No surrender, no suicide: Imperial Japanese soldier who survived 30 years in the jungle dies
Hiroo Onoda was forbidden to surrender or commit suicide.
A Japanese soldier who held out for decades following the end of WWII, has died. Hiroo Onoda passed away in Tokyo at the age of 91. He gained notoriety for refusing to accept that Japan had surrendered at the end of WWII and had to be convinced to come out of the Philippine jungle almost 30 years after the war's end.
During the war, Onoda was sent to the island of Lubang in the western Philippines to spy on American forces there. His orders were to disrupt operations on the island. He was also forbidden to surrender or to take his own life.
As the Japanese retreated in 1944, he was cut off and ordered the few men remaining with him to head into the jungle and try to elude capture. Onoda, along with three other soldiers continued to conduct raids which killed at least 30 civilians.
One of the soldiers eventually deserted the band and surrendered, and the other two were later shot during raids staged to capture them, with Onoda's last companion being killed as late as 1972. Only Onoda managed to survive until 1974, eluding capture for 29 years.
Onoda survived by hunting and gathering in the jungle and stealing from local farmers. The killings stopped however and he came to be regarded more as a hated menace as opposed to a threat.
In February 1974, a young Japanese man, Norio Suzuki, on a personal adventure searched for Onoda managed to find the reclusive soldier and spoke to him at length. Suzuki explained that the war was over and he should come out of the jungle. Onoda refused saying that he would only quit his post upon the orders of a superior officer.
Suzuki took a picture of himself with Onoda as proof of their encounter and returned to Japan where it created a sensation. Onoda's former commanding officer was sent to recover him.
That officer was Maj. Yoshimi Taniguchi who had promised to return for him back in 1944. Now, 29 years later, the officer was able to keep his promise. He relieved Onoda of his duties and Onoda, forbidden to commit suicide, handed over his sword along with a substantial cache of weapons which his men had kept since the war.
Only one other Japanese soldier managed to hold out longer, Private Teruo Nakamura, who hid in Indonesia until December of 1974.
Onoda was welcomed as a hero in Japan and urged to run for government. Instead, he moved to Brazil where he founded a cattle ranch, returning to Japan each year to teach others survival skills he had learned in the Philippines.
Oonoda's fame has persisted, particularly in Brazil where he was awarded several accolades for his work in that country. He was also pardoned by the Philippine government for any crimes he committed after the war. The pardon was contriversial however, because he was never held to account for his participation in the postwar killings.
Onoda died Thursday in Tokyo from complications of pneumonia.
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