He was one of the last “hold outs” of World War II and gained popularity for hiding out until 1974 in the jungles of the Philippines. But now, Hiroo Onada’s story has finally come to an end as he passed away on Friday in Tokyo at the age of 91.
Onoda was an information officer and guerilla tactics coach when he was sent to Lubang in the island of Luzon in the Philippines in 1944 at the height of the Japanese occupation of the Southeast Asian country. Part of their training and instructions was to never surrender, commit suicide or relinquish their duty until reinforcements arrived. He and three other soldiers took this command to heart (and maybe too literally?) even after the United States liberated the Philippine islands in 1945. The Japanese Imperial Army was defeated, signalling the end of World War II, but these four soldiers refused to leave their posts in the jungle. Years after the end of the war, they continued to survey the area and even attack the local residents occasionally and get into skirmishes with the Philippine military.
Their story became widely known after one of them emerged from the jungle and went back to Japan. Another soldier died sometime in the 1950s. Both the Philippine and Japanese governments searched for the remaining two, but in 1959 they were both assumed dead. But in 1972, they got involved in a shootout with local officers, and the other soldier died in the encounter. Japan then brought over Onoda’s family members to convince him that the war was over, but he still believed that these were the tactics of a “puppet regime” installed by the U.S. It wasn’t until 1974 when his commanding officer himself flew in and visited him in his hideout to rescind the previous order that Onoda finally ended his personal war and went home to Tokyo.
[ via MSN News ]