There’s increasing speculation the story of two Japanese soldiers hiding out in the Philippines since later days of World Wars II may be fiction.
Diplomats from Tokyo said Sunday that they were not giving up on efforts to verify whether two Japanese soldiers had been surviving in the Philippine jungles since World War II. But there was increasing speculation that the astonishing tale could be a hoax.
The story about the alleged stragglers, reportedly separated from their unit six decades ago, has generated huge interest in Japan. About 100 Japanese journalists descended on the southern port city of General Santos, where the diplomats were staying, creating a security headache in a violent region where Muslim and Communist guerrillas and kidnaper gangs flourish.
“We are still doing our best to see them and we have not,” a Japanese Embassy spokesman, Shuhei Ogawa, said of the men who have been sought since Friday. “At this moment, it’s not the time to give up.”
The men – who would now be in their 80s – were said to have been separated from the 30th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army and stayed in the remote mountains on Mindanao island for fear of being court-martialed at home for leaving their unit.
The Japanese government urged caution, saying the report had come from someone who had not seen the men personally.
Any possible motivation for such a hoax? Of course there is and, as usual, it’s money.
Complicating the issue, the area where they supposedly were found is notorious for ransom kidnappings and attacks by Muslim separatists, who have waged war for three decades. Communist rebels also are active there.
Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported Sunday that a Japanese mediator in General Santos may have paid armed groups roughly $250,000 to secure safe passage from the jungle for the two alleged former soldiers.
Still, the story could prove true. I remember that one Japanese soldier that was found on Gilligan’s Island.