Hiroo Onoda, a former Japanese Army officer and WW2 holdout, died on 16th January, 2014.
Onoda was an extraordinary man. He lived nearly 30 years in the Philippines Jungle convinced that WW2 was still being waged, confident of an ultimate Japanese victory. He came out of the jungle much like a time-traveller. In many ways, it was only August 1945 for him but it was 1974 (and 29 years later) for everyone-else.
Allied forces landed on the Philippine island of Lubang in February 1945 and quickly overwhelmed the Japanese defenders. Onoda and a few others retreated to the hills to continue the resistance. Most of his fellow holdouts surrendered in 1946, leaving Onoda alone with three fellow soldiers. Over the following decades, the group was whittled down until only Onoda remained. One surrendered in 1950. A second was killed in a clash with Philippine forces in 1954 and the third was killed in 1972. Onoda himself surrendered in March 1974.
In order to be convinced that the war was over – and that he was permitted to surrender, which for a WW2 Japanese soldier was unthinkable – Onoda insisted to be read the Emperor’s Surrender Order of August 1945. Further, he insisted that the order be personally read to him by an officer known to him – but to preserve war-time secrecy until the end, he refused to divulge the name of his immediate war-time superior. Fortunately the correct aging officer was located and agreed to travel to Lubang to meet with Onoda.
Onoda was the second last acknowledged Japanese holdout from WW2. Shoichi Yokoim was captured on Guam in 1972, Onoda surrendered in March 1974, and Teruo Nakamura was captured in December 1974 on Morotai Island in Indonesia. Since 1975 there have been unconfirmed reports of other holdouts in other parts of SE Asia but none verified since Nakamura’s capture.
Thanks to such men, the figure of the WW2 Japanese holdout became a near comedic figure in US Films and TV shows of the 1970s and 1980s.
In Part 2 of this 3 part series, I will explore the motivations of Hiroo Onoda – a modern day time traveller.
Photo Copyright Details:
|Title: Hiroo Onoda Description: Hiroo Onoda as a young officer Date: 1944-1945 Source: Wikipedia Commons This photographic image was published before December 31st 1956, or photographed before 1946, under jurisdiction of the Government of Japan. Thus this photographic image is considered to be public domain according to article 23 of old copyright law of Japan (English translation) and article 2 of supplemental provision of copyright law of Japan.|