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The last soldier of World War II. Japanese 30 years fought against all

1974 year. The ABBA group wins the Eurovision contest, Germany becomes the world champion in football, and Richard Nixon resigns after the Watergate scandal. In the same year, almost 30 years after the end of World War II, her last soldier, the legendary Japanese Hiroo Onoda, surrenders. About how he survived all this time, read in our today’s material.


  • “I considered Japan an invulnerable country of the gods”
  • Bad searches
  • Ants, bees, snakes
  • The detachment did not notice the loss of the fighter
  • “I was taught that a war can last hundreds of years”

“I considered Japan an invulnerable country of the gods”

Hiroo was called up for military service when he turned 20. A few years later his drill as commander of a special squadron was sent to the Philippines. There, on the island of Lubang, Onoda was to lead a partisan movement against the invasion of American troops and their allies.

Before sending the young Japanese commander received an order of farewell from his general. He said that the affairs at the front for the Land of the Rising Sun are deplorable, but the soldiers of the emperor must make every effort to fulfill their duty, and then everything will turn out. The key order sounded like this: “You are categorically forbidden to commit suicide. Perhaps it will be three years, maybe five years, but whatever happens, we will definitely come back for you. As long as you have at least one soldier left, you are the commander. You may need to eat coconuts. Eat them! But forget about suicide! Whatever happens, we’ll come back for you. ” “I will fight until this day comes, ” the impressed young man replied.

This was said at the very end of 1944, until Japan surrendered less than 10 months. Much later, Hiroo Onoda recalled that, like most of his compatriots, he considered his homeland an invulnerable land of gods. Whatever the threat to her, he could not think that the great Japan could lose in the war.

Lubang Island. Photo: Flickr

In Lubanga, the officer survived the shelling by the American army and several times almost fell into captivity. However, all this was just a suggestion to the protracted adventure that began for the soldier after the war.

September 2, 1945, Japan signed an act of surrender. By this time, the fighting of the Americans on the island almost ceased, but Hiroo was confident that the enemy controls Lubanga. In the submission of Onoda remained three soldiers – Akatsu, Kodzuk and Simado. At the end of the year, the Boeing flew over the mountain where they were hiding. He dropped the leaflets, which referred to the surrender of General Yamashita.

The text of the leaflet was strange. Firstly, all surrendered for some reason promised a kind of “hygienic syrup.” Secondly, it was a “direct imperial order,” which had never been used before. Third, there were enough spelling mistakes. In general, Hiroo and his comrades considered that they had a “linden” before them, designed to misinform the brave warriors of the emperor. On the morning of January 1, 1946, they bowed to the rising sun and vowed to fight until victory.

Japanese delegation aboard the battleship “Missouri” before signing the act of surrender. Photo: Naval Historical Center

Bad searches

In the spring, the island was again bombarded with leaflets about the end of the war. Sometimes voices in Japanese, but that they shouted, it was impossible to disassemble. Soon Onoda began to find notes in which on behalf of the surrendered Japanese were called to leave the woods – no one was looking for a soldier.

“We could not believe that the war was actually over.” We thought that it was just an enemy that made the captives go to such tricks. Every time we heard the voices of those looking for us, we moved to a new place, “ Hiroo recalled later.

Slowly, four soldiers began to somehow adjust the way of life. Because staying in one place, in their opinion, was dangerous, they were constantly moving around the island. In the first year I had to sleep in a small camp tent. But she did not save in the rainy season, which lasted from July to October in Lubanga. The guys got drenched to the bone, their skin grew pale and wrinkled, and sometimes it wanted to scream from the cold.

Each had a rifle, two hand grenades and two pistols. Plus under two thousand cartridges and a semi-annual reserve of rice. Food was stretched as best they could. Sometimes the forces were so small that it was necessary to move from place to place only through will. The Filipinos were afraid, because they knew – they went over to the US side.

– As soon as we noticed the local, we hid. If they noticed us, we shot to scare them off, and then transferred our camp as soon as possible to a new place, because they knew that they would report us .

Leaflet with information on surrender

Gradually, the fugitives formed a chain of more or less permanent parking, each of which gave shelter for 3-5 days. To go through the stops full circle, it took from one to two months. Everything depended on how much food reserves nearby could be found from local peasants. If the situation seemed safe, and the food could be stolen unnoticed by the Filipinos, they could sit in one place for a week.

Gradually the newly emerged islanders got used to and stopped lacking food. On Lubanga there were many wild boars, chickens and iguanas. But the main bet was made by the soldiers of Onoda on cows bred by local residents. The cow was killed usually once or twice a year during the rainy season. The Japanese were waiting for a thunderstorm day, they were taking one of the animals away from the herd and, after waiting for rumblings, shot. For one cow – no more than one cartridge, because bullets were valued for weight of gold, replenish their stock was almost impossible.

Meat was dried and smoked. From one cow it turned out about 250 slices of smoked meat, which was enough for almost half a year.

– Our main meal was bananas. We cut the bunches, cut the bananas together with the rind on the rings a little less than a centimeter thick and thoroughly washed in water. Thus, green fruits lost most of the bitterness. Then we cooked bananas and dried meat in coconut milk. Ready they resembled digested sweet potatoes. Not very tasty, but we ate mostly them.

However, despite the abundance of food, Hiroo sharply limited rations. He feared that, having full access to food, the soldiers would become fat, stop suppressing the basic instincts, lose their fighting spirit and could not continue the war. Oh yes, Onoda intended to study the island in more detail, then go on the offensive and take Lubanga under control. Yes, the four of us.

Ants, bees, snakes

A lot of troubles brought clothes, more precisely, the lack of spare uniforms. During the years of partisanship, the uniform worn and torn. To repair it, a piece of wire mesh was used, which was used as a needle, as well as plant fibers used instead of threads.

After 30 years, Hiroo’s clothes were a Frankenstein monster, made of different materials. In front of the tunic was made from the lining of the working overalls of local residents, the sleeves – from pants, as shoes were used straw sandals.

Things Hiroo Onoda. Photo: Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho / Getty Images

There were no drugs, so I had to strictly monitor my health. Onoda regularly measured the pulse, followed the weight of the wrist through the girth of the wrist, and also studied the excrement in the most thorough way.

“If we were in a very hot place, our urine would become too yellow, and if we were overtired, it would acquire a reddish shade.” It was a signal to relax a little.

Instead of toilet paper, palm leaves were used, tree huts were built from tree branches, teeth were cleaned with fibers from the same palm leaves, washed every day – the water was abundant. The rifles were watched as much as behind them. After 30 years, the weapon of Hiroo was as good as new!

Over time, rifles soaked in palm oil, which they were cleaned, that it began to attract rats. I had to hang my arms on the trees before going to bed so that the rodents could not get to it. But most of all worried about ants. On the island there were a huge number, and even a variety of species. Some loved to carry in their small paws dirt, which was clogged with a muzzle of rifles. Others had something like a sting, with which they were poking fun at unprotected areas of the body. Once such an ant stung Onod in the ear – it swelled, and the Japanese did not hear anything for a week until the swelling was asleep.

Sometimes in the forest one could meet a swarm of wild bees. Roy is not what you saw in the village in the apiary. The present Philippine bee swarm is stretched by a dense sledgehammer for a hundred meters long. As soon as the soldiers saw such an attack, they immediately fell to the ground, covered their heads with clothes and lay motionless for several hours. Only move, and they will attack you. Snakes? There were snakes, and thick with a leg. Or here are the centipedes, from the bite of which the entire body swells, and the wound heals for years.

The climate did not let to relax. Late in the spring, the air temperature rose to 40 degrees, when you only can and then what will flow out. Go through fifty steps to collect firewood? No, it’s better to die! June is a month of hurricane winds, then, as already mentioned, a long rainy season sets in. It was comfortable only from October to April, when the temperature did not rise above 30 degrees.

Despite all the adversities, for nearly 30 years, Hiroo has never seriously become ill. Only twice he caught a cold, well, and the bites of insects are not considered.

The detachment did not notice the loss of the fighter

At the end of 1949, misfortune happened. Akatsu, the youngest soldier, escaped. The remaining trio was sure that the deserter would lead an “enemy”. Well, that’s what happened. After six months of wanderings, Akatsu went to the Filipinos, where he made sure – the war and the truth is over! He wrote a note, copies of which were dropped from the plane. The Japanese government believed that Onoda had long ago died, but here such news! Above the island flew the plane, through the loudspeaker of the fighter in the purest Japanese called to go out to people and stop fooling.

But Hiroo still did not believe in the veracity of these reports. On the contrary, he only pricked up his ears and worried that gas would be used against his team. For the next few years, they always carried towels attached to a jar of water. In the event of a gas attack, it was necessary to wet them and keep them from the face.

After the escape of Akatsu, the Japanese government initiated the creation of a special commission, which was supposed to be engaged in the search for the group of Onoda. Everything was complicated by the fact that the Philippines was an independent state, which did not want Japanese people to shuffle around on their territory.

Ten years after the end of the war, the detachment of Hiroo began to find out more along the way fragments of papers, shabby clothes, food leftovers. Instead of warships, huge tourist liners began to walk past the island, and there were too many entertaining programs in the newspaper found. The cunning Americans are giving it! What can not they do to confuse the imperial soldiers!

In 1953, the fishermen, who attacked the team of Onoda, wounded Simado in the leg. A few months later, the Japanese came across a detachment of the Philippine army that had been trained. There was a shootout, during which Simado was shot in the head. Shortly before that, he found a new portion of the leaflets, this time with photographs of the families of lost soldiers. There was also a 10-year-old daughter of a soldier who was not yet born when he went to the front.

After the incident, the government of the Philippines allowed Japan to conduct a search operation on the island. In the course went again airplanes with loudspeakers, leaflets, newspapers, relatives of the “losers”. But Hiroo could not change anything. In each new search “action” he saw the machinations of cunning Americans and only became more and more convinced – the war continues. In 1959, the commander and his partner were declared dead again.

“I was taught that a war can last hundreds of years”

But they survived. Moreover, they were preparing for an “imminent” landing of Japanese troops. The best place to land was the southern coast. Onoda intended to clean it well and from time to time shoot it on the side to make the islanders stay away. The man feared that if he did not meet the landing force, he would receive a fair reprimand, so he was always ready, looked after the southern coast, kept tactical information in mind and at any time could lead secret people to a strategically important place – the airport.

– I sincerely believed that Japan will not give up, while there remains at least one living Japanese. In the end, this is what we, the Japanese, vowed to each other. We vowed that we will resist the American devils until all of us die. If necessary, women and children will fight with bamboo sticks, trying to kill as many enemies as possible … I was taught that the war could last hundreds of years and I received my orders directly from the lieutenant general who assured me that sooner or later the Japanese army would return Behind me.

In the fall of 1972, during a skirmish with the Philippine police, Kodzuk was killed. Hiroo was left alone. And in a year and a half it was over. Onod was stumbled upon by a Japanese student Norio Suzuki. He talked for a long time with the last soldier of World War II and somehow sowed a grain of doubt in him. Hiroo said that he would surrender only if he received an appropriate order from his immediate commander. Well, he was lucky, because the commander survived during the war and worked as a bookseller in peacetime. He was found, dressed up in military uniform and issued an order in the name of the emperor. Onoda surrendered in the presence of the first persons of the Philippines.

Norio Suzuki and Hiroo Onoda
Norio Suzuki and Hiroo Onoda

What’s next? The authorities of the Philippines wanted to shoot a 52-year-old lieutenant, through the fault of which over the past 30 years, more than a hundred people died. However, Hiroo was pardoned, and he was able to leave for Japan. Having lived most of his life in the jungle, Onoda has never been able to settle in the modern country of skyscrapers and high-speed trains. Despite the fact that at home he was honored as a hero, the fighter moved to Brazil, where he married and engaged in cattle breeding.

Ten years later he returned to Japan, organized summer camps for schoolchildren, trying to give them survival skills. But still the elderly Japanese did not feel right in his place. In the mid-1990s, Onoda arrived on the island, where he spent 30 years to stay there forever. But also therefrom had to leave – the local did not forgive him guerrilla war. The rest of life the rebellious soul of Hiroo rushed between Japan and Brazil until in 2014 at the age of 91 the “last samurai” died in Tokyo.

– Thirty years! Because of the propaganda seized in my head, I simply took and threw out of my life thirty years! Years that I could spend on family, school, work. I am honored as a hero whom I am not. For me, there is no place in the new world. Do I regret it? And what do you think?

Hiroo Onoda donates weapons to the President of the Philippines
Photo: The New York Times
Photo: The New York Times
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