On Lubang Island in the Philippines, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda is ready to perform his final act of WWII in the service of the Imperial Japanese Army. Ceremonially handing over his sword, Onoda surrenders to Philippine Air Force commander Major General Jose Rancudo. But while the act of a soldier surrendering may not in itself seem unusual, the date is March 11, 1974 – nearly 30 years after the Second World War ended.
We’ll return to why this Japanese soldier surrendered three decades late, but first let’s get to know the man a little better. Hiroo Onoda entered the world in March 1922 in a village called Kamekawa, which is located in the Kaiso district of Wakayama Prefecture. Wakayama, in turn, is on Honshu – the largest of the Japanese islands.
Onoda’s parents, Tanejiro and Tamae, had seven kids in all. And Onoda was apparently not the easiest of children – a fact that the man himself later recognized. Indeed, as an adult, quoted by The Daily Telegraph, Onoda said, “I was always defiant and stubborn in everything I did. I was born like that.”