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The castaway on a deserted tropical isle has inspired everything from “Robinson Crusoe” to innumerable New Yorker cartoons — but it was no joke to Kazuko Higa, the young wife of an assistant plantation overseer living on the small Pacific island of Anatahan in the closing days of World War II.

About 30 Japanese soldiers landed on Anatahan after their ship, sailing from Saipan to escape the advancing Americans, was bombed and sunk. When Japan surrendered, they refused to accept defeat and scraped out a bare existence on the island.

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