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 me

Hiroo Onoda Photo Gallery

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Hiroo Onoda as a young officer in the Japanese Army

Onoda's father travels to Lubong with a Japanese deligation to attempt to convince Onoda the war is over and to come home.

Hiroo Onoda posing for Norio Suzuki in February 1974.

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Norio Suzuki and Hiroo Onoda in February 1974 on Lubong Island, before he decided to surrender.  Suzuki is holding his rifle. Hiroo Onoda photographed immediatly after his surrender in 1974 Turing over his sword to Philippine President, Ferdinan Marcos, March 10, 1975.  Marcos returned the sword to him.
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Onoda returns to Japan

Returning to the Phillipines: Hiroo Onoda, 74 In May 1996: leaves Narita airport near Tokyo for his first trip to the Philippines to visit his former island hideout. Kyodo News Service

Lubang Island - Placing flowers at a monument on Lubang Island in the Philippines on May 2, 1996 during his first visit to the island in 22 years. Kyodo News Service

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Onoda in 1996 Filipino protestors on Lubang Island seeking compensation for the damages Onoda caused during his g  

Click For ReviewBooks on Hiro Onoda

Articles on Hiro Onoda (English Language)

  • "Hiroo Worship." Time 25 March 1974: 42-43.
  • "Old Soldiers Never Die." Newsweek 25 March 1974: 51-52.
  • "Where It Is Still 1945." Newsweek 6 Nov. 1972: 58.
  • 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

Famous WWII Fighter... till 1974
Webpage about Hiroo Onoda, including a bit about his life and retirement. James Oglethorpe contributed this link.

Former WWII Soldier Visits His Philippine Hideout CNN article with several photos, movies and news story. James Oglethorpe contributed this link.

alt.folklore.urban Quick note about Onoda's return to Philippines with news pictures.

Hirro Onoda: 30 Years War Website by Jennifer Bern

CNN Former WWII Soldier Visits Philippines
News story with short video clips

Hide & Seek
Article about Hiro Onoda and Shoichi Yokoi


Recollections of Hiro Onoda
Stories, meetings and memories of meetings and interactions with Onoda

Robert C. Hamer recalls:
"During 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 been treated 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 to help 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 Bound" school for Japanese youth to teach the survival skills he had honed on Lubang Island. Part of that was to include several weeks in the Banff back 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.

My wife and I lingered after the reception at Mr. Nakagawa's request and 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 for his back country experience. Mr. Nakagawa retired from Nichimen and took a post as Professor of International Business at a University in Tokyo. He has planned to 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.