Japanese Holdouts Accounts
My story is dedicated to my grandsons, Bobby, Logan and Devon, and those who are yet to come.
Hiking through the jungle boonies into
tall sword grass and a bright unrelenting sun, had us sweating and
the cool water of the
falls ahead. After another hour or so I began to realize we were lost.
As we trudged along a red dirt road, dodging dragon flies and singing “follow
the red dirt road” to the Oz tune, hot and sweaty, I dreaded having
to admit my ineptness as a island tour guide to- of all people – my
boss! (memories of punishments metted out in basic training - of cleaning
the latrine with a tooth brush and picking up butts around the compound,
flitted through my mind.)
After “Hafa Adai’s” were exchanged, we introduced ourselves and told them where we were headed. Having admitted that I was the guide, one of the men looked at me and said “lost huh?”.
meantime, Mrs. Lowy had struck up a conversation with a Mr. Duenas
I believe. She had prepared “Hoagies” for lunch and was
in the midst of spreading things out. Mr. D. pulled out his lunch which
was wrapped in foil – a blackened fish (type?) which looked very
tough and crusty. By the time we joined them they had agreed to taste
test each others lunch, and Mrs. Lowy was pleasantly surprised to find
the fish, once broken open, was moist, flaky and delicious. They immediately
engaged in a cooking discussion, hoagies hadn’t made it to the
South Pacific at that time. (To this day Mrs. Lowy revealed that she
not only remembers the taste of that fish with relish, but prepares
her dish is the same fashion.)
We all reacted with enthusiasm and were soon being led back into the jungle by our new guides (with a much better chance of not getting lost). We were off on a new adventure!
After a period of time we
came to a stop. “Well, do you see it”?
Mr. Duenas asked. We were surrounded by a forest of bamboo and
tangantan(boonie) trees. You could hear the musical rustle of the bamboo
as the breeze
worked to get through. The floor of the jungle was damp and musty
from a covering of dead leaves and tree branches and there was a small
at the bottom of the embankment where we stood and we could hear
the water on the rocks. We couldn’t see anything that even remotely
looked like the opening to a cave. We all shook our heads.
Stepping off the ladder carefully (I was really scared but didn’t want to let it show with the Major and everyone watching – but I remember wondering if they could hear my heart thundering.), I peered into the dark space. As my eyes adjusted to the soft lighting from above, I began to see shapes form out of the darkness.
The cave was tunneled out below the entrance. I moved off into what appeared to be a sleeping area. A mat woven from coconut leaves lay in a carved out recess, giving the appearance of a built in bed (like a bunk on a small boat – with about as much room). Squatting, I tried to imagine laying in the darkness and wondered if I would have felt safe? Lonely?
Turning, I peered at an area prepared for worship (was he Buddhist?). Some type of shrine was carved into the wall – where a small bowl made from coconut lay. Did he place offerings here to his ancestors when he prayed. Did he pray for rescue from this isolation or release? I thought it odd that this cave, carved into the earth, felt so clean. After viewing this area set aside for worship I felt like an intruder. And, so with a quick look at the one other remaining “room” (I saw what appeared to be hand made utensils and other items), I scooted back to the ladder and up into the fresh air and sunshine. As I came out of the opening a camera flashed – capturing the moment. Laura Lowy later did an oil painting of this snapshot, which still hangs in their home. The children also went down into the cave to explore – and I understand they still remember that experience.
Throughout the following weeks I read accounts of Yokoi’s interview with the Governor, his return to Japan and later his marriage. A year or so later I was down on the beach at Tumon Bay and saw a Japanese man and woman being escorted to a waiting helicopter. I later found out that this was Sgt Yokoi who had returned with his new bride to show her where he had survived the past 30 years.
Time passed and everyone went their separate ways. Over the years as I’ve recounted this adventure to numerous friends and (repeatedly) to family, I would wonder where the Lowy’s were. I made a couple of attempts at contacting them through the USAF worldwide locator – but nothing ever came of it. In 2003 I was on the internet and stumbled onto a people search site – and, so, for $19.95 I was able to locate “my Major Lowy” and his wife! I placed a call to the number from the internet and got an answering machine. I left a rambling message hoping I wasn’t sounding like some nutcase, said a prayer and waited. That evening I received a call from the Major! Bob and Laura are now living outside Atlanta. Bob retired from the Air Force as a Colonel . I was thrilled to make contact with them and found that they not only have pictures of that day, which they copied and sent on to me.