Meeting Ei Yamaguchi in 1994
Account by Eric Mailander
complete interview on Pacific Wreck Database ]
Background - The band of Japanese Holdouts
emerged from the jungle in two groups in late April 1947, lead by
During the 50th anniversary return to the island,
several Marine veterans asked me to take them to Lt. Yamaguchi's
last hideout cave located near the beach. Today a sign is posted
near a road about 100 meters or so from his cave. We started trudging
through the mangrove swamps and soon found it.
I crawled inside and noticed U.S. gear and supplies
scattered inside! I figured the Japanese stole the supplies after
the battle. Just as I popped my head out of the cave to was show
the vets a U.S. hand grenade that I had found, an entourage of people
appeared out of nowhere. It was NBC Dateline camera crews filming
Lt. Yamaguchi returning to his hideout along with a few other Japanese
vets! Our timing was incredible! One of the camera men asked me
to exit the cave so that he could film Yamaguchi's return inside.
Without hesitation, I crawled out and photographed the once-in-a-lifetime
event. This did not go well with my veteran friends who told me
to throw the hand grenade that I was clutching back into the hole
after Yamaguchi crawled in! Somehow I don't think that would have
went well for U.S. and Japanese relationships! It's interesting
how some of the American vets still harbor hatred for the Japanese.
Yamaguchi and his band of holdouts subsided mostly
on stolen US goods, including weapons. It seems as though the stragglers
favored the M-1 carbine because of its light weight. Many improvised
and cut off the end of the barrel making the gun more mobile and
light. When I explored Yamaguchi's cave, it was amazing that all
the artifacts were US Army/Marine equipment. We found US water cans,
pineapple grenades and helmets. Yamaguchi chuckled and told me they
"liberated" the stuff from US dumps. He also related his
experience of sneaking into the American lines and watching movies
on many occasions!
I did talk with Yamaguchi via an interpreter while
on Peleliu. Last year Col. Joe Alexander and I interviewed him via
a professional translator and had his diary translated. In addition,
I have accumulated some great archival photos taken during Yamaguchi's
surrender to the Island Command in 1947.