In the run up to the Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands, Task Force 38 struck coastal targets and shipping on Hokkaido, where it lost eight Curtiss SB2C Helldivers:
One of the Helldivers lost was flown by Lt.(jg) Howard Eagleston, who descended too low under the overcast and struck a mountain in rural Hokkaido. He was killed on impact, but his gunner, 23-year old radioman Oliver Rasmussen, survived. With only the clothes he wore and an empty backpack, Rasmussen knew all too well what the Japanese did to their prisoners and decided he’d chance it in the Hokkaido wilderness. Being part Chippewa Indian from Minnesota, Rasmussen had come from an impoverished family (he referred to them as “the second generation right out of the teepee”) but had spent his youth in the great outdoors. Having only a vague idea of his general location, Rasmussen spent seventeen days trekking to the coast, living off the land and avoiding any Japanese residents he came across. On 31 July upon reaching the coast, Rasmussen found his first source of significant food — a farmer’s cow near his hideout would provide the sailor fresh milk for nine straight nights — each night he’d creep out to the cow and help himself to the milk and return to his hideout. The farmer never figured out what was going on, eventually turning to cow lose figuring she was longer able to produce any milk.
Rasmussen then built a small boat and tried to head out to sea, but the breakers on that particular stretch of coastline proved hazardous. He retreated back up into the mountains of Hokkaido and set up quarters in an abandoned railroad shack where he kept himself fed with raw onions, birds’ eggs, uncooked rice and frog legs. On 16 August, the day after the Japanese surrender, he was spotting by a Japanese civilian, but not aware the Japan had surrendered, Rasmussen abandoned his hideout and sought new refuge. After several days of exploring, he found a site well-hidden that was within easy reach of five farms. He scavenged some scrap lumber to build a small shelter and helped himself to the produce and milk from the five farms each night. As he hadn’t bathed in weeks, one of the farms’ dogs got his scent on 5 September and the owners went to investigate. He managed to knock over some of the farmers as he made a narrow escape back into the wilderness. Each day he noted more and more American aircraft flying overhead, but he was unable to get their attention. He did find it odd, though, that they attracted no defensive fire and it didn’t appear that they were conducting any offensive strikes.
Frustrated that he wasn’t able to attract any passing aircraft and growing weary of being in the wilderness, he opted for the direct approach on 19 September and walked into the port city of Tomakomai and presented himself to the local police station to surrender. To Rasmussen’s surprise, the police chief treated him as a guest with his first real meal in ten weeks and a bath. It was then that he found out about Japan’s unconditional surrender on 15 August. Rather amusingly, the police chief asked Rasmussen if he knew anything about the rash of milk and produce thefts from local farms over the past several weeks- to which Rasmussen denied any knowledge. After an astonishing sixty-eight days in the Japanese wilderness, he was returned to the USS Shangri-La to a hero’s welcome.