I would love to do a research project on Yokoi. His name always comes up in the most random places. The connection that he felt to Guam is so unique and so interesting, and his actually gets in the way of us understanding it. He returned to Japan a hero, but seemed to chafe against that characterization. In his mind he had failed in so many ways, and the hero status he received missed everything he was and every value he cherished. The quiet jungles of Guam seemed to understand him more than the country he returned to. There was more meaning to that spartan existence than the flashy and fake Japan that he returned to. You could argue that his soul remained in Guam while the rest of him returned hooe.
Here is an interview that a UOG student conducted with her grandfather Jesus Duenas, one of the two Chamorros who discovered Yokoi in 1972. I came across this in the most random way earlier today on a very old version of UOG's website.
Interview with Jesus M. Duenas
By Winnie Duenas, the Grandaughter of Mr. Duenas
April 8, 1999
How many children do you have?
-We had 12 children, Evelyn, Cristobal, Jose, Edward, Johnny, Julia, Soledad, Joseph "J.D. Crutch", Ignacio, Maria, Ramona, and Jesse. I have plenty grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
What is your occupation?
-I am a farmer, fisherman and I used to hunt. I do not really farm and fish as much as I used to, but I follow my sons to the ranch now. They keep up my ranch and farm.
What type of crops?
-We raised pigs, goats, chickens, carabaos, cows and dogs.
Who helped you on the farm?
-My children and grandchildren helped on the farm. Also, my brothers and sisters and their families would help, too. Whoever helped out got a share of what was sold, as well as a share of the vegetables. My farms were big and I needed a lot of help.
At what age did you start school?
The rainy season on Guam is from January through June, which meant that I had to walk from the Ugam River up the hill to the village. The walk was not far, but it was hard to come to school when it was raining. My father was just a farmer and he and my Mom did not know any English. My brothers and sisters went to school all wet because it rained. After that, the principal told my Dad not to send us to school if it was raining. So we did not really go to school during the rainy seasons.
Were you allowed to speak Chamorro in school?
-At school we spoke English in the classroom. But we could speak Chamorro when we were on the playground.
What did they do to you if they caught you speaking Chamorro?
We did not get in trouble for talking Chamorro.
Were your teachers Chamorro?
My teachers were Chamorro and my principal was also.
How many grades did you complete?
I only finished up to the first grade because that year the rainy season was long and we never went back to school.
How was life at home? How many brothers and sisters did you have?
My dad was a farmer and my mom stayed home. I always helped my dad on the farm with the plants and animals. I had 15 brothers and sisters; there are only three of us living today. Most of my brothers and sisters died at a young age because they were sick and we lived too far from the main village. One of my brothers was killed in the jungle. We think he was killed by a Japanese straggler after the war. He died in the early 1950's.
Did you only speak Chamorro at home?
-We only talk Chamorro at home because my parents only know Chamorro. They did not understand English.
Was school emphasized at home or were the chores a priority?
-At my house, the house and farm came before school. Sometimes my dad will go to school to tell the principal that I am not going to school because he needs me at the farm.
How old were you during WWII when the Japanese occupied Guam?
-I was about 15 years old when the Japanese came to Guam.
Where were you living when the Japanese started bombing Guam?
-Me and my family were at our house at the Ugam River. We knew that the Japanese were coming because one of our neighbors' daughters that lived by the bay came running and yelling that the Japanese were here. Everyone was running into the jungle to hide. When the Japanese found us and the other families, they told us to stay together.
Did you work for the Japanese?
-Yes, I worked for the Japanese.
What did you do and where did you work?
-I worked at a lot of places. I worked at what is now Diary road. I helped build the airstrip at NAS, and build the tunnels at COMNAVMAR (Nimitz Hill). The Japanese told the mayors of every village to get all the young guys. So the mayor had to listen and he took everyone to the village. I worked with men from Umatac and Merizo. We even cleared big pieces of land so we can plant for the Japanese. They gave us rations of food every morning before we go out to work. There were young guys like 9 or 10 years old that worked as water boys, but they were treated the same as us. If we did not obey them, we were shot or would have had our heads chopped off.
When the US liberated Guam in 1945, did you work for them? What was your job and how long did you work for them?
-I worked with the Marines when they came to Guam. After the fighting was over and I was home, they hired men that knew of hiding places of the Japanese. Sometimes I was hired to keep watch of houses because people were complaining that the stragglers were stealing from their houses. I did not work for them long. Maybe for only about three months. I did not work for them everyday, only on days that they needed me.
Do you have any more stories you would like to share?
-Every morning the Japanese rationed out the food to everyone before we go out to work. They gave everyone a small cup of uncooked rice. I collected my rice in my food sack and when I had a lot of rice I did something that was bad. One time when we were stationed at NAS, I ran away from the camp during the morning coffee break. I ran all the way to my house down at the Ugam River. My mom would cook the rice I saved and cook a chicken. We would eat, but then I had to hurry back up to NAS before three o'clock. I had to be there before they did a head count. My boss at the time would get made at me because if the Japanese found that I was missing, they would kill him.
How long did you work for the Japanese?
-I worked for them until the Americans came to Guam. Maybe about four months.
Can you tell me why your family honors the Saint Korason DeJesus?
The Saint Korason DeJesus was the saint my mother started saying prayers to when the fighting was heavy between the Japanese and the Americans. I was still under the Japanese rule when the Americans started shooting. My mom prayed for me to be safe and to come home. I hardly saw my family so when the Americans were at war with the Japanese my mom was worried. We pray to the saint every year for nine days. The novena starts on June 26 and ends on July 4. My mom started to pray to this saint on June 26 and nine days later I was home. That was July 4th.
I ran away from the Japanese during the time of war. We were at NAS. I had to hide from the Japanese and while I was running home. So now every year since that day we (the family) pray to that saint and have a big celebration at the end of the nine days.
Is it true that if a feast is not celebrated something bad will come upon you and your family?
-Yes, it is true that if we do not celebrate the novena bad luck would come to the family. It happened one time and we promised that it will never happen again.
In 1972, you were one of the men who caught Sgt Yokoi, the Japanese soldier who hid in the jungle for 17 years after the war ended. Who were you with and what were you doing when you caught Sgt. Yokoi?
It was about 6:00 in the afternoon when me and my brother in law, Manual, went to go set shrimp traps. My house was about 4 miles walking distance from where we were. We were up on a hill when we saw the tall grass moving at the bottom of the hill. We could not see what it was. I thought it was a carabao or a deer, but then Manuel said, "No, it looks like a man. Maybe it is Maxamino." He was a Saipanese straggler who stayed in the jungle because he was afraid of people. Then I said, "wait here and I'll get him." So I went down the hill. When I got about 50 feet from the tall grass I could see that it was not Maxamino, but someone else. I could see that this person did not wear any shoes. When he came out of the grass and saw me, I aimed my rifle at him and he dropped his shrimp traps and kneeled down. He was begging for me not to shoot him
When I got closer I noticed that he was a Japanese man. I yelled for Manual to come because this man was Japanese. Then I told the man ( Sgt. Yakoi) to turn around and follow the road. He walked a little bit, then he stopped. He tried to fight with me. I tried to brace myself on the ground and ended up getting stuck in a puddle of mud. That place was like a swamp. (Link) The mani took my rifle and threw it, then he grabbed my arm. I grabbed his arm so he cannot punch. Then Manuel came running down and airmed his rifle at the man and told him to stop. Then I punched him and he fell to the ground. We then tied his hands up and told him to walk. When we were walking to my house, he was like a wild animal trying to run away. I tried to calm him down by talking to him in Japanese. I learned a little during the war. Then I gave him some pancake I had with me.
How did your family react when you brought Sgt. Yokoi home?
-When we got to my house everyone was surprised that we came back early. Then I told them that I caught a dear. They asked, "Really? How big?" They thought I really caught a dear. Then I said, "I caught a Japanese deer." They were confused, but then I showed them Yokoi and they were really surprised. We untied him and gave him food and water. After he ate he calmed down and started to tell us his story. We all tried to understand. We asked him how long was he in the jungle, he said, "about 20 years." When Yokoi said that, I remembered that my brother was killed around that time and near where we found Yokoi. So I knew that it was him that killed my brother, but I said that it was long ago and that it was over. When I first saw that Yokoi was Japanese I wanted to kill him. I hated Japanese a lot. But now it is okay. The war was a long time ago.
How did the police officials find Yokoi's cave?
-The next day they took Yokoi in a helicopter to find the caves.
Did Yokoi ever come back to visit Guam?
-Yes, he came back about three or four times. One time he was invited by the Commissioner of Talofofo at the time, Tito Mantanona, for the dedication of the fake cave near Talofofo Falls Park.
The cave was put there by Tito Mantanona for the tourists to see. Manual was the one that dug up the cave. He made the cave look like the real one.