Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who hid out in the jungle refusing to believe that World War II had ended, has died at 91.
Onoda’s incredible story is the result of two orders given to him when he was deployed as an intelligence officer to conduct sabotage on Lubang island in the Philippines in 1944. He was told: “Never surrender and never take your own life”.
And he didn’t until 1974, when a Japanese adventurer tracked him down and brought back Onoda’s commanding officer to tell him that the war had ended some 29 years previously. There were red faces all round, but in Japan he was feted as a hero for his extraordinary mental resilience and for surviving in such good shape. The three other soldiers deployed with him had either surrendered or perished.
In 1996 Onoda returned to Lubang. It was a shorter stay this time, but important nonetheless for the old soldier to make peace with his past.
During his 29 years on the island, Onoda continued to fight the war he had been sent there to fight. He engaged in shoot-outs with the police and killed a number of Filipino islanders.
He was eventually pardoned by President Ferdinand Marcos.
After so long in isolation, Onoda tired of the spotlight and decided to leave Japan to set up a new life in Brazil.
After so long surviving, on Thursday in a Tokyo hospital, with complications from pneumonia, Onoda finally surrendered.