Interesting Facts About the Last Japanese Soldier

Life/Recreation - People
By: litetender    
09-Mar-2011

Introduction:On August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied Powers, bringing World War II to an end. Unfortunately, there were more than a few Japanese servicemen stationed in various countries in the Pacific Theater who didn't get the news immediately - some didn't learn of Japan's surrender for years. One of these, Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, managed to survive in the dense jungles on the Philippine Island of Lubang until March 10, 1974, when he was convinced by his former commanding officer that the war had been over for nearly thirty years. Although frequently referred to as the "last" Japanese soldier, Onoda was technically not the last to surrender. Seven months later another soldier, Taiwanese born private, Teruo Nakamura, surrendered December 18, 1974. He had been holding out on the Indonesian island of Morotai. Finally, the true "last" Japanese soldier (to date, anyway) to surrender was Captain Fumio Nakahira, who was discovered at Mt. Halcon on Mindoro Island in the Phillipines. He surrendered in April of 1980.

The following information is about Hiroo Onoda, who is the most interesting and well known of the Japanese holdouts.

  • 01

    His Orders

    "You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we'll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that's the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you to give up your life voluntarily."

  • 02

    His Mission

    Hiroo Onoda's was sent to Lubang in 1944. His original mission was to destroy the enemy's airstrip and pier on the island, and to do all he could to hamper the efforts of the enemy on the island including collecting intelligence and launching guerrilla attacks. The island was overrun with Allied forces before he was able to carry out the first part of his mission, so he and three other soldiers retreated to the jungle.

  • 03

    His 30 Year War

    For the next year, Hiroo Onoda and his three companions waged furtive attacks on the local garrison, stealing, sabotaging, and wreaking destruction. They lived on a limited amount of rice, coconuts, mangoes, bananas and the occasional stolen cow. Near the end of 1945, leaflets were dropped over the jungle containing orders to surrender, and telling the men that the war was over. Onoda and his companions concluded the leaflets were a trick being waged upon them by the enemy. Onoda and his men continued to wage war on the local civilians, believing their civilian dress to be yet another enemy trick. Of the four soldiers, one surrendered in 1950, one was shot by the local police in 1954, and a third was killed in 1972, leaving Onoda alone. In February of 1974, Onoto met a Japanese college student, Norio Suzuki, who was traveling around the world hoping to find, "Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order." He informed Onoda that the war had been long over and urged him to surrender, but Onoda insisted that he had to wait for orders from his superior officer. Suzuki returned to Japan and located Onoda's former commanding officer, Major Taniguchi, who then flew with Suzuki to Lubang and met Onoda at a prearranged meeting place. He informed Onoda that the war was over, and ordered him to lay down his arms. On March 10, 1974, in full dress uniform, Hiroo Onoda formally surrendered his sword, his rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades to then Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos. Onoda had killed some thirty Filipinos, wounded a hundred more and engaged in multiple shootouts with police, but President Marcos took into account the extenuating circumstances and extended to Onoda a full pardon.

  • 04

    Move to Brazil

    Hiroo Onoda was extremely popular upon his return to Japan. He published a book about his experiences entitled, "No Surrender: My Thirty Year War" that is still in print today. Uncomfortable with his notoriety and troubled with what he saw as the breakdown of traditional Japanese values in modern youth, he followed the example of his older brothers and moved to Brazil, where he married and raised cattle.

  • 05

    Amends

    In May of 1996, Hiroo Onoda returned to the Philippine island of Lubang to visit again the island where he had hidden for nearly 30 years of his life. At that time, he donated $10,000.00 to the local school. Today he splits his time between Japan and Brazil.




Final Thoughts

Regardless of how this unusual story strikes you, you have to admire Hiroo Onoda's commitment, tenacity, honor, and single minded obedience to his mission. I somehow just don't think that they're making men with this kind of sense of duty anymore.


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