When Japan surrendered after Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, World War II came to an end. However, there was a Japanese soldier who did not come out of his hiding to surrender for almost three decades after the war ended. This man, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, was an intelligence officer deployed to the Philippines with orders to never surrender or kill himself.
Onoda was 22 years old when he was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines in December 1944. The orders were very clear — he was to disrupt and sabotage any effort from the enemy and never surrender or kill himself. The orders were so deeply engrained in his mind that when allied forces arrived at the island in 1945, he and three other soldiers retreated into the hills and decided to continue fighting as guerrillas.
They were the only Japanese soldiers who had not surrendered or died till this time. They survived on coconut milk, bananas, and stolen cattle. All this while, they continued engaging in occasional fights with the local police.
According to the Mashable, Hiroo Onoda said,
Every Japanese soldier was prepared for death, but as an intelligence officer I was ordered to conduct guerrilla warfare and not to die. I had to follow my orders, as I was a soldier.
His existence was known to the world in the year 1950 when one of his fellow companions returned to Japan. Another one died in 1950, and his third companion was killed in a shootout with Philippines' soldiers in 1972. Onoda was left alone but that did not break his resolve — he continued to stand firm for another two years.
Onoda agreed to surrender only when his former commanding officer personally went to the island where he was hiding and convinced him that the war had ended. Onoda later justified his stand by saying that he considered rest of the explanations as an attempt by the pro-US government in Tokyo to sabotage the mission.
Onoda was deeply saddened when he finally had to surrender and lay down his service rifle. He was later pardoned by the then president of Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, for all the killings. Onoda returned to Japan in March the same year but he found it hard to live there. He decided to move to Brazil in 1975 and became a farmer.
According to The Guardian, top government spokesperson of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, said,
I vividly remember that I was reassured of the end of the war when Mr Onoda returned to Japan.
He was one of the few men who continued to struggle long after the war was over. His journey is a testament to the unflinching loyalty Japanese soldiers have for their country. Onoda died at the age of 91 in 2014 in Tokyo due to heart failure.
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