Lieutenant Ei Tadamichi Yamaguchi of the Imperial Japanese Army was part of the garrison posted to the island of Peleliu when it was successfully invaded by US forces, spearheaded by the 1st Marine Division, in September of 1944.
After 73 days of fierce fighting, during which the Marines had to root out the defenders from an elaborate system of bunkers, caves, spider holes, and underground positions, connected by an extensive network of tunnels that honeycombed the island, most Japanese were killed and the island was declared secure.
Yamaguchi escaped death, and at the head of 32 other Japanese survivors, took advantage of the subterranean defensive network. Going to the ground, Yamaguchi and his command evaded capture by hiding in and moving about via the system of tunnels beneath Peleliu’s surface.
Cut off from communications with their chain of command, Yamaguchi’s contingent did not realize that the war had ended, and dismissed the announcements of war’s end, blared across the island by loudspeakers and contained in leaflets, as an enemy trick.
Dreaming of retaking Peleliu someday, the holdouts kept up a desultory guerrilla resistance, taking the occasional pot shot at American personnel on the island. However, ammunition was scarce, and survival and evading detection were the main priorities.
Matters continued thus, until April of 1947 when one of the holdouts was captured by a Marine patrol. Under interrogation, he revealed that his comrades did not believe that Japan had surrendered, and were getting desperate and contemplating a suicidal banzai attack to go out in a final blaze of glory.
Going into action, American authorities secured letters from the holdouts’ families, informing them that the war was over and urging them to surrender, and flew in a Japanese admiral to further attest to the veracity of the reports that the war had ended.
That finally convinced the Peleliu holdouts, and on April 21, 1947, they emerged from their caves and marched to the island’s headquarters building. There, Lieutenant Yamaguchi saluted, bowed, and ceremoniously surrendered his sword and his command.