10 Historic Events and Fads That Would Break the Internet Today
10 Historic Events and Fads That Would Break the Internet Today

10 Historic Events and Fads That Would Break the Internet Today

Khalid Elhassan - January 6, 2018

10 Historic Events and Fads That Would Break the Internet Today
Still from movie depicting surrender of Anatahan shipwrecks. Culture Trip

Marooned Shipwrecks Turn Island Into ‘Lord of the Flies’

In June of 1944, American airplanes sank three Japanese supply ships off Anatahan, a small Marianas island about 75 miles north of Saipan. 36 soldiers and sailor survived and swam to Anatahan. Later that year, the US invaded the Marianas, seizing the main islands and bypassing the smaller ones such as Anahatan. The Japanese on Anatahan, unable to communicate with their chain of command, were isolated from the outside world.

Things got bad, as the castaways eked a living, surviving on coconuts, lizards, bats, insects, taro, wild sugar cane, and whatever else they could find. Things improved some in January of 1945, when a B-29 bomber crashed on Anatahan. Scavenging the wreck, the castaways fashioned the plane’s metal into useful items, such as knives, pots, and roofs for their huts. Parachutes were turned into clothing, oxygen tanks were converted to storing water, springs were fashioned into fishing hooks, nylon cords were used as fishing lines, and some pistols were also recovered.

The island’s demographics further complicated life, and gradually led to a Lord of the Flies dynamics. The island’s sole inhabitants were the castaways, plus a Japanese plantation manager and his wife. Unsurprisingly, over 30 men stranded for years on a small island that contained only one woman, led to trouble, as the men competed for her affections. The object of their attentions, Kazuko Higa, had arrived at the island with her husband in 1944, but her husband disappeared in mysterious circumstances soon after the castaways arrived. So she married a Kikuichiro Higa as protection. However, one of the castaways shot and killed her new husband, only to have his own throat slit soon thereafter by another aspiring beau.

Over the years, Kazuko Higa became a full blown femme fatale, transferring her affections between a series of wooers. Each of them ended up violently chased off, or murdered, by some of the other frustrated men. Matters were not helped when the men discovered how to ferment coconut wine, then spent days on end drinking themselves into a stupor or into alcoholic rages.

By 1951, as the castaways vied for the affections of the island’s sole female, there had been 12 murders, and too many fights to count. One of Kazuko Higa’s pursuers had been stabbed with a knife on thirteen separate occasions by jealous rivals. Undaunted, he returned to his amorous pursuit as soon as he recovered from each attempted murder.

American authorities had learned of the Japanese on Anatahan. However, the island lacked military significance, and the Japanese marooned there were no threat. So the castaways were ignored. After the war, somebody remembered Anatahan, so leaflets were airdropped on the island, informing its Japanese that the war was over and directing them to surrender. However, the castaways refused to believe that Japan could have surrendered.

American authorities did not deem it worth the trouble to send in US forces to root them out, so the castaways were left to their own devices. From time to time, an airplane would be sent to drop leaflets over the island, repeating that the war was over and directing the Japanese to surrender. However, the castaways deemed the leaflets fake news, and so matters remained, for years.

In 1950, Kazuku Higa sighted a passing US vessel, raced to the beach, flagged it down and asked to be taken off the island. It was only then that the Americans discovered that the Japanese on Anatahan did not believe that the war was over. That information was relayed to Japan, where the holdouts’ families were contacted. They wrote letters to their relatives, letting them know that it was not fake news: the war had, indeed, ended years earlier.

The letters, along with an official message from the Japanese government, finally convinced the castaways. They surrendered in 1951, and were shipped back home, where their story became a sensation, featured in books, movies, and plays. Kazuku Higa was nicknamed “The Queen Bee of Anatahan Island” by the Japanese press. She found temporary fame as a tropical temptress, selling her story to newspapers and recounting it to packed theaters. However, her fifteen minutes eventually ended, and public interest waned. She fell into prostitution and abject poverty, and died at age 51 while working as a garbage collector.

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