History of Survivor Hiroo Onoda The Last Samurai Part 4

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

THE GREAT SURVIVORS

HIROO ONODA: THE LAST OF THE SAMURAI

On the evening of Mar. 9, 1974, as cautiously as ever, Onoda crept toward the tent by the river--half expecting an ambush. Suzuki saw him and shouted for Major Taniguchi, who appeared from the tent. Onoda recognized the major and snapped to attention. He saluted and said, "Lieutenant Onoda, Sir, reporting for orders."

Taniguchi said, "Good for you," then patted him on the back and handed him a pack of cigarettes "from the Ministry of Health and Welfare."

Taniguchi then proceeded to read his orders. In part they said: "The Fourteenth Area Army has ceased all combat activity. . . . Units and individuals under command of Special Squadron are to cease military activities and operations immediately. . . . "The stunned Onoda tried to understand the full implications--the wasted years, the unnecessary deaths. Then he slowly pulled back the rifle bolt and unloaded the bullets. His 30 years of guerrilla fighting were over.

That night Onoda couldn't sleep and talked till dawn. He had an astounding memory for detail. Perhaps the most staggering fact of all was that he had kept a calendar, using nothing but the moon--and he was only six days behind the real calendar.

The following evening, Mar. 10, 1974, he formally surrendered at the Lubang Radar Base to Maj. Gen. J. L. Rancudo of the Philippine Air Force. He ceremoniously presented his sword to the major general. As a mark of respect, it was immediately returned to the surprised Onoda. The following day the ceremony was repeated for the world's press when Pres. Ferdinand Marcos again returned Onoda's sword to him. He also pardoned Onoda for his crimes on Lubang, much to the disgust of the islanders Onoda had raided and shot at for the last 30 years.

Onoda was mobbed when he returned to Japan; 4,000 people swarmed into the airport to welcome him home. Onoda struck a responsive chord in his countrymen. They had watched the proceedings in the Philippines on TV and were impressed by the dignified old warrior. He had done his duty with true samurai spirit, fighting against hopeless odds until relieved by a superior. To modern, materialistic Japan, Onoda embodied the old, prewar ideals of duty and tradition.

But what had Onoda fought for? Back on Lubang, he left two close comrades and at least 30 Filipinos in their graves. They were casualties of a long-forgotten war because of one man's stubborn adherence to the samurai ways.

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