Hiroo Onoda: Japanese soldier who refused to surrender for 29 years has died

Army intelligence officer hid in a Philippines jungle until 1974

Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese imperial soldier to come out of hiding and surrender 29 years after the end of World War II has died aged 91.

Onoda refused to surrender for 29 years, only coming out of hiding when his former commander flew to the Lubang Island in the Philippines in March 1974 to reverse his 1945 orders to stay behind and spy on American troops.

Onoda, an army intelligence officer, died on Thursday after a brief stay in a Tokyo hospital. Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga on Friday expressed his condolences, praising Onoda for his strong will to live and indomitable spirit.

Onoda and another World War II holdout, Sgt. Shoichi Yokoi, who emerged from the jungle in 1972, caused a sensation when they returned home to huge heroes' welcomes.

After graduating from school in 1939, Onoda worked for a Japanese trading firm in Shanghai before he was drafted into a military academy.

He was dispatched to Lubang, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Manila in December 1944.

Most Japanese soldier surrendered when US troops landed on Lubang in February 1945, though hundreds remained missing for years after the war.

But Onoda refused to give up, despite at least four searches during which family members appealed to him over loudspeakers and flights dropped leaflets urging him to surrender.

Hiroo Onoda emerges from the jungle on Lubang island in the Philippines on 11 March 1974 Hiroo Onoda emerges from the jungle on Lubang island in the Philippines on 11 March 1974 He told ABC in 2010 that the leaflets were filled with mistakes "so I judged it was a plot by the Americans."

Struggling to feed himself, his mission became one of survival. He stole rice and bananas from local people down the hill, and shot their cows to make dried beef.

The turning point came on 20 February, 1974, when he met Norio Suzuki, a young traveller, who ventured to Lubang in pursuit of Onoda.

Suzuki returned to Japan and contacted the government, which located Onoda's superior, Maj. Yoshimi Taniguchi, and flew him to his hideout in Lubang to deliver his surrender order in person.

In his formal surrender to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Onoda wore his 30-year-old imperial army uniform, cap and sword, all still in good condition.

After the furore surrounding his return died down, Onoda bought a ranch in Brazil. He later was head of a children's nature school in northern Japan.

"I don't consider those 30 years a waste of time," Onoda said in an interview in 1995. "Without that experience, I wouldn't have my life today.

"I do everything twice as fast so I can make up for the 30 years," he added. "I wish someone could eat and sleep for me so I can work 24 hours a day." 

Additional reporting by agencies
 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor