Everyone knew that World War II had ended in 1945. Everyone except for Lt. Hiroo Onoda.
Onoda, an army intelligence officer, spent nearly 30 years hiding in the jungles of Lubang in the northwestern Philippines. Initially along with three other Japanese soldiers, Onoda refused to believe that the war had ended. Demonstrating unwavering loyalty to their country and their emperor, Onoda and his companions had taken reports of capitulation to be Allied propaganda. In the following decades, Onoda is thought to have killed as many as 30 Filipinos while in hiding, believing them to be enemy combatants.
Onoda, the final remaining Japanese holdout on Lubang, was finally coaxed out of hiding in 1974 by a former commanding officer, who convinced him the war was really over. The 52-year-old Onoda still had his uniform, and his rifle was still operational.
More about Hiroo Onoda:
- Then-President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines pardoned Onoda for the killings, as he had believed Japan was still at war.
- Onoda had been accompanied by Kinshichi Kozuka until 1972, when Kozuka was killed in a shootout with Philippine troops.
- Onoda moved to Brazil and lived on a cattle ranch until 1984, when he returned to his homeland and ran nature camps for children. He died of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital in 2014, at the age of 91