Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda born March 19, 1922) is a former Japanese army intelligence officer who fought in World War II, and did not surrender until 1974, having spent almost thirty years holding out in the Philippines.
Onoda was trained as an Intelligence officer by the commando class "Futamata" (二俣分校, futamata-bunkou) of Nakano School, and on 26 December 1944 was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines. He was ordered to do all that he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island, including destroying the airstrip and the
pier at the harbor, his orders also stating that under no circumstances was he to surrender or take his own life.
When Onoda landed on the island, he linked up 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 28 February 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 Yūichi Akatsu, Corporal Shōichi Shimada and Private First Class Kinshichi Kozuka). The first time they saw a leaflet which claimed that the
war was over was 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
Towards the end of 1945 leaflets were dropped by air with a surrender order printed on them from General Tomoyuki Yamashita 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 7 May 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 19 October 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 20 February 1974, Onoda met a Japanese college dropout, Norio Suzuki, who was traveling the world and was looking for "Lieutenant Onoda, a panda,
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
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 and on 9 March 1974 informed Onoda of the defeat of Japan in WWII and ordered him to lay down
Lieutenant Onoda emerged from the jungle 29 years after the end of World War II, and accepted the commanding officer's
order of surrender in his uniform and sword, with his Arisaka Type 99 rifle still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades. This makes him the penultimate fighting Japanese soldier of World War II,
7 months before Teruo Nakamura.
Though he had killed some thirty Philippine inhabitants of the island and
engaged in several shootouts with the police, the circumstances of these events were taken into consideration, and Onoda received
a pardon from President Ferdinand Marcos.
Onoda was so popular following his return to Japan that some Japanese urged him to run for the Diet. He also released an autobiography, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War,
shortly after his surrender, 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
He said "Before ww2, we had told that don't spare your life.
We had lived with being conscious of death. It's good we can live without being concious of the death today. But the citizens
in Japan seems wasting their valuable times. Without being concious of the death, how can we spend our every single valuable
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.
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 different 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.
In popular culture
In 1981, the English progressive rock band Camel released a concept album Nude, which derives from "Onoda", based on the story.
- Selected bibliography
- ISBN 0-7394-0756-2
- ISBN 0-233-96697-8
- ISBN 0-87011-240-6
- ISBN 1-55750-663-9
In the Philippines
On December 17, 1944, Lt. Hiroo Onoda left for the Philippines to join the Sugi Brigade (the Eighth Division from Hirosaki).
Here, Onoda was given orders by Major Yoshimi Taniguchi and Major Takahashi. Onoda was ordered to lead the Lubang Garrison
in guerrilla warfare. As Onoda and his comrades were getting ready to leave on their separate missions, they stopped by to
report to the division commander. The division commander ordered:
You are absolutely forbidden to die by
your own hand. 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. You may have to live on coconuts. If that's the case, live on coconuts!
Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily.1
Onoda took these
words more literally and seriously than the division commander could ever have meant them.
"Hiroo Worship." Time 25 March 1974: 42-43.
"Old Soldiers Never Die." Newsweek 25 March 1974: 51-52.
Onoda, Hiroo. No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. Trans. Charles S. Terry. New York: Kodansha International Ltd.,
"Where It Is Still 1945." Newsweek 6 Nov. 1972: 58.
copied from website:
2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda
Lubang Island, Philippines
Surrendered - March 5, 1974
The most famous of all Holdouts, his story was widly reported in the world media,
and he wrote a book translated to English about his wartime experiences and 29 years as a Japanese holdout.
Born in the town of Kainan, Japan in 1922 and when he turned
seventeen, he went to work for a trading company in China. In May of 1942, Onoda was drafted into the Japanese Army. Unlike
most soldiers, he attended a school that trained men for guerilla warfare.
Assignment to Lubang Island, Philippines
On December 26, 1944 (age 23),
Hiroo Onoda was sent to the small island of Lubang Island, approximately seventy-five miles southwest of Manila in the Philippines. Shortly after Americans landed, all
but four of the Japanese soldiers had either died or surrendered. Hiroo Onda was also with three other holdouts, who all died
over the decades: Private Yuichi Akatsu, Corporal Shoichi Shimada (died 1954), Private Kinshichi Kozuka (died 1972).
Circumstances of His Surrender
Despite the efforts of the Philippine Army, letters
and newspapers left for them, radio broadcasts, and even a plea from Onoda's brother, he did not belive the war was over.
On February 20, 1974, Onoda encountered a young Japanese university dropout named Norio Suzuki who was traveling the wold
and told his friends that he was “going to look for Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the abominable snowman, in that order.
The two became friends, but Onoda said that he was waiting for orders from one of his commanders. On March 9, 1974, Onoda
went to an agreed upon place and found a note that had been left by Suzuki. Suzuki had brought along Onoda’s one-time
superior commander, Major Taniguchi, who delivered the oral orders for Onoda to surrender. Intelligence Officer 2nd Lt. Hiroo
Onada emerged from the jungle of Lubang Island with his .25 caliber rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades.
He sureendered 29 years after Japan's formal surrender, and 15 years after being declared legally dead in Japan. When he accepted
that the war was over, he wept openly.
He returned to Japan to receive a hero’s welcome, and world media
attention, and was hounded by the curious public everywhere he went. He was unable to adapt to modern life in Japan, but wrote
his memories of survival in "No Surrender: My Thirty Year War" After publication, he moved to Brazil to raise cattle. He revisited Lubang island in 1996, and still alive today.
He then married a Japanese woman and moved back to Japan to run a nature camp for kids. Anyone with contact information for
Hiroo Onoda Photo Gallery
Books on Hiro Onoda
Articles on Hiro Onoda (English Language)
- "Hiroo Worship." Time 25 March 1974: 42-43.
- "Old Soldiers Never Die." Newsweek 25 March 1974: 51-52.
- "Where It Is Still 1945." Newsweek 6 Nov. 1972: 58.
- Coltheart, Max and Martin Davies, eds. Pathologies of Belief. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers,
- Cook. Japan at War: an Oral History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992.
- Dilman, Ilham and D.Z. Phillips. Sense and Delusion. New York: Humanities Press, 1971.
- "Imperial Family Hosts Annual Autumn Garden Party." Japan Economic Newswire. Lexis-Nexis
Academic Universe. 13 November 1992.
- Morton, Louis. The War in the Pacific: the Fall of the Philippines. United States Army in
World War II Series. Washington. D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1969.
- Reyes, Joel M. An Online Guide About the Philippine History
- Thurber, David. "Town Seeks Compensation from Japanese WWII Straggler." The Associated Press.
Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe. 21 May 1996.
- Waddington, Richard. "'Too Much Concrete and Cleanliness Makes for Weak Children';
Last Japanese to Surrender Offers Lessons of 29 Years in Jungle." Los Angeles Times. On-Line. Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe.
29 December 1985.
Internet Links about Hiro Onoda
Famous WWII Fighter... till 1974
Webpage about Hiroo Onoda, including a bit about his life and retirement. James Oglethorpe contributed
Former WWII Soldier Visits His Philippine Hideout CNN article with several photos, movies and news story. James Oglethorpe contributed this link.
alt.folklore.urban Quick note about Onoda's return to Philippines with news pictures.
Hirro Onoda: 30 Years War Website by Jennifer Bern
CNN Former WWII Soldier Visits Philippines
News story with short video clips
Hide & Seek
Article about Hiro Onoda and Shoichi Yokoi
Recollections of Hiro Onoda
and memories of meetings and interactions with Onoda
Robert C. Hamer recalls:
"During the early 1980s, I was working for the (short-lived) Oil & Gas subsidiary of Inco Limited in Calgary.
During this period, Nichimen opened an office in Calgary staffed by Juro Nakagawa. He was an "unusual" Japanese businessman
in that he enjoyed overseas assignments. He was interested in finding business opportunities and we were full of ideas, none
of which worked out. Nevertheless, Mr. Nakagawa and I formed a friendship that has lasted, although, we have not been in constant
contact. He went on to be vice president for Nichimen Americas in New York City while maintaining a small presence in Calgary.
Some time after, Inco sold its oil & gas assets, CP Rail was seeking bids on a new tunnel
through the Rogers Pass and several Japanese companies expressed interest. Mr. Nakagawa convinced one that it should consider
using Inco's continuous mining machinery in tits bid and I arranged to take them to Sudbury to view the equipment in action.
About that time, possibly 1987, Mr. Nakagawa called to invite me to reception he was holding for Mr. Onoda in Calgary.
Before coming to Calgary, Mr. Nakagawa had represented Nichimen in India and Brazil where
he met Mr. Onoda. He felt that Mr. Onoda had been treated fairly shabbily by the Japanese Government, more of an embarrassment
than a hero. His compensation ( back pay for the 27 years amounted to very little - a yen a day or month or something and
no attempt to help him adjust to the new Japan.
Because of his experience with cattle, that he had become very familiar with cattle during
his years on Lubang Island. Every now and then he would kill a cow for meat. The villagers would get alarmed and the army
would embark on yet another unsuccessful search for him. Onoda decided that was something he could do usefully and
Brazil seemed a better place to do this than Japan. His next project was to establish a sort of "Outward Bound" school for
Japanese youth to teach the survival skills he had honed on Lubang Island. Part of that was to include several weeks in the
Banff back country. That's when Mr. Nakagawa jumped in to help him. As I recall it, the purpose of the reception was to introduce
Mr. Onoda to people in Calgary who might be interested in raising funds.
My wife and I lingered after the reception at Mr. Nakagawa's request and that was when he drew his motto for
us, "Futu Fukutu" (sp?) or Never Yield, Never Surrender. A year or two later, Mr. Nakagawa invited me to meet Mr. Onoda again
as he arrived in Canada to go to Banff to scout locations for his back country experience. Mr. Nakagawa retired from Nichimen
and took a post as Professor of International Business at a University in Tokyo. He has planned to come to North America several
times for a sabbatical, but ill health has intervened to prevent this. I imagine he has retired to look after himself. I don't
know if he is still in touch with Mr. Onoda or not.