For This Soldier, WWII Didn't End Until 1974

Hiroo Onoda stuck by his orders to never surrender
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2016 6:34 PM CDT
Soldier Continued to Fight for 29 Years After WWII
Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda, center, salutes after handing over his military sword on Lubang Island, Philippines, in 1974. He continued to fight WWII from the island's jungles for 29 years after the war ended.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

(Newser) – Deep in the Philippine jungle, a lone soldier continued to fight World War II for three decades, becoming a "figure of legend" while surviving on "bananas, coconut milk, and stolen cattle." Mashable has the incredible true story of Japan's Hiroo Onoda. After the end of WWII on Aug. 15, 1945, planes dropped leaflets announcing the end of fighting on Lubang Island in the Philippines. A 22-year-old Onoda had been deployed to the island in 1944 with orders to never surrender or kill himself. He and three other Japanese soldiers who had survived Allied attacks believed the leaflets were a trap and continued to fight on as guerrillas, killing 30 people over the coming decades. By 1972, all three of Onoda's compatriots had either been killed or surrendered. But Onoda fought on.

Norio Suzuki, a Japanese adventurer, made it his mission to find "Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order." He wasn't being flippant. Suzuki would die in a Himalayan avalanche while searching for the latter. But before that, he found and befriended Onoda in the Lubang jungle. On March 9, 1974, Suzuki brought Onoda's commanding officer, by then an old man working in a bookstore, to Lubang. Onoda had required his order to stop fighting. He was pardoned by the Philippine president and returned to Japan a hero—29 years after the end of WWII. Onoda went on to teach children how to survive in the wilderness, something he was uniquely qualified for. Read the full, fascinating story here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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