Japanese WWII Soldier Who Hid in Jungle 29 Years Dies
For Hiroo Onoda, war ended in 1974
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2014 2:03 AM CST
Updated Jan 17, 2014 5:30 AM CST
Hiroo Onoda after emerging from hiding on the Philippines' Lubang Island in 1974.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – Former Japanese Imperial Army soldier Hiroo Onoda has died at the age of 91—roughly 40 years after he stopped fighting World War II. Onoda, the last Japanese soldier to surrender, hid out in the jungles of the Philippines for almost 30 years after 1945, only coming out of hiding in 1974. The straggler formally surrendered—still wearing his uniform—to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos after his former commander flew out to rescind his 1945 order that Onoda stay there and spy on American forces, the AP reports. The New York Times reports that Onoda was with three comrades on Lubang Island when the war ended; believing leaflets attesting to the war's end to be Allied propaganda, they lived off bananas, coconuts, stolen rice, and cows they killed, and constructed bamboo huts.

One of the men surrendered five years later; the others were shot and killed by police, the last just two years before Onoda emerged. The Guardian reports that he "wept uncontrollably" when he eventually gave up his rifle—still "perfectly serviceable" after all those years, and one he may have used to kill as many as 30 locals that he mistook for enemies. A Japanese government spokesman praised Onoda for his unbreakable 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." After the war finally ended for him, Onoda bought a ranch in Brazil before returning to Japan to run a children's nature school. "I don't consider those 30 years a waste of time," he said in a 1995 interview. "Without that experience, I wouldn't have my life today." (In other WWII news, the game Monopoly actually helped POWs escape.)

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Jan 17, 2014 11:49 PM CST
Jan 17, 2014 6:33 PM CST
When This soldier saw all the modern development in Japan, he initially thought they won the war. I certainly hope that they told him that because of the generosity and mercy of America, that their nation's infrastructure was rebuilt. My Father fought against the Japs in the Philippines. Rarely were any prisoners taken because of the "Bushido" code. This led to savage fighting where no quarter was given and no quarter was asked. The most startling thing he witnessed was the wave after wave of Jap soldiers charging him and his comrades in the Banzai attacks. Some had no weapons and others had no clothes or shoes, but they continued to charge at them until they were all dead. When he fought in New Guinea, the head hunters would cut Jap heads off and trade them to American soldiers for food, candy and cigarettes.
Jan 17, 2014 1:35 PM CST
The war are evil, period!