2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda
Lubang Island, Philippines
Surrendered - March 5, 1974
The most famous of all Holdouts, his story was widly reported
in the world media, and he wrote a book translated to English about his
wartime experiences and 29 years as a Japanese holdout.
Born in the
town of Kainan, Japan in 1922 and when he turned seventeen, he went
to work for a trading company in China. In May of 1942, Onoda was
drafted into the Japanese Army. Unlike most soldiers, he attended a school
that trained men for guerilla warfare.
Assignment to Lubang Island, Philippines
On December 26, 1944 (age 23), Hiroo Onoda was sent to the small
island of Lubang
Island, approximately seventy-five miles southwest of Manila
in the Philippines. Shortly after Americans landed, all but four of the
Japanese soldiers had either died or surrendered. Hiroo Onda was also
with three other holdouts, who all died over the decades: Private
Yuichi Akatsu, Corporal Shoichi Shimada (died
1954), Private Kinshichi Kozuka (died 1972).
Circumstances of His Surrender
Despite the efforts of the Philippine Army, letters
and newspapers left for them, radio broadcasts, and even a plea from Onoda's
brother, he did not belive the war was over. On February 20, 1974, Onoda
encountered a young Japanese university dropout named Norio Suzuki who
was traveling the
wold and told his friends that he was “going to look for Lieutenant Onoda,
a panda, and the abominable snowman, in that order. The two became friends, but
Onoda said that he was waiting for orders from one of his commanders. On
March 9, 1974, Onoda went to an agreed upon place and found a note that had been
left by Suzuki. Suzuki had brought along Onoda’s one-time superior commander,
Major Taniguchi, who delivered the oral orders for Onoda to surrender. Intelligence
Officer 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onada emerged from the jungle of Lubang Island with his
.25 caliber rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades. He sureendered
29 years after Japan's formal surrender, and 15 years after being declared legally
dead in Japan. When he accepted that the war was over, he wept openly.
He returned to Japan to receive a hero’s welcome, and world media attention,
and was hounded by the curious public everywhere he went. He was unable to
adapt to modern life in Japan, but wrote his memories of survival in "No
Surrender: My Thirty Year War" After publication, he moved to Brazil
to raise cattle. He revisited Lubang island in 1996, and still alive today.
He then married a Japanese woman and moved back to Japan to run a nature camp
for kids. Anyone with contact information for Mr. Onoda, email
Hiroo Onoda Photo Gallery
Books on Hiro
Articles on Hiro Onoda (English Language)
- "Hiroo Worship." Time 25 March 1974: 42-43.
- "Old Soldiers Never Die." Newsweek 25 March
- "Where It Is Still 1945." Newsweek 6 Nov.
- Coltheart, Max and Martin Davies, eds. Pathologies
of Belief. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.
- Cook. Japan at War: an Oral History. New York: W.W.
Norton & Company, 1992.
- Dilman, Ilham and D.Z. Phillips. Sense and Delusion.
New York: Humanities Press, 1971.
- "Imperial Family Hosts Annual Autumn Garden Party." Japan
Economic Newswire. Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe. 13 November 1992.
- Morton, Louis. The War in the Pacific: the Fall of
the Philippines. United States Army in World War II Series. Washington.
D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1969.
- Reyes, Joel M. An
Online Guide About the Philippine History
- Thurber, David. "Town Seeks Compensation from
Japanese WWII Straggler." The Associated Press. Lexis-Nexis Academic
Universe. 21 May 1996.
- Waddington, Richard. "'Too Much Concrete and Cleanliness
Makes for Weak Children'; Last Japanese to Surrender Offers Lessons
of 29 Years in Jungle." Los Angeles Times. On-Line. Lexis-Nexis
Academic Universe. 29 December 1985.
Internet Links about Hiro Onoda
WWII Fighter... till 1974
Webpage about Hiroo Onoda, including a bit about his life and retirement. James Oglethorpe contributed this link.
WWII Soldier Visits His Philippine Hideout CNN article with
several photos, movies and news story. James Oglethorpe contributed
alt.folklore.urban Quick note about Onoda's return to Philippines with news
Onoda: 30 Years War Website by Jennifer Bern
Former WWII Soldier Visits Philippines
News story with short video clips
Hide & Seek
Article about Hiro Onoda and Shoichi Yokoi
Recollections of Hiro
Stories, meetings and memories of meetings and interactions with Onoda
Robert C. Hamer recalls:
the early 1980s, I was working for the (short-lived) Oil & Gas subsidiary
of Inco Limited in Calgary. During this period, Nichimen opened an office
in Calgary staffed by Juro Nakagawa. He was an "unusual" Japanese
businessman in that he enjoyed overseas assignments. He was interested
in finding business opportunities and we were full of ideas, none of
which worked out. Nevertheless, Mr. Nakagawa and I formed a friendship
that has lasted, although, we have not been in constant contact. He went
on to be vice president for Nichimen Americas in New York City while
maintaining a small presence in Calgary.
Some time after, Inco sold its
oil & gas assets, CP Rail was seeking
bids on a new tunnel through the Rogers Pass and several Japanese companies
expressed interest. Mr. Nakagawa convinced one that it should consider
using Inco's continuous mining machinery in tits bid and I arranged
to take them to Sudbury to view the equipment in action. About that
time, possibly 1987, Mr. Nakagawa called to invite me to
reception he was holding for Mr. Onoda in Calgary.
Before coming to
Calgary, Mr. Nakagawa had represented Nichimen in India and Brazil
where he met Mr. Onoda. He felt that Mr. Onoda had
fairly shabbily by the Japanese Government, more of an embarrassment
than a hero. His compensation ( back pay for the 27 years amounted
to very little - a yen a day or month or something and no attempt
him adjust to the new Japan.
Because of his experience with cattle, that he had become
very familiar with cattle during his years on Lubang Island. Every
now and then he would kill a cow for meat. The villagers would get alarmed
and the army would embark on yet another unsuccessful search for him.
Onoda decided that was something he could do usefully and Brazil
seemed a better place to do this
than Japan. His next project was to establish a sort of "Outward
for Japanese youth to teach the survival skills he had honed on
Lubang Island. Part of that was to include several weeks in the
country. That's when Mr. Nakagawa jumped in to help him. As I recall
it, the purpose
of the reception was to introduce Mr. Onoda to people in Calgary
who might be interested in raising funds.
wife and I lingered after the reception at Mr. Nakagawa's request
that was when
he drew his motto for us, "Futu Fukutu" (sp?) or Never
Yield, Never Surrender. A year or two later, Mr.
Nakagawa invited me to meet Mr. Onoda again as he arrived in Canada to
go to Banff to scout locations
back country experience. Mr. Nakagawa retired from Nichimen
and took a post as Professor of International Business at a University
Tokyo. He has planned
come to North America several times for a sabbatical, but ill
health has intervened to prevent this. I imagine he has retired to look
after himself. I don't know if
he is still in touch with Mr. Onoda or not.