History of Survivor Hiroo Onoda The Last Samurai Part 1
About the last of the Japanese samurai Hiroo Onoda, biography and history of his survival.
THE GREAT SURVIVORS
HIROO ONODA: THE LAST OF THE SAMURAI
No surrender! These words were drilled into young Hiroo Onoda's head by parents, peers, and superior officer. Onoda learned his lesson well. As a Japanese army lieutenant, he continued to fight W.W. II until 1974. Like a samurai of old, Onoda suffered through 30 grueling years carrying out his final orders--to gather intelligence and direct guerrilla warfare on the tiny Philippine island of Lubang.
Onoda had been sent to Lubang to lead attacks against enemy airfields. According to Onoda's firsthand account in No Surrender--My Thirty-Year War, his exact orders, which he obeyed to the letter for the next 30 years were: "You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we'll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead. You may have to live on coconuts. If that's the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you to give up your life voluntarily."
When he arrived, he found the men disheartened. His lack of any real authority earned him the nickname Noda Shoyu, after a brand of soy sauce, meaning he was seasoning and nothing more. On Feb. 28, 1945, American troops attacked; after a four-day battle, the Japanese troops were decimated. The dazed survivors split up into small cells for safety. Onoda found himself with Pvt. Kinshichi Kozuka and Cpl. Shoichi Shimada.
Unknown to the men on the island, the Japanese forces surrendered on Aug. 14, 1945.
All over the island, small pockets of resistance remained. In February, 1946, Onoda's group was joined by Pvt. Yuichi Akatsu, who clung to the group against Onoda's wishes in hopes of obtaining more food. In March, 41 Japanese soldiers surrendered. Onoda and his three comrades were the only Japanese resistance left on the island. They vowed to keep on fighting. Shimada, 31, the only married man, was the best shot of the four and kept the others' spirits up with his cheerful conversation. Akatsu, whom Onoda didn't trust, was 23. Kozuka, a quiet, introspective soldier, was 25. Onoda, the leader, was 24.
In September, 1949, Akatsu deserted. The following July, Onoda found a note from him saying, "When I surrendered [six months later] the Philippine troops greeted me as a friend." At this moment Onoda told the two remaining men his orders. They agreed that they must continue fighting.
In February, 1952, aircraft leafleted the island explaining that the war had ended. They also dropped photographs and letters from Japanese relatives and friends. One photo showed Shimada's wife with two children, the girl presumably the child his wife was carrying when he left for war, but he doubted its authenticity.
In March, 1952, a reporter who failed to contact them left behind a newspaper--the first they had seen in seven years--with a story circled for their attention. It described "the punitive mission against Japanese soldiers on Lubang." Onoda interpreted this as a clear meaning that the war continued.
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