From the LA Times: Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese imperial soldier to emerge from hiding in a Philippines jungle and surrender, 29 years after the end of World War II, has died. He was 91.
Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga on Friday praised Onoda for his strong will to live and indomitable spirit.
‘After World War II, Mr. Onoda lived in the jungle for many years and when he returned to Japan, I felt that finally, the war was finished. That’s how I felt,’ Suga said.
Onoda was an intelligence officer who came out of hiding, erect but emaciated, in fatigues patched many times over, on Lubang island in the Philippines in March 1974, on his 52nd birthday. He surrendered only when his former commander flew there to reverse his 1945 orders to stay behind and spy on American troops.
Before and during the war, Japanese were taught absolute loyalty to the nation and the emperor. Soldiers in the Imperial Army observed a code that said death was preferable to surrender.
Onoda refused to give up, despite at least four searches during which family members appealed to him over loudspeakers and flights dropped leaflets urging him to surrender.
In his formal surrender to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Onoda wore his 30-year-old imperial army uniform, cap and sword, all still in good condition.
After the initial sensation of his return home wore off, Onoda bought a ranch in Brazil and married a Japanese tea-ceremony instructor. They later returned to Japan, where he ran a children’s nature school.
‘I don’t consider those 30 years a waste of time,’ Onoda said in a 1995 interview with the Associated Press. “Without that experience, I wouldn’t have my life today.’
Still, he showed a great zeal for making up for years lost.
‘I do everything twice as fast so I can make up for the 30 years,’ Onoda said. “I wish someone could eat and sleep for me so I can work 24 hours a day.”