History of Survivor Hiroo Onoda The Last Samurai Part 3

About the last of the Japanese samurai Hiroo Onoda, biography and history of his survival.



On Oct. 19, 1972, Onoda and Kozuka went on a dangerous "beacon raid." They set fire to the islanders' newly cut rice as a guerrilla tactic in order to prove to Japanese intelligence they were still alive and awaiting fresh instructions. That night they were pinned down in a rice field by gunfire. Onoda dived for cover and heard his comrade say, "It's my chest. It's no use!" Kozuka's eyes went white, blood and foam gushed from his mouth, and he dropped forward, dead. Picking up Kozuka's rifle--a soldier's reaction--Onoda ran through the forest screaming. "I'll get them for this! I'll kill them all! Kill them! Kill them! Kill them!" He was now utterly alone.

Forty-five days later he returned to the scene and found a large tombstone with incense and flowers, along with a note in his brother Tadao's handwriting. Onoda silently prayed for revenge as a Japanese flag, implanted there by the search party, flapped in the breeze.

In 1973, yet another search party tried unsuccessfully to bring him back. After they had left, Onoda found a poem:

Not even an echo

Responds to my call in the

Summery mountains.

It had been written by his aged father, who was among the search party.

On Feb. 20, 1974, Onoda discovered a mosquito net beside a river. He crept up and caught a young Japanese man, who turned and saluted him. The man's name was Norio Suzuki, a young university dropout who had dedicated himself to travel and three pursuits: to find 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman. His first ambition was achieved after only four days of searching.

Suzuki explained that the war was over and asked Onoda to return with him to Japan. Onoda refused, saying he would not give in until he received official orders from his immediate superior, Major Taniguchi, rescinding all previous commands. Suzuki offered to return with those orders. Onoda allowed several photographs to be taken for the proof Suzuki said he would need before anyone would believe him. In one photo, Onoda allowed Suzuki to hold his gun. They prepared a meal, and Onoda was dumbfounded when he saw Suzuki pluck leaves off the trees for flavoring. In 30 years he had never seen natives cooking and wondered how this visitor could have picked up that knowledge in four days. His suspicions aroused, he waited to eat until his companion had taken several bites.

On Mar. 7, 1974, Onoda went to a prearranged hiding place and discovered a message from Suzuki saying Maj. Yoshima Taniguchi, Onoda's superior officer, was on his way to personally deliver new orders. Even at this moment Onoda believed that his orders would be a renewal of the original ones or an assignment against the Americans. He also saw, for the first time since he left Japan, his own face. Suzuki had left a copy of two of the photographs. Onoda was struck by his resemblance to his uncles.

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