Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who refused to surrender and quit his World War II fight until the 1970s – decades after peace was declared – died in Tokyo at the age of 91.
Mr. Onoda was dispatched to Lubang, an island in the western Philippines, during the war years, to spy on American forces, CNN reported. He stayed on the island – mostly hidden and foraging in the jungle — after the war ended, until 1974, refusing to quit the fight for his army and acknowledge that the Japanese imperial army had truly surrendered.
His former commanding officer actually traveled to the island to tell him he was no longer needed for the military conflict, given the Japanese surrendered to Allied forces in 1944. Finally, convinced, Mr. Onoda left the island and headed back to Japan, where he was given a hero’s welcome and – while still wearing his beat-up uniform – turned in his sword, CNN reported.
Not all some him a hero, however.
Members of the Philippines government, meanwhile, came forward and accused Mr. Onoda of participating in several killings during his mostly hidden stay on the island, and pushed for retribution. The government finally pardoned him – but in 1996, family members of those he was accused of killing demanded he provide compensation.
In 1984, Mr. Onoda set up a survival training camp to teach youth some of the techniques he honed while hiding in the forested parts of the island for three decades.