FFE Magazine

For this Japanese soldier, WW II is finally Over

by FFE PH News Staff




When Japan accepted defeat in World War II in 1945, many soldiers did not believe it and continued to fight for their emperor. One of these ‘holdouts’ was Japanese intelligence soldier Hiroo Onoda who hid in the jungles of the Philippines for three decades.


Onoda has passed away at 91 due to heart failure in Tokyo last Thursday. But many years after his surrender to Ferdinand Marcos in 1974, Onoda had done a lot of things that could more than make up for his years of hiding in the jungles.


Onoda continued to wage a guerilla campaign in Lubang Island near Luzon with three other soldiers years after Japan surrendered. His orders were not to surrender, never resort to suicidal attacks and to hold firm until reinforcements came.


After nine years of fruitless search of the four men by Tokyo, Japan declared the three men dead.


A shootout in 1972, however, revealed that Onoda was still alive and managed to escape persecution. This caused a sensation in Japan, turning Onoda into a celebrity. His family flew to Lubang to persuade him out of his guerilla campaign.


Onoda later on explained that he believed those who tried to persuade him out of his campaign were puppets of America. He dismissed news of Japan as mere propaganda, and the war in Vietnam convinced him that WW2 was not yet done.


It was an old commanding officer who finally persuaded him to surrender in 1974. When asked by the press what he had been thinking for the last 30 years, Onoda said he was only ‘carrying out my orders.’


After surrendering, Onoda had a difficult time adjusting to a very different Japan. Before he left, his country was in the throes of a militarist company. But the Japan he returned to was a booming economic centre and was enamoured with Western culture. In 1975, he migrated to Brazil to start a cattle ranch.


In 1984, Onoda started a youth camp where he taught young Japanese some survival tips he had picked up after 30 years in the jungle. He returned to Lubang in 1996 to visit reportedly by invitation of the local community.


To give back to the community he had targeted and alarmed for decades, Onoda made a donation which was reportedly used to set up a scholarship.


Onoda lived a healthy life boosted by a fine memory honed by his position as an intelligence officer. He had been active in speaking events in Japan and even appeared on national news station NHK in 2013.


In the 2013 interview with NHK, he said ‘I lived through an era called a war. What people say varies from era to era.


‘I think we should not be swayed by the climate of the time, but think calmly.’




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