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Wikipedia in its article on the Surrender of Japan, claims:

Some Japanese holdouts, especially on small Pacific Islands, refused to surrender at all (believing the declaration to be propaganda or considering surrender against their code). Some may never have heard of it. Teruo Nakamura, the last known holdout, emerged from his hidden retreat in Indonesia in December 1974...

Is this true? How common was this?

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What I'd love to know is whether Japan was the only nation to have holdouts for extended periods of time, or whether other countries (in any war, not just WWII) had the same thing. –  Andrew Grimm May 4 at 6:40
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@AndrewGrimm, that'd make a great question; you should ask it. –  Joe May 4 at 7:17
    
@AndrewGrimm - Eastern Europe countries had armed guerilla/partisan movements fighting against Soviet occupation many years after the war (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…), with some fighers coming out (dead) long after the guerilla movements were defeated. And there was a case of a WW2 Red Army deserter still hiding from the Soviet authorities until USSR collapsed - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C4%81nis_P%C4%ABnups . –  Peteris May 4 at 7:53
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@AndrewGrimm To hear some talk there are Confederates holding out even today. –  Oldcat May 6 at 0:14
    
@AndrewGrimm There are still tiny Palestinian militia camps in windblown mountain-top bases in eastern Lebanon. Mostly old men sipping tea, wearing ragged fatigues, re-telling old stories. They, like most hold-outs, would deny that their armed conflict is over. –  jabberwocky May 8 at 13:41

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

Another Wikipedia article might hold your answer. News of Japan's surrender didn't reach everyone all at once (as you'd expect), though it is surprising how many Japanese soldiers were still holding out for years. According to that article, the following number of soldiers surrendered or were killed (by decade):

  • 1940s: 85
  • 1950s: 34
  • 1960s: 2
  • 1970s: 4

As you can see, out of the million and a half Japanese soldiers in WWII, a vanishingly small number of them became holdouts after the end of the war.

Earlier this year the New York Times wrote an article on the occasion of the death of one of the last holdouts, Hiroo Onoda, who surrendered in 1974.

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The US took quite a lot of steps to try and reduce the holdouts, having Japanese leaders write messages or record them to be distributed in areas where there might be holdouts. –  Oldcat May 6 at 0:16

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