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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

WWII Ended In 1974

He acted as if WWII was still going on in 1974.

His name is Hiroo Onoda and for him WWII ended not in 1945 but 1974, yes 1974. I once met a Swede who captured a colleague of Onoda.

However, Mr. Onoda was not the very last Japanese holdout. Teruo Nakamura gave up a few months after Onoda. But we are still talking about 1974. Then there are the reports from 1980 about one Fumio Nakahara...

But, at any rate, I reckon that today, in 2012, there is no living equal to Hiroo Onoda. His attitude was fanatical, to put it mildly. Nevertheless I am in awe about his long war, his survival skills and can recommend his autobiography. My favourite quote from it: "After 19 days at a Tokyo hospital, where over 200 tests were performed on me, it turned out that both my physical and mental health was far better than with Japanese of my age living in modern societies with dense population."

One of the reasons for my interest in Japanese holdouts is that there were some similar soldiers in the Baltic countries. I also had a personal encounter in the 1980s with a Swedish war veteran in Östersund (province of Jämtland in Sweden) who in 1948, as an officer of the US Navy, captured a colleague of Mr. Onoda. I mention the episode in Swedes at War and will return to it with more details in a future book.

Incidentally, the other day I found out that there is an online Japanese review of Swedes at War. From computer translations I gather it ends with a positive recommendation. Japanese-speaking readers of this post are most welcome to provide a proper quote...

Since I wrote this post in 2012 Hiroo Onoda has passed away, in early 2014. I have replaced the video that I linked to in 2012, as it was taken down on Youtube. The new video is, I think, better than the previous one.

1 comment:

  1. Philippines is composed of 7,100 island. Yes, 7,100 island and could be more during low tides. A lot of these small islands are still uninhibited and some are still undeveloped. If you’re holdouts on these islands, it’s easy to hide here or be lost in the jungle. And you won’t have any problem with regards to foods since fruit trees are such in abundance and there’s still some wild animals to sustain you. So, I wasn’t surprised that Hiroo Onoda was able to survive after all those years. I believe there’s more “Hiroo Onoda” out there before but maybe they settled down with the local aborigines and passed away quietly. Others could have gone too due to old age and disease.

    This was a big news back then and it put the small island in the international spotlight. Now, Lubang is one of the tourist spot in the Philippines and they even offer an activity known as “ Onada Trail” which you could experience and see where Hiroo Onada used to hide and hunt. It’s a 3 hrs walk inside the jungle.

    I wasn’t surprised too when kin of those killed by Onada were demanding compensation. A lot of those older Filipinos especially those who had a first-hand experience of the brutal Japanese occupation here in the Philippines are still angry and unforgiving. The great grandfather of my distant cousin was even killed by these Japanese soldiers. He was herded and killed in a warehouse together with other men who were not guerrillas. I believe that they may have some good and kind Japanese soldiers too as what I have read from some accounts of those who survived. But in my personal conversations to those who had experienced with these soldiers, it’s a different matter.

    With the advent of electronic toys and gadgets made in Japan, the Filipino younger generations tend to forget now what had happened. Thought it is best to forgive the past, we must not forget it especially for the memories of those who perished. Japan despite its brutal past here is now a great friend of the Philippines. So I hope what happened in the past will never again happen here or around the world again...