He dragged the body of Kozuka, with tears streaming down his face, and the clouds cried with him. The earth created a path of blood, painting the grass and the leaves red. The forest embraced their tears and filled the atmosphere with a promise of new life. But Hiroo Onada knew better, his life now belonged in the hills of Philippines. He dropped the body, his arms betraying his will. The clouds continued to cry even when he stopped, the trees swayed in sorrow and the wind embraced his tear stained face, hidden under the shade of a tree.
He was all alone now. His hand lingered in his pocket, freeing the suffocating leaflet. The paper was worn out; it had been with him for 27 years now. It was warm and rough against his finger. He read what it stated, “The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!” The paper was whispering like the devil’s whisper in his ears. He could stare at the paper, pleasing his eyes as if he was looking at the love of his life, imagining that WWII was over.
But the truth he convinced himself was that the leaflet was a lie. It was made to fool him. As he clearly remembered the promise, he was made in 1944, “Whatever happens, we’ll come back for you.”
He recited his orders out loud to dismiss the war in his thoughts, under no circumstances was he to surrender or take his own life. The world outside this forest frightened him. He didn’t want to surrender, he pulled out the dagger gifted by his mother, if ever he was captured, and he could use it to stab himself.
And he will abide by that, even if it meant using the fancy label of “duty,” to hide his fear, to hide himself forever here.
Hiroo Onada, second lieutenant was a man for whom the World War II lasted for 30 years after it was over. He was assigned to Lubang Island, Philippines, where the soldiers already present there didn’t let him fulfil the orders. It led to the Island becoming an easy prey for United States and Philippine Commonwealth forces. With only 3 soldiers left apart from him he fled to the hills with them.
They used guerrilla techniques and had enough ammunition to fight whoever tried to capture them.
Yuichi Akatsu, surrended 6 months after, Shamida died, and so did Kozuka.
Japan surrendered in 1945 but Onada did not, till 30 years.
February 20, 1974, Norio Suzuki, who was taking the tour of the world, looking for “Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the, in that order Abominable Snowman”
Suzuki came across Onoda after four days. Onoda and Suzuki became friends, but Onoda still refused to surrender, as he was waiting for the orders from a superior officer.
Suzuki with the proof that he met Onada in form of pictures went back to Japan and the Japanese government searched for Onoda’s commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, who had since become a bookseller. He immediately rushed to Lubang on March 9, 1974, and issued the following orders:
- In accordance with the Imperial command, the Fourteenth Area Army has ceased all combat activity.
- In accordance with military Headquarters Command No. A-2003, the Special Squadron of Staff’s Headquarters is relieved of all military duties.
- Units and individuals under the command of Special Squadron are to cease military activities and operations immediately and place themselves under the command of the nearest superior officer. When no officer can be found, they are to communicate with the American or Philippine forces and follow their directives.
— Hiroo Onoda, Onoda 1999 pp. 13–14
The president Ferdinand Marcos, released him of all the charges as Onado was unaware that the war was over. He later wrote his life down and didn’t prefer the attention or money he got, he donated it all, nor did he liked the way Japan had changed. He settled down in Brazil later in life, received awards and revisited the hills of Lubang, haunted by the spirit of his past.