Japanese history and literature are full of heroes who have remained loyal to a cause, even if it is lost or hopeless. Hiroo Onoda was also one of these soldiers who remained loyal to a lost cause, following his orders. Onoda was an Imperial Japanese Army intelligence officer who fought in Philippines Campaign, World War II. Refusing to believe that World War II was over, he did not surrender in 1945, and remained at his jungle post on the island of Lubang in the Philippines for 29 years, waiting for new orders from their commander Major Yoshimi Taniguchi. Onoda was born on March 19, 1922, in Kamekawa Village, Kaiso District, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. When he was 17 years old, he went to work for the Tajima Yoko trading company in Wuhan, China. When he was 20, he was called up to join the army and enlisted in the Imperial Japanese Army. After passing his physical test, Onoda quit his job and returned to his home in Wakayama, Japan in August of 1942 to get into top physical condition. In the Japanese army, Onoda was trained as an officer and was then chosen to be trained at Nakano School, an Imperial Army intelligence school. There, he trained as an intelligence officer in the commando class "Futamata," and was taught how to gather intelligence and how to conduct guerrilla warfare. Two years after his training, he was finally called to serve his country. On December 17, 1944, Lt. Hiroo Onoda left for the Philippines to join the Sugi Brigade (the Eighth Division from Hirosaki). Here, Onoda was given orders by Major Yoshimi Taniguchi and Major Takahashi to lead the Lubang Garrison in guerrilla warfare. As he and his comrades were getting ready to leave on their separate missions, the division commander ordered: 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 him. 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. (Hiroo Onoda, “No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War” 44) These words may seem to others as mere words of encouragement, but Onoda took these words more literally and seriously as an order. On Lubang, Onoda was supposed to blow up the pier at the harbor and destroy the Lubang airfield. Unfortunately, the garrison commanders decided not to help Onoda on his mission and soon the island was overrun by the Allies. The remaining Japanese soldiers, Onoda included, retreated into the inner regions of the island and split up into groups. As these groups got smaller after several attacks, the remaining soldiers split into cells of three and four people. There were four people in Onoda's cell: Corporal Shoichi Shimada (age 30), Private Kinshichi Kozuka (age 24), Private Yuichi Akatsu (age 22), and Lt. Hiroo Onoda (now age 23). They lived very close together, with very limited supplies, but they supplemented it with coconuts and bananas. They also killed a civilian's cow for food every once in a while. The cells would save up their energy and use guerrilla tactics to fight in skirmishes. One day, when another cell had killed a cow, they found a leaflet left behind by the islanders which read: "The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!" (Onoda, “No Surrender” 75). Onoda and his comrades, however, did not believe the leaflet and decided that it was a clever plan by the Allied propagandists. Again, the outside world tried to contact the survivors living on the island by dropping leaflets out of a Boeing B-17 near the end of 1945. Printed on these leaflets was the surrender order from General Yamashita of the Fourteenth Area Army. However, Onoda and the others still did not believe that the war was over and scrutinized every letter and every word on the paper, trying to find anything suspicious sentences to confirm their beliefs. The outside world...
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