After the atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan announced its surrender on August 15, 1945, bringing World War II to an end for most.
Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was deployed to Lubang Island in the Philippines in December 1944. He was 22 years old. His orders as an intelligence officer were to disrupt and sabotage the enemy’s plans and never to surrender or take his own life.
In February of 1945, Allied forces arrived on the island. It wasn’t long before Onoda and three others were the only Japanese on the island who had not surrendered or died. The four men slipped into the hills and planned to keep fighting as guerilla soldiers.
They lived on bananas, coconut milk, and stolen cattle while occasionally engaging in shootouts with the local police.
In late 1945, the men began to see leaflets that had been dropped from airplanes. The leaflets announced that the war was over and ordered Japanese soldiers to surrender. They thought about it, decided it was a trick, and kept on fighting.
In 1950, one of the men surrendered. Another was killed in 1954 by a search party. Private First Class Kinsichi Kozuka was killed by police in 1972 while he and Onoda were destroying rice stores at a local farm.
This left Onoda completely alone and made him a legend on Lubang.
The story of Onoda was heard by a young adventurer named Norio Suzuki. He decided to find “Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order.”
The two men met in the Lubang jungle on February 20, 1974. Somehow, they became friends.
Suzuki told Onoda that the people of Japan were worried about him. Onoda was resolute that he would never surrender until ordered by a superior officer.
Suzuki went back to Japan and, with the government’s help, found Onoda’s commanding officer. Major Yoshimi Taniguchi was now an elderly man working in a bookstore, but he flew to Lubang and relieved Onoda of his duties on March 9, 1974, almost 29 years after the war’s end.
Three days later, Onoda surrendered his sword to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. He was awarded a pardon for his actions since the war, including his part in killing nearly 30 people, Mashable reported.
On his return to Japan, he was treated as a hero. He chose to move to Brazil and become a cattle rancher. After ten years, he returned to Japan and set up schools to teach wilderness survival to children.
Odona died at the age of 91 in 2014.
Suzuki found a panda in the wild after finding Odona. He was killed in an avalanche while hunting for the Abominable Snowman.