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Why a Japanese Soldier Kept on Fighting for 30 Years After World War II Ended

The Japanese soldier continued to hold fort at his posting in the jungle for 3 more decades believing that his country had not called off the war.
UPDATED MAY 20, 2024
Cover Image Source: Portrait of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda taken prior to the end of World War II. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Cover Image Source: Portrait of Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda taken prior to the end of World War II. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

World War II changed the course of history and also gave rise to powers that went on to fight the Cold War for decades to come. It also transformed lives leaving both soldiers as well as survivors with scars, along with important lessons for humanity. Among them was Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda, who was so devoted to his country that he survived for almost three decades in the forest under extreme circumstances long after Japan had surrendered, as reported by ABC. Even in the worst of circumstances, he did not give in and kept fighting,  waiting for his superior to relieve him of his duties. He was finally found in 1974 and was welcomed as a hero in Japan where spent his years till his death at the age of 91 In 2014.

Image Source: 25th February 1975: Ex-Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who spent 30-years holding out in the jungle on the Philippine island of Lubang. Onoda refused to surrender until he received direct orders to do so from his commanding officer. He is at the Press Club in Tokyo, where a luncheon was given by newspaperman in his honour. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Image Source: 25th February 1975: Ex-Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who spent 30-years holding out in the jungle on the Philippine island of Lubang. Onoda refused to surrender until he received direct orders to do so from his commanding officer. He is at the Press Club in Tokyo, where a luncheon was given by newspaperman in his honour. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Onoda spent 29 years on the island of the Philippines where he had arrived as a part of a contingent of 60 soldiers from the Japanese imperial empire. These soldiers continued the fight even when their country had surrendered since they believed it was a ruse to get them to lay down weapons. They kept fighting a guerrilla war on Lubang Island in the Philippines and Onoda attributed their training for the resilience. "Every Japanese soldier was prepared for death but as an intelligence officer I was ordered to conduct guerrilla warfare and not to die," he told ABC in 2010. "I became an officer and I received an order. If I could not carry it out I would feel shame. I am very competitive."



 

There were several attempts made by the island authorities, to get him to surrender. They sent leaflets and search parties, but he did not trust any of them, instead, it made him more resolute in his belief that the enemy was trying to trick him. "The leaflets they dropped were filled with mistakes, so I judged it was a plot by the Americans," he said. Prior to going to the battlefield, the man had just received two years of training, but it had such an impact on Onoda that he refused to leave his station until proper orders arrived.



 

For a large portion of his time in the forest, Hiroo Onoda was hiding out alongside two fellow soldiers. Both of them perished at the hands of the island officials or villagers. His diet in the forest comprised of coconut milk, bananas, and cattle. Whatever 'media consumption' he had was through a shortwave radio. "Once I listened to an Australian election broadcast," he said. "Another time I was interested in a cattle story - that helped me to later become a cattle breeder." As reported by Explorers, Onoda was declared dead in 1959, but a Japanese student, Norio Suzuki, refused to believe it. He went on a trek, to discover Onoda and was able to find him in a matter of days. He befriended Onoda but the soldier told him that without official orders he will not leave his post. Suzuki went back to Japan and searched for Onoda's commanding officer- Major Yoshimi Taniguchi.



 

Taniguchi personally came to the islands to relieve Onoda from his duties. The then-President Marcos of the Philippines pardoned Onoda for the crimes that he committed during the decades that he thought that the war was still going on. At last, Onoda went to his homeland but had troubles with the way the world had advanced. Soon after coming back, the soldier wrote a memoir "No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War," which became a bestseller. He soon shifted to a quaint town, married a woman, and spent his last years in the peace of the countryside.

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