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Hiroo Onoda

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the Japanese army officer who

stayed alone at his jungle post in the

Philippines for 29 years after WWII,

not believing the war was over,

died on Jan. 17, 2014, at age 91.

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For the story of how his 3 companions ended up,

and how he was persuaded to return, use the DOOR.

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[MORE]

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                                HIROO ONODA 1922-2014

 

 

FILE - In this May 20, 1996 file photo, former Japanese straggler Hiroo Onoda answers questions from media during a news conference in a Manila hotel upon arrival for a sentimental journey. Onoda, the last Japanese imperial soldier to emerge from hiding in the jungle in Philippines and surrender after World War II, has died. He was 91. Onoda died Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 at a Tokyo hospital. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)Loyal: Hiroo Onoda. Photo: AP Photo: Bullit Marquez

Hiroo Onoda was a wartime Japanese officer who surrendered only in 1974, having hunkered down in the jungles of the Philippines for nearly three decades in defiant honour of the Imperial Army. His exile in northern Lubang Island, 150 kilometres south-west of Manila, was a rebellious response to the American invasion in February 1945.

For the next 29 years Onoda survived on a diet of rice, coconuts and meat, and tormented the Filipino forces on his trail. He maintained his rifle, ammunition and sword in impeccable order and when finally discovered – still wearing his now tattered army uniform – stated that his mind had been on “nothing but accomplishing my duty”. Hiroo Onoda was born on March 19, 1922 in the village of Kamekawa in the Wakayama prefecture of south Japan. At 20, he enlisted in the Imperial Japanese Army and attended the Nakano School in Tokyo, the main training camp for intelligence agents. His mission to Lubang in 1944 was to oversee the destruction of the island’s pier and runway in the event of a likely assault.

When the Americans arrived, Onoda and his unit of three (Yuichi Akatsu, Shoichi Shimada and Kinshichi Kozuka) remained at large. The quartet noticed that island activity lessened that autumn (Japan surrendered on August 15) but refused to acknowledge defeat.

In 1949, Akatsu surrendered and his reappearance started the first of many searches, including airdrops of written pleas. Shimada and Kozuka were killed later in encounters with police search parties and Onoda was officially declared dead in 1959.

He was found in 1974 through the efforts of Norio Suzuki, a Japanese student with aspirations to be an explorer. Where the Philippines’ police and military had failed, Suzuki succeeded in four days.

Onoda set his rifle on the young adventurer but was assuaged by his calm approach. “Onoda-san,” Suzuki said, “the emperor and the people of Japan are worried about you.” Onoda would not surrender, however, until he had a direct order from his commanding officer. The following month Suzuki returned with Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, by then a bookseller. Taniguchi assured Onoda that the Imperial command had ceased all combat activity and he should lay down his arms. On his return to Japan, Onoda was feted, and briefly tipped to run for the Diet, the Japanese bicameral parliament. Fiscal rewards also materialised through a military pension and publication of his best-selling memoirs, No Surrender: My Thirty Year War (1974).

But Onoda failed to settle into life in a modern, technology-saturated Japan. The year after his return, he moved to a Japanese colony in Brazil and became a cattle farmer. In 1976 he married Machie Onuku, a Japanese tea-ceremony teacher. On a visit to Lubang in 1996 he gave $10,000 to an island school. In 1984 he returned to Japan to open the Onoda Nature School, an educational youth camp.

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[This is largely from the Jan. 29, 2014, Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald and the Feb. 3, 2014, Time magazine.]