Last Japanese Soldier To Surrender Dies At 91

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Last Japanese Soldier To Surrender Dies At 91

Lt. Hiroo Onoda spent three decades in the jungle before his war ended.

"You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand," Intelligence Officer Lt. Hiroo Onoda was told by his commanding officer, Major Taniguchi, in 1944. "It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we'll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him." Onoda followed his orders to the letter, hiding in the Philippine jungle for over three decades. It wasn't until 1974 that he was finally persuaded to surrender. Hiroo Onoda, faithful to the last, has died of heart failure, at the age of 91.

Onoda led three men when the allies arrived and recaptured the Philippines. They ignored all attempts to communicate, and dismissed messages from locals claiming the war was over. Even letters sent by relatives and newspapers, airdropped in the jungle, didn't convince them. Onoda's troops carried out guerrilla raids and sabotage missions as best they could, while subsisting on coconuts, green bananas and the occasional cow. They killed 30 people all told, and wounded close to a hundred.

In 1949, one of Onoda's troops deserted and surrendered. In 1954 another was shot dead in a skirmish. Onoda's last companion, Private Kinshichi Kozuka, was killed by police in 1972. He spent the next two years alone, before finally being tracked down by a college student, Norio Suzuki. Onoda told Suzuki that he would only give in if his former commander told him to.

At Suzuki's request, Major Taniguchi returned to the island and told the faithful soldier that the war was over. He formally surrendered to President Ferdinand Marcos in 1974.

Onoda didn't regret the time he lost. He spent his last years running nature camps for children across Japan. "I do everything twice as fast so I can make up for the 30 years," Onoda said in a 1995 interview. "I wish someone could eat and sleep for me so I can work 24 hours a day."

Source: Guardian, Damninteresting

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While I can't relate to him in any way, that's quite the dedication that guy had.

Well, if that ain't dedication to your country and military then I don't know what. But in all honestly, I don't actually think his mind was there most of the time considering the amount of time he spent in the jungle.

That ladies and gents is the text book example of following your orders no matter what the cost or sacrifice. The current military WISHES we could get that level of commitment.

Don't know what to think honestly. The article seems a little confusing, did they continue their sabotage missions after the war ended? Still, I can respect the man for his dedication and it seems that the last decades of his life were spent doing something good.

On one hand, I can't really praise him killing 30 people in what is, in those circumstances, tantamount to an act of murder. On the other, I can't help but admire the sheer level of insane dedication that that would take.

I know I couldn't have survived off of coconuts and bananas (even with the occasional cow) for 3 weeks let alone 30 years. He sounds like a pretty interesting chap, it's just a shame he and his men killed all of those people.

Well, he wasn't on the "right" side, and I doubt those thirty people deserved it, but being someone who prizes loyalty above all other qualities, I can't help but feel a little admiration for the guy.

CriticalMiss:
I know I couldn't have survived off of coconuts and bananas (even with the occasional cow) for 3 weeks let alone 30 years. He sounds like a pretty interesting chap, it's just a shame he and his men killed all of those people.

To be honest he thought that war was still going on
And everything that implied end of war was enemy propaganda
Not an excuse, but at least some reason

This man inspired countless stories, including an episode of Gilligan's Island.

Never heard what he did after his surrender. Sounds like he found some peace eventually.

-Dragmire-:
While I can't relate to him in any way, that's quite the dedication that guy had.

That's one way to put it. Another way would be to call him a servile idiot.

Yeah, that works better.

People who stop thinking just because they're being told to are scary. As is the 'just following orders' type. And 30 people murdered isn't any better if it makes an interesting story afterwards.

TheCaptain:
People who stop thinking just because they're being told to are scary. As is the 'just following orders' type. And 30 people murdered isn't any better if it makes an interesting story afterwards.

Objectively speaking, it is better. Being better doesn't make it good.

Why didn't they just take his commander there in the first place? It would have prevented all this.

I hope he found some peace in his later years.

Man, if he was married he would NEVER cheat, would he?

It is a hell of a story, almost urban myth ... a crazy guy who never realized the war was over and so lived in the jungle, living off coconuts, bananas and the odd cow. He killed 30 people and over 100 more ... if that doesn't scream urban myth I don't know what does!

He's a war criminal, why do you people wish him peace?

Wow...

Im glad he found peace with his lost decades in his latter years.

ExtraDebit:
He's a war criminal, why do you people wish him peace?

George Bush and Tony Blair are war criminals, people still defend them.

This man followed his last order to the letter. Like it or not he committed no war crime.

He's a war criminal, who should have spent his last years in a jail cell.

Instead it seems like his blind, dangerous, patriotism will be remembered fondly.

Shame really.

I had always heard stories that there was a Japanese soldier who didn't surrender for years after the war ended. Never bothered to look into it, and one version I heard said that the Emperor himself had to order the man to surrender (which is funny and blows a huge hole through the story). I always thought it was an interesting story, but I never thought it was true. Just some story that became a myth over time. Guess I was wrong. Wow. Thirty years.

There's dedication and then there's dedication. Regardless of politics, I can respect that: rest in peace Lieutenant.

EDIT: How appropriate (different theatre notwithstanding) that I was listening to Sabaton's Wehrmact while reading this? What about the men executing orders indeed....

Tanis:
He's a war criminal, who should have spent his last years in a jail cell.

Instead it seems like his blind, dangerous, patriotism will be remembered fondly.

Shame really.

What war crime did he commit?

His last order was a lawful order and he followed it to the letter.

The reason he spent his last years teaching children as opposed to rotting in a jail cell is because he committed no war crime.

chiefohara:

Tanis:
He's a war criminal, who should have spent his last years in a jail cell.

Instead it seems like his blind, dangerous, patriotism will be remembered fondly.

Shame really.

What war crime did he commit?

His last order was a lawful order and he followed it to the letter.

The reason he spent his last years teaching children as opposed to rotting in a jail cell is because he committed no war crime.

He was a Japanese soldier and a fighting member of the Axis: obviously he spent the last 30 years eating orphans alive!

P.S. Before anyone thinks their so clever for responding to this with accounts of war crimes and atrocities, I'm well aware of what the various Axis militaries got up to, thank you very much: I just don't go for universal guilt by association.

Geth Reich (Yakob):

chiefohara:

Tanis:
He's a war criminal, who should have spent his last years in a jail cell.

Instead it seems like his blind, dangerous, patriotism will be remembered fondly.

Shame really.

What war crime did he commit?

His last order was a lawful order and he followed it to the letter.

The reason he spent his last years teaching children as opposed to rotting in a jail cell is because he committed no war crime.

He was a Japanese soldier and a fighting member of the Axis: obviously he spent the last 30 years eating orphans alive!

P.S. Before anyone thinks their so clever for responding to this with accounts of war crimes and atrocities, I'm well aware of what the various Axis militaries got up to, thank you very much: I just don't go for universal guilt by association.

No man is responsible for the crimes of his father.

Besides there were plenty of atrocities committed by the allies as well.

The bombing of dresden being one particularly thorny one

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Dresden_in_World_War_II

ps i know you didn't want links but since my intention was to support the point you were making rather than poke holes in what you were trying to say i assumed you'd forgive me :)

chiefohara:

Geth Reich (Yakob):

chiefohara:

What war crime did he commit?

His last order was a lawful order and he followed it to the letter.

The reason he spent his last years teaching children as opposed to rotting in a jail cell is because he committed no war crime.

He was a Japanese soldier and a fighting member of the Axis: obviously he spent the last 30 years eating orphans alive!

P.S. Before anyone thinks their so clever for responding to this with accounts of war crimes and atrocities, I'm well aware of what the various Axis militaries got up to, thank you very much: I just don't go for universal guilt by association.

No man is responsible for the crimes of his father.

Besides there were plenty of atrocities committed by the allies as well.

The bombing of dresden being one particularly thorny one

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Dresden_in_World_War_II

ps i know you didn't want links but since my intention was to support the point you were making rather than poke holes in what you were trying to say i assumed you'd forgive me :)

Exactly: WW2 was a hell of a lot less black and white then its popularly portrayed as. I actually got an interesting book the other day looking at the experiences of the German populace under Allied and Soviet occupation - pretty harrowing stuff.

:D It's cool and your support is appreciated!

Tanis:
He's a war criminal, who should have spent his last years in a jail cell.

Instead it seems like his blind, dangerous, patriotism will be remembered fondly.

Shame really.

Unfortunately that's what patriotism, or to be more specific, rigid viewpoint tends to do. Whether they are Japanese, German Nazis, or the American pilots who carried out the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Interestingly, in the last example, I don't think there were any sort of consequences for those connected to that project either, no war crime charges, no jail time, things like that, even though the death toll was in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. It might be why his story didn't bother me so much, because frankly, if we were to start insisting on putting people in that situation in jail, I'd have asked those flight crews be at the head of the line. =P It just seems to be an inevitable requisite, and from a cynically practical point of view, makes a depressing sort of sense. Difficult to convince your soldiers to carry out these difficult, dangerous, morally questionable acts to support your country, if at a moment's notice they'll join the crowd of protesters in pointing fingers at you.

OT: I remember reading about this story a while ago, I wonder if he had the time to make a more detailed recording of what happened for those 30 years. His situation was certainly unique, and his survival skills were clearly second to none.

Tanis:
He's a war criminal, who should have spent his last years in a jail cell.

Guess what? There are war criminals everywhere. Chances are, you probably met at least one in your life time. If not, you will. There are war criminals on all sides during wartime. But no one questions the victor. Only the losing side gets that label.

Yeah, attacking civilians and noncombatants doesn't stick well with me, especially considering Imperial Japan's track record on that front. Thirty years is impressive, but interpreting your orders not to surrender as meaning "kill any non japanese you come across" just strikes me of the psychotic patriotism that dominated the Japanese regime.

There's a reason that every allied victory in the Pacific theater resulted in 99% fatalities for the defending Japanese forces. They never retreated, they didn't care if they died, so long as they killed more enemies. Wounded men would suicide bomb medics picking them up, banzai charge when they had no hope of victory, or commit seppuku suicide rather than be taken captive. Or in this man's case, survive thirty years fighting a guerrilla war against police and citizens.

Crazy. I was just reading about this guy the other day. I don't think its really fair to call the guy evil or a criminal. In his mind he was doing what he thought was right and I think its fair to say at some point he probably started to lose it. 30 years on an island almost totally alone all while thinking you are still fighting a war that ended 30 years prior has to take a mental toll.

One more amazing tale to emerge from the last big war, must of taken some massive mental strength to keep going and going for all that time.

Almost reminds me of the man I met who ran the ryokan I stayed in in Fukuoka, he had some pretty interesting stories about the war too. It was rather refreshing to hear someone elses side of events that are so widely spoken about and overly polished in this country.

Am I the only one who is reminded of the Soldier from Team Fortress 2?

Though he wanted desperately to fight in World War 2, the Soldier was rejected from every branch of the U.S. military. Undaunted, he bought his own ticket to Europe. After arriving and finally locating Poland, the Soldier taught himself how to load and fire a variety of weapons before embarking on a Nazi killing spree for which he was awarded several medals that he designed and made himself. His rampage ended immediately upon hearing about the end of the war in 1949.

Humorous coincidences aside, I think his life story is an unfortunate consequence of the meeting of nationalism and paranoia. I would have thought there would have been some sort of protocol for contacting deployed troops in the event of the hostilities ending.

What most people forget is that at the time the countries involved were in a state of total war. Something that hasn't happened since WWII.

"Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of all available resources and population.

In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare. In a total war, there is less differentiation between combatants and civilians than in other conflicts, and sometimes no such differentiation at all, as nearly every human resource, combatants and civilians alike, can be considered to be part of the belligerent war effort." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_war

In order to even have the Nuremberg Trials they had to circumvent the rules set by the Geneva Convention.

OT: The dedication of the man can't be faulted but it does say something about the gov't and military leaders that couldn't provide him with proper orders that the war was over.

ExtraDebit:
He's a war criminal, why do you people wish him peace?

Actually, Japanese war criminals would be Pearl Harbor bombers, people above and beyond the call to war who cross the line from soldier to evil fuckwad. However, since a fair few of the most overzealous soldiers in Japan of back then were, say, kamikaze pilots, they're hard to punish, having been dead. A man who merely killed a bunch of people in wartime is nothing. There's no end of people in America who have done as much or more.

But if that's not good enough for ya, there is the fact that what we did to Japan is almost as bad as the Treaty of Versalles at the end of WWI. We neutered Japan, militaristically-speaking. After dropping the first two atomic bombs in war history on their soil, we denied them the power to make war at all, only to defend themselves. We punished that generation and - until this is repealed - all generations that follow. There would be no need to persue individual war criminals after we were through with them.

I find it pretty hard to condemn him. The western world and Japan have a different enough value system in the 21st century - the culture of Japan in the period Onodo would have been brought up is completely alien to our modern, western minds: highly militaristic , deferential and frankly brutal. We are all products of the society we are brought up in, and Onodo was no different - with Japan and indeed the Third Reich I aim my ire at those who (especially in the case of Nazi Germany) purposefully forced upon the people a cultural upheaval that utterly altered the values and ethics of the vast majority of people for their own personal ends.

When you consider the militarism, honour system, and deference to superiors in the period, the fact that every soldier in every army (even today) is trained only to follow orders that originate from official sources (false orders given by the enemy is a common, and legal, ruse de guerre), and the fact that the official sources he would have trusted were dismantled in the immediate aftermath of the surrender (I can no more see an officer commissioned into the Imperial Japanese Army accepting an order from Japan Ground Self Defence Force than I can see an officer commissioned in the United States Marine Corps trusting an order from something called the North American Coastal Defense Infantry Command), and his actions become completely understandable.

Soviet Heavy:
Yeah, attacking civilians and noncombatants doesn't stick well with me, especially considering Imperial Japan's track record on that front. Thirty years is impressive, but interpreting your orders not to surrender as meaning "kill any non japanese you come across" just strikes me of the psychotic patriotism that dominated the Japanese regime.

There's a reason that every allied victory in the Pacific theater resulted in 99% fatalities for the defending Japanese forces. They never retreated, they didn't care if they died, so long as they killed more enemies. Wounded men would suicide bomb medics picking them up, banzai charge when they had no hope of victory, or commit seppuku suicide rather than be taken captive. Or in this man's case, survive thirty years fighting a guerrilla war against police and citizens.

I imagine if that were their interpretation, those 4 military people probably would have killed more than 30 people in 30 years.

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