Japanese soldier who hid in Philippine jungle for 29 years dies at 91

January 17, 2014

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

A Japanese soldier who hid in the jungles of the Philippines for 29 years, refusing to believe that World War II ended, has died.

Hiroo Onoda, a second lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army, died on Jan. 16, 10 days after he entered a Tokyo hospital with pneumonia. He was 91.

Onoda was born in March 1922 in what is now Kainan, Wakayama Prefecture. In 1944, he attended an Imperial Japanese Army school where he learned guerrilla tactics and intelligence warfare. He was deployed to Lubang island in the Philippines to fight the Allied forces.

In 1945, Onoda came across pamphlets dropped on the island by the U.S. military that said the war had ended. However, the contents and the Japanese were inaccurate, so he thought it was a trick by the United States. He continued using his guerrilla tactics in the belief that the war was still not over.

In 1974, Norio Suzuki, an adventurer who traveled extensively, encountered Onoda on the island. Suzuki explained that the war was long over, but Onoda responded: “I will not quit fighting unless there is an order that relieves me of my duty.”

Onoda returned to Japan in March 1974 after his wartime commander landed on the island and ordered Onoda to lay down his arms.

A year after returning to Japan, Onoda moved to Brazil, following in the footsteps of an older brother, and became involved in managing a ranch.

In 1980, Onoda learned that a youth studying to enter university murdered his parents with a baseball bat in Kanagawa Prefecture. Onoda decided to return to Japan to teach children how to become strong enough to overcome their difficulties.

He opened a nature school in Yamanashi Prefecture in 1984. He continued this activity from 1991 at a campground built in Fukushima Prefecture.

In recent years, Onoda gave speeches around Japan. And last October, he published a book titled “Ikiru” (To live).

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Hiroo Onoda during the interview with The Asahi Shimbun in September 2013 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Hiroo Onoda during the interview with The Asahi Shimbun in September 2013 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Hiroo Onoda during the interview with The Asahi Shimbun in September 2013 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
  • Hiroo Onoda salutes after being helped out of a jungle in the Philippines in March 1974. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
  • Hiroo Onoda greets his father and mother after returning to his homeland for the first time in 29 years in March 1974. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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