Friday, January 17, 2014

Hiroo Onoda Dies: WWII Japanese Soldier Spent 29 Years Holding Out in Philippines Jungles

He came home a hero to a country overtaking be affluence and pacifism.

At the New York Times, "Hiroo Onoda, Soldier Who Hid in Jungle for Decades, Dies at 91" (at Memeorandum):

Hiroo Onoda, an Imperial Japanese Army officer who remained at his jungle post on an island in the Philippines for 29 years, refusing to believe that World War II was over, and returned to a hero’s welcome in the all but unrecognizable Japan of 1974, died Thursday at a Tokyo hospital, the Japanese government said. He was 91.

Caught in a time warp, Mr. Onoda, a second lieutenant, was one of the war’s last holdouts: a soldier who believed the emperor was a deity and the war a sacred mission; who survived on bananas and coconuts and sometimes killed villagers he assumed were enemies; who finally went home to the lotus land of paper and wood that turned out to be a futuristic world of skyscrapers, television, jet planes, pollution and atomic destruction.

Japanese history and literature are replete with heroes who have remained loyal to a cause, especially if it is lost or hopeless, and Lieutenant Onoda, a small, wiry man of dignified manner and military bearing, seemed to many like a samurai of old, offering his sword as a gesture of surrender to President Ferdinand E. Marcos of the Philippines, who returned it to him.

And his homecoming, with roaring crowds, celebratory parades and speeches by public officials, stirred his nation with a pride that many Japanese had found lacking in postwar years of rising prosperity and materialism. His ordeal of deprivation may have seemed a pointless waste to much of the world, but in Japan it was a moving reminder of the redemptive qualities of duty and perseverance.

It happened with a simple command. As related in a memoir after he came home, Lieutenant Onoda’s last order in early 1945 was to stay and fight. Loyal to a military code that taught that death was preferable to surrender, he remained behind on Lubang Island, 93 miles southwest of Manila, when Japanese forces withdrew in the face of an American invasion.

After Japan surrendered in August, thousands of Japanese soldiers were scattered across China, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. Many stragglers were captured or went home, while hundreds went into hiding rather than surrender or commit suicide. Many died of starvation or sickness. A few survivors refused to believe the dropped leaflets and radio announcements saying the war had been lost.

Lieutenant Onoda, an intelligence officer trained in guerrilla tactics, and three enlisted men with him found leaflets proclaiming the war’s end, but believed they were enemy propaganda tricks.
More at that top link.

Also at Althouse, who embeds a poll on what this story means (and the New York Times' spin on it). I commented:
Take honor and duty along with some batshit crazy Japanese kamikaze ideology, and you get crazy old coots like Onoda. Japan loved it because they lost the freakin' war and this dude held out for 29 years while everyone else was porking their geishas and sucking down too much sake! For the fatherland!
And don't miss the comments at the post.

Plus, great photos at London's Daily Mail, "Japanese soldier who refused to surrender after WWII and spent 29 years in the jungle has died aged 91."