On 16th January 2014, the world saw the passing of a modern-day time traveller – Hiroo Onoda. In Part 1 of this 3 part series, I wrote about his 30 year resistance in the Philippines jungle. For this WW2 Japanese soldier, surrender was not an option. Therefore he remained in the jungle convinced of an ultimate Japanese victory.
Onoda’s 30 year refusal to surrender defies belief to the modern mind. Why would a man choose to live a precarious life of survival in a remote jungle for 30 years, at daily risk of death by the environment or at the hands of the Philippine authorities? Why would he insist on continuing his war-time struggle decades after ‘everyone’ knew that the war was over?
Onoda simply did not believe the war was over. It was only towards the end of his time in the jungle that his belief begin to waver that the war was continuing and that Japan would eventually triumph.
Onoda’s mindset was shaped by his culture, his military training, and by war-time nationalistic propaganda. To understand these influences, we need to project ourselves back in time. We must become reverse time-travellers.
It has become commonplace to say that Japanese society is characterised by order, discipline and self-sacrifice. Yet when Onoda returned to Japan in 1974, he was struck by how lacking modern Japan was in such virtues. Therefore we can only imagine what Japan must had been like in the 1940s. After staying only a short-time, Onoda migrated to Brazil in 1975 to join his brother as a cattle-farmer. However, having left Japan, Japan remained within him. He returned in 1984 to establish an educational camp for Japanese youth. He wanted to imbue modern Japanese youth with some of the values that had shaped him. Onoda divided his remaining years between Japan and Brazil.
Onoda’s military training also prepared him for his 30 year struggle for survival. Onoda was a graduate of the Nakano School, a Japanese military intelligence training centre. As the tide of war moved against Japan, the Nakano graduates were increasingly deployed as cadre for ‘stay behind’ parties in territories likely to be overrun by Allied forces. With this aim, Onoda arrived on Lubang Island in November 1974. Allied landings were expected at any time. Onoda was ready to do his duty.
Onoda, like the rest of his generation was imbued with a tradition of obedience and trust in his superiors. War-time Japanese government propaganda assured him that despite short-term set-backs, the Japanese Empire would prevail against the Allies. Also, after his arrival on Lubang Island, Onoda was given explicit assurance by his commanding officer that he would not be abandoned. In the event of Allied landings, his orders were to resist until the Japanese Army could return to re-capture the island. In his mind, Onoda was convinced that his service would not be in vain.
In Part 3 of this 3 part series, I will continue my discussion 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.|