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Hiroo Onoda
Born March 19, 1922
Hiroo Onoda, c. 1944-45
Place of birth Kamekawa, Wakayama, Japan
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Service/branch Imperial Japanese Army
Years of service 1941 - 1974
Rank Second Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War II

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.

Military service

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!"[1] 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 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".[2] 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 and on 9 March 1974 informed Onoda of the defeat of Japan in WWII and ordered him to lay down his arms.

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.

 Later life

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 virtues.

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 time meaningfully?"

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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

 In popular culture

In 1981, the English progressive rock band Camel released a concept album Nude, which derives from "Onoda", based on the story.

See also

  1. ^ Onoda, p. 75
  2. ^ "2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda". Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  3. ^ Mercado, Stephen C. (2003). The Shadow Warriors of Nakano. Brassey's. pp. 246–247. ISBN 1574885383. 
  4. ^ "Wife of ‘No Surrender’ soldier becomes president of conservative women’s group". Japan Probe. 29 November 2006. 
  5. ^ "Combatente da II Guerra ganha medalha da FAB". Brazilian Air Force Centro de Comunicação Social da Aeronáutica Center for Social Communication of the Air. December 8, 2004. Retrieved May 7, 2009. 


  1. Selected bibliography
  • Onoda, Hiroo. No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. Translated by Charles S. Terry
ISBN 0-7394-0756-2
ISBN 0-233-96697-8
ISBN 0-87011-240-6
ISBN 1-55750-663-9

 External links


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., 1974.

"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 Mr. Onoda,

Hiroo Onoda Photo Gallery

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Hiroo Onoda as a young officer in the Japanese Army

Onoda's father travels to Lubang with a Japanese deligation to attempt to convince Onoda the war is over and to come home.

Hiroo Onoda posing for Norio Suzuki in February 1974.

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Norio Suzuki and Hiroo Onoda in February 1974 on Lubong Island, before he decided to surrender.  Suzuki is holding his rifle. Hiroo Onoda photographed immediatly after his surrender in 1974 Turing over his sword to Philippine President, Ferdinan Marcos, March 10, 1975.  Marcos returned the sword to him.
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Onoda returns to Japan

Returning to the Phillipines: Hiroo Onoda, 74 In May 1996: leaves Narita airport near Tokyo for his first trip to the Philippines to visit his former island hideout. Kyodo News Service

Lubang Island - Placing flowers at a monument on Lubang Island in the Philippines on May 2, 1996 during his first visit to the island in 22 years. Kyodo News Service

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Onoda in 1996 Filipino protestors on Lubang Island seeking compensation for the damages Onoda caused  

Click For ReviewBooks 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, 2000.
  • 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 this link.

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
Stories, meetings 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.



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