29. A Years-Long Holdout
Matsudo Linsoki and Yamakage Kifuki went unnoticed in Iwo Jima for years, helped by the American garrison’s lack of interest in scouring the island’s harsh landscape. That lasted until January 6th, 1949, when two US Air Force corporals in a Jeep spotted a pair of pedestrians in uniforms a few sizes too long, walking alongside a road. They spoke no English and were uncommunicative, but the corporals took them for Chinese laborers. Assuming they were hitch-hiking to the island’s main base, the airmen kindly gave them a lift and dropped them off in front of the headquarters building.
Linsoki and Kifuku wandered around the base for hours, until a passing American sergeant realized that they were Japanese and took them in. After interrogation, they took their captors to their hideout. There, the Americans encountered a cave richly stocked with canned foods, flashlights, batteries, uniforms, boots and shoes and socks, and sundry goods that the pair had pilfered over the years.