HAGATNA, Guam (AP)—A 92-year-old Japanese man has returned to Guam to visit a cave where he hid for nearly a year during World War II.
Kiichi Kobayashi told The Pacific Daily News through an interpreter Monday that he’s grateful for island residents and the U.S. troops who captured him because both groups helped him survive.
Kobayashi was a 19-year-old aircraft mechanic for the Japanese air force when he was sent to wartime Guam and ended up hiding from U.S. troops in a cave with some 50 fellow soldiers, he said. The number dwindled to about 10 and Kobayashi said he was eventually the only one left living.
Many of the Japanese military men died from complications of gunshot wounds and other injuries, explained Kobayashi. He managed to stay alive by eating wild papayas and stealing food from houses he could walk to secretly, and he said the residents began leaving bananas and other food outside for him.
“They knew (I) was out there,” he said through an interpreter.
Kobayashi had planned to kayak to the cave Monday and go inside with his daughter and granddaughter, but rain and a rough sea prevented the plan. Instead, Kobayashi visited the shoreline closest to the cave, near the University of Guam Marine Laboratory. He was joined by family members and some Guam residents with Japanese ancestry.
The former aircraft mechanic explained that he thought often of his parents, especially his mother and her homemade mochi, while struggling to survive in the cave. He said through interpreters that he decided that he would honor his mom first rather than the country’s emperor if he survived the ordeal.
Kobayashi said the U.S. soldiers who eventually captured him were nice, providing him with a tasty meal and immediately providing medical care for his gangrenous gunshot wound.
He said he hopes to come back to the cave again if his health permits it. He also expressed opposition to war, saying that “it’s not good.”