was
in good shape, the 10th aero information regiment which Koike belonged
to was headed by a Navy
To avoid the eyes of the Americans, in small groups of 2 to 3, they kept
changing shelters in caves on
or where only from the water could be reached.
[The following anecdote does not indicate whose experience
try to translate
subject as neutral as
appears in the
- Translator's Note]
learn the location of a colleague and when
him a few days later, he is found dead in the cave. For fear of American
soldiers finding the trace of human
the body cannot be moved nor buried but have to be
alone. The only thing for the surviving men can do for him is to say a
prayer so he will find his way to heaven.
[ The dead who is not
with respect is believed to be unable to go to heaven, for he leaves
regrets in "this" world - Translator's Note]
was true when taking food from the old Japanese warehouse. Any change of
environment will trigger a major scale cave and mountain search, so keen
animal sense was required to bring everything back where
belongs, erasing any evidence of human intrusion.
Meanwhile, the number of survivors decreased one after another, some
from disease, some in battles. In the midst of tight enemy guard,
homesick and despair made the days of animal-like survival
1st class private Ishikawa happened to pick up an American newspaper
with a picture of General MacArthur and Emperor
standing side by side. He read the text where he could understand and
together with the radio information he had heard, he
learned for sure that Japan had surrendered.
then, they themselves could not decide whether or not to surrender, as
days went by. The number of colleagues that could be reached decreased
to 18. Christmas came and went, and another New Year came. The men
decided to surrender to the Americans. With 2 more men found in a nearby
cave, 16 were from the ex-Army and 6 from ex-Navy.
Sergeant-Major Hibata and 1st class private Ishikawa, who understood
English, reported to the American headquarter with a white
They chose the date January 5th, for they figured the Americans may have
during the holiday season. As
turned out, they had miscalculated the date by 4 days, for they were
was in fact January the
Americans gave them a warm welcome by praising them
who had continued
the war was over. Their surrender was reported to
over the world by war correspondents of many
sent from Manila.
moved to the 4th Calamba prisoners' camp on Luzon and met General
Yasufumi Yamashita* there. Yamashita bestowed them a word of appreciation
and endurance. Later the general was hung for his
in the war. Among the 20 men, some were alleged to have committed
cruelty to American prisoners, but
of them were released
and sent home by the end of Showa 21.