30. The Underground Denizens of Iwo Jima
During WWII, Japanese machine gunners Matsudo Linsoki and Yamakage Kifuku were posted to the volcanic island of Iwo Jima. In 1945, the island was invaded, leading to some of fiercest and bloodiest combat of the entire Pacific War. The defenders fought fanatically, almost to the last man: out of a garrison of 21,000 Japanese, nearly 20,000 died before the island was declared secured.
Kifuku and Linsoki were among the few Japanese survivors. Believing their government’s propaganda that Americans tortured and killed prisoners, they were too afraid to surrender, and so went to ground. Literally. During the day, they burrowed into the warren of tunnels that honeycombed the island, and emerged at night to pilfer food and other necessaries from the American garrison’s supply and trash dumps. Via such means, they managed to survive for a long time in a barren and inhospitable island bereft of vegetation and game.