is a former Japanese army intelligence officer who fought in World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
and did not surrender until 1974, having spent almost 30 years holding out in the Philippines. He held the rank of Second Lieutenant
Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces.- United Kingdom and Commonwealth :The rank second lieutenant was introduced throughout the British Army in 1871 to replace the rank of ensign , although it had long been used in the Royal Artillery, Royal...
in the Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...
Onoda was born on March 19, 1922, in Kainan, Wakayama Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located on the Kii Peninsula in the Kansai region on Honshū island. The capital is the city of Wakayama.- History :Present-day Wakayama is mostly the western part of the province of Kii.- 1953 Wakayama Prefecture flood disaster :...
, Japan. When he was 17 years old, he went to work for the Tajima Yoko trading company in Wuhan
Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, People's Republic of China, and is the most populous city in Central China. It lies at the east of the Jianghan Plain, and the intersection of the middle reaches of the Yangtze and Han rivers...
, China. When he was 20, he was enlisted in the Imperial Japanese Army.
Onoda trained as an intelligence officer in the of Nakano School
The was the primary training center for military intelligence operations by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.-History:The Imperial Japanese Army had always placed a high priority on the use of unconventional military tactics...
. On December 26, 1944, he was sent to Lubang Island
Lubang Island is the largest island in the Lubang Group of Islands, an archipelago which lies to the northwest of the northern end of Mindoro in the Philippines. The Lubang Islands are about southwest of Manila. There are seven islands in the group, The island is divided into two municipalities. ...
in the Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...
. He was ordered to do all he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island, including destroying the airstrip and the pier at the harbor. Onoda's orders also stated that under no circumstances was he to surrender or take his own life.
When he landed on the island, Onoda joined forces with a group of Japanese soldiers who had been sent there previously. The officers in the group outranked Onoda and prevented him from carrying out his assignment, which made it easier for US and Philippine Commonwealth forces to take the island when they landed on February 28, 1945. Within a short time of the landing, all but Onoda and three other soldiers had either died or surrendered and Onoda, who had been promoted to lieutenant, ordered the men to take to the hills.
Time in hiding
Onoda continued his campaign, initially living in the mountains with three fellow soldiers (Private
A Private is a soldier of the lowest military rank .In modern military parlance, 'Private' is shortened to 'Pte' in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries and to 'Pvt.' in the United States.Notably both Sir Fitzroy MacLean and Enoch Powell are examples of, rare, rapid career...
Yūichi Akatsu, Corporal
Corporal is a rank in use in some form by most militaries and by some police forces or other uniformed organizations. It is usually equivalent to NATO Rank Code OR-4....
Shōichi Shimada and Private First Class
Private First Class is a military rank held by junior enlisted persons.- Singapore :The rank of Private First Class in the Singapore Armed Forces lies between the ranks of Private and Lance-Corporal . It is usually held by conscript soldiers midway through their national service term...
Kinshichi Kozuka). The first time they saw a leaflet which claimed that the war was over
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...
in October 1945; another cell had killed a cow and found a leaflet left behind by islanders which read: "The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!" However, they mistrusted the leaflet, since another cell had been fired upon a few days previously. They concluded that the leaflet was Allied propaganda, and also believed that they would not have been fired on if the war had indeed been over.
Towards the end of 1945 leaflets were dropped by air with a surrender order printed on them from General Tomoyuki Yamashita
General was a general of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. He was most famous for conquering the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, earning the nickname "The Tiger of Malaya".- Biography :...
of the Fourteenth Area Army
. They were in hiding over a year at this point, and this leaflet was the only evidence they had the war was over. Onoda's group looked very closely at the leaflet to determine whether it was genuine or not, and decided it was a hoax.
One of the four, Yuichi Akatsu, walked away from the others in September 1949 and surrendered to Filipino forces in 1950 after six months on his own. This seemed like a security problem to the others and they became even more careful.
In 1952, letters and family pictures were dropped from aircraft urging them to surrender, but the three soldiers concluded that this was a hoax. Shimada was shot in the leg during a shoot-out with local fishermen in June 1953, following which Onoda nursed him back to health. On May 7, 1954, Shimada was killed by a shot fired by a search party looking for the men.
Kozuka was killed by two shots fired by local police on October 19, 1972, when he and Onoda burned rice that had been collected by farmers, as part of their guerrilla activities, leaving Onoda alone. Though Onoda had been officially declared dead in December 1959, this event suggested that it was likely he was still alive and search parties were sent out, though none was successful.
On February 20, 1974, Onoda met a Japanese college dropout, Norio Suzuki, who was traveling the world and was looking for "Lieutenant Onoda, a panda
The giant panda, or panda is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognized by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body. Though it belongs to the order Carnivora, the panda's diet is 99% bamboo...
, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order". Onoda and Suzuki became friends, but Onoda still refused to surrender, saying that he was waiting for orders from a superior officer.
Suzuki returned to Japan with photographs of himself and Onoda as proof of their encounter, and the Japanese government located Onoda's commanding officer, Major Taniguchi, who had since become a bookseller. He flew to Lubang where on March 9, 1974, he finally met with Onoda and fulfilled the promise made in 1944, "Whatever happens, we'll come back for you," by issuing him the following orders:
In this manner, Onoda was relieved from duty, but never surrendered. His sword, with his Arisaka
Arisaka is a family of Japanese military bolt action rifles, in production from approximately 1898, when it replaced the Murata rifle, until the end of World War II in 1945...
Type 99 rifle
The was a bolt-action rifle of the Arisaka design used by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.-History:During the Second Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s, the Japanese soon found that the 8×57mm IS cartridge the Chinese used was superior to the 6.5×50mm cartridge of the Type 38 rifle,...
still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenade
A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...
s were also turned over, as well as the dagger his mother gave him in 1944 for protection. This made him the penultimate fighting Japanese soldier of the war, seven months before Teruo Nakamura
Private was a Taiwan-born soldier of the Imperial Japanese Army who fought for Japan in World War II and did not surrender until 1974.His name in his native language appears to have been Attun Palalin...
Though he had killed some 30 Filipino inhabitants of the island and engaged in several shootouts with the police, the circumstances were taken into consideration, and Onoda received a pardon from President Ferdinand Marcos
Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, Sr. was a Filipino leader and an authoritarian President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He was a lawyer, member of the Philippine House of Representatives and a member of the Philippine Senate...
Onoda was so popular following his return to Japan that some Japanese urged him to run for the Diet
The is Japan's bicameral legislature. It is composed of a lower house, called the House of Representatives, and an upper house, called the House of Councillors. Both houses of the Diet are directly elected under a parallel voting system. In addition to passing laws, the Diet is formally...
. He also released an autobiography, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War
, shortly after his return, which detailed his life as a guerrilla fighter in a war that was long over. However, Onoda was reportedly unhappy being the subject of so much attention and troubled by what he saw as the withering of traditional Japanese values.
In April 1975, he followed the example of his elder brother Tadao and left Japan for Brazil, where he raised cattle. He married in 1976, and assumed a leading role in the local Japanese community at Terenos (Mato Grosso do Sul - Brazil) called "Colônia Jamic" (Jamic Colony).
After reading about a Japanese teenager who had murdered his parents in 1980, Onoda returned to Japan in 1984 and established the Onoda Shizen Juku ("Onoda Nature School") educational camp for young people, held at various locations in Japan.
Onoda revisited Lubang Island in 1996, donating $10,000 for the local school on Lubang. His wife, Machie Onoda, became the head of the conservative Japan Women's Association in 2006. He currently spends three months of the year in Brazil. Onoda was conferred Merit medal of Santos-Dumont by the Brazilian Air Force on December 6, 2004.
On February 21, 2010, the Legislative Assembly of Mato Grosso do Sul conceded him the title of "Cidadão do Mato Grosso do Sul" (Citizenship).
In popular culture
In 1981, the English progressive rock
Progressive rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a "mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility." John Covach, in Contemporary Music Review, says that many thought it would not just "succeed the pop of...
Camel are an English progressive rock band formed in 1971. An important group in the Canterbury scene, they have been releasing studio and live recordings steadily, with considerable success, since their formation.-1970s:...
released a concept album Nude
, which is based on Onoda.
The concept of holdout Japanese soldiers living in remote areas unaware of the end of the war became the subject of a number of TV series episodes in the 1970s, most notably "The Last Kamikaze", an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man is an American television series about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for the OSI...
, which was broadcast in January 1975, several months after the return of Onoda.
The comedy movie A Friend Is a Treasure
starring Bud Spencer
Bud Spencer is an Italian actor, filmmaker and former swimmer . He is known for past roles in spaghetti westerns together with his long time filmpartner Terence Hill...
and Terrence Hill revolves its plot around a treasure of millions of US dollars held by the Japanese military and the last guarding officer, John Fujioka, being unaware of the end of the war.
The action thriller Shima
Shima is a 2007 film from Uzbekistan.- Plot :At the end of the Second World War, imperial Japanese fanaticism seals the fate of an island's inhabitants and its garrison, through a massacre, interrupting the love between a soldier and a fisherman's daughter...
explores the psychological trauma faced by an officer of the Imperial Army. The film is loosely based on the life on Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda and other soldiers involved in Japanese holdouts.
- Shoichi Yokoi
was a Japanese sergeant in the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War. He was among the last three Japanese hold-outs to surrender after the end of hostilities in 1945.-Early life:Yokoi was born in Saori, Aichi Prefecture...
- Japanese holdout
Japanese holdouts or stragglers were Japanese soldiers in the Pacific Theatre who, after the August 1945 surrender of Japan that marked the end of World War II, either adamantly doubted the veracity of the formal surrender due to strong dogmatic or militaristic principles, or were not aware of it...
- Survival techniques
- Onoda, Hiroo. No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. Translated by Charles S. Terry
Charles S. Terry was an American translator and academic in the fields of Japanese history, art, and literature.Born in Laurel, Mississippi in 1926, Terry would go on to graduate from Duke University. He first began to study Japanese while serving in the United States Navy during World War II...
- ISBN 0-7394-0756-2
- ISBN 0-233-96697-8
- ISBN 0-87011-240-6
- ISBN 1-55750-663-9