A little over 30 years ago, in 1974, Lt. Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army surrendered on Lubang Island in the Philippines.
February 1946 – Post WWII island campaign
In February 1946 on 74 square mile Lubang Island, 70 miles southwest of Manila Bay a seven week campaign to clear the island was begun by the Filipino 341st and American 86th Division.
February 22, 1946 – Lubang island Allied casualties in a post WWII battle
Intense fighting developed on February 22, 1946 when troops encountered 30 Japanese. Eight Allied troops were killed, including 2 Filipinos. The Filipino and Americans sent for an additional 20,000 rounds of small arm ammunition, but not future battles occurred of this magnitude. In early April, 41 members of the Japanese garrison on Lubang island came out of the jungle, unaware that the war had ended….
March 5, 1974 – Lubang Island – 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda Born in the town of Kainan, Japan in 1922 and when he turned seventeen, he went to work for a trading company in China. In May of 1942, Onoda was drafted into the Japanese Army. Unlike most soldiers, he attended a school that trained men for guerilla warfare. On December 26, 1944 (age 23), Hiroo Onoda was sent to the small tropical island of Lubang Island, which is approximately seventy-five miles southwest of Manila in the Philippines. Shortly after Americans landed, all but four of the Japanese soldiers had either died or surrendered. Hiroo Onda was also with three other holdouts, who had different fates:
Private First Class Yuichi Akatsu – (age 22 in 1944) Left the group in September 1949. He managed to live six months on his own before surrendering to the Philippine Army. In 1950, the remaining three found a note left by Akatsu stating that he had been greeted by friendly troops. He even led a group of soldiers into the mountains in search of the remaining men. Onoda and his men quickly concluded that Akatsu was now working for the enemy.
Corporal Shoichi Shimada – (age 30 in 1944) In June of 1953 was shot in the leg during a shootout with some fishermen. Onoda nursed him back to health, but on May 7, 1954, Shimada was killed instantly from a shot fired by another search party sent in to find the men.
Private Kinshichi Kozuka – (age 24 in 1944) Killed by two shots fired by local police on October 19, 1972 when Kozuka and Onoda burned rice that had been collected by farmers, as part of their guerilla activities.
Circumstances of His Surrender
Despite the efforts of the Philippine Army, letters and newspapers left for them, radio broadcasts, and even a plea from Onoda’s brother they did not believe the war was over. On February 20, 1974, Onoda encountered a young Japanese university dropout named Norio Suzuki who was traveling the world and told his friends that he was “going to look for Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order.” The two became friends, but Onoda said that he was waiting for orders from one of his commanders. On March 9, 1974, Onoda went to an agreed upon place and found a note that had been left by Suzuki. Suzuki had brought along Onoda’s one-time superior commander, Major Taniguchi, who delivered the oral orders for Onoda to surrender. Intelligence Officer 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda emerged from the jungle of Lubang Island with his .25 caliber rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades. He surrendered 29 years after Japan’s formal surrender, and 15 years after being declared legally dead in Japan. When he accepted that the war was over, he wept openly.
He returned to Japan to receive a hero’s welcome. He was a media sensation and was hounded by the curious public everywhere he went. He was unable to adapt to modern life but wrote his memories of survival in a book, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. After publication, he moved to Brazil to raise cattle. He revisited Lubang island in 1996, and still alive today. He then married a Japanese woman and moved back to Japan to run a nature camp for kids.
Actually, the last confirmed surrender was by Captain Fumio Nakahira, who held out until April 1980 near Mt. Halcon in Mindoro Island.