LAST MAN STANDING: After World War II ended in August 1945, many Japanese soldiers were stranded on isolated Pacific islands, cut off by the US island hopping campaign. Some hid out and continued to fight for years after the war was over. Intelligence officer Hiroo Onoda was one of the last to surrender, in 1974, on Lubang Island in the Philippines – he’d been hiding out in the jungle for 29 years until he was tracked down by a Japanese college student. Onoda returned to Japan but later emigrated to Brazil, complaining of culture shock.
HERMANN THE GERMAN: In 1914, German colonial officer Hermann Detzner was sent to chart the jungle interior of Kaiser-Wilhelmsland, a German colony on New Guinea. He and his troop of 20 soldiers were far inland when world World War I broke out, and he refused to surrender to the Australian troops who occupied the island. For four years “Hermann the German” and his men taunted the Australians, marching about the jungle singing German patriotic songs and flying the Imperial flag. He formally surrendered in full dress uniform to the Australians in 1919.
THE REAL ROBINSON CRUSOE: Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish privateer who was marooned on an island in the South Pacific – the story of his survival inspired the 18th century novel Robinson Crusoe. Selkirk was a quarrelsome man who made himself unpopular with his shipmates, and so they left him on the remote Juan Fernandez Islands near Chile. Selkirk survived for four years, hunting goats and catching fish, before he was rescued by another English ship.
SOVIET AFGHAN: Earlier this year a former Soviet soldier was discovered living in the mountains of Afghanistan, 33 years after he went missing during the Soviet Union’s invasion in the 1980s. Bakhretdin Khakimov, now known Sheikh Abdullah, was badly injured in fighting with Mujahideen guerrillas, but was rescued and cared for by local people. He was 20 years old when he went missing in 1980, and he was found this year living as a healer with the people who had sheltered him.
THE LONGEST RACE: Not a soldier or sailor this time, but a sportsman: Japanese athlete Shizo Kanakura disappeared during the marathon at the 1912 Olympics in Sweden, which was held in 40 degree heat. Kanakuri collapsed during the race and was cared for by a farming family before he returned to Japan. Swedish authorities listed him as a missing for 50 years, until 1966, when he was offered the chance to complete his run. He accepted and travelled to Sweden to finish the marathon – at the age of 75 – with a time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.379 seconds.