19 March, marks the birthday of Hiroo Onoda in 1922. Hiroo was a Japanese infantry officer who became the most famous of the ‘Holdouts’.
Born into an ancient Samurai warrior class family, Hiroo’s father was a Sergeant who was killed in action in China. Hiroo enlisted when he was 18 and was trained in the Intelligence.
Hiroo was dispatched to the Philippines with orders not to surrender. Shortly after his arrival, the islands were overrun by American forces and Hiroo ordered his men into the hills. Eventually their numbers were reduced to only Hiroo and three others, but they continued to carry out guerrilla raids and on more than one occasion engaged in shootouts with local police.
In October of 1945, both Allied forces and former Japanese combatants attempted to inform the holdouts that hostilities had come to a close a month prior, but Hiroo and his men were convinced it was an enemy trick and that Japan had not capitulated.
Over the next several years, one of Hiroo’s men surrendered and in the 1950’s and two others were shot in gun battles with the locals. Hiroo would remain on his own until he was discovered by a Japanese student. The two became friendly and he tried to convince Hiroo to surrender. Hiroo agreed to lay down his arms if expressly ordered to do so by his commanding officer. On 9 March, 1974, his former commander, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, who was now employed as a bookseller, formerly relieved him of his duties and Hiroo turned over his sword and rifle to local authorities.
After the war he wrote the story of his protracted battle, titled: ‘No Surrender, my thirty year war’, and opened a nature school that served as an education camp for Japanese youth whom he feared were losing traditional values. He died in Tokyo in 2014.