Former WWII soldier visits his Philippine hideout


He spent decades in the jungle after refusing to surrender

May 26, 1996
Web posted at: 2:20 p.m. EDT (1820 GMT)

LUBANG, Philippines -- When World War II ended in 1945, a Japanese soldier stationed on the tiny Philippine island of Lubang refused to accept word of his nation's surrender. For nearly three decades he remained there, hiding in the jungle.


It has been more than 20 years since Hiroo Onoda, one of the most famous Japanese men in Philippine history, came out of hiding. Last week, he revisited the island that was his home for so many years.

The Japanese military sent Lt. Onoda to Lubang in 1944 with orders to spy on U.S. forces. When more U.S. troops arrived at the end of the war, Onoda defiantly decided to stay, refusing to believe Japan really had given up. For about 30 years, he survived on food he gathered from the jungle or stole from farmers.

Onoda came out of hiding on March 10, 1975, after his former commanding officer traveled to Lubang to meet with him. Onoda gave his sword to Ferdinand Marcos, then president of the Philippines. He returned to Japan, where he eventually opened a nature camp for children.

Thanks islanders


During his latest trip to Lubang, Onoda spoke to islanders of his gratitude. (553K QuickTime movie of Onoda's visit to Lubang)

"For whatever reason I don't know, when I left this island I wasn't able to say thank you for all you did for me." He also donated $10,000 to a scholarship fund for local children.

The governor of the province that includes Lubang, Josephine Ramirez Sato, said by honoring Onoda, her people were announcing to everyone that all is forgiven.

"We shall show to the world that we, the people of Occidental Mindoro, are offering our warm hand of friendship to Japan through Lt. Hiroo Onoda," she said.

family protest

But half a century after the war, many in the Philippines still have hard feelings about the Japanese occupation. Relatives of seven people Onoda is accused of killing gathered at a Japanese-Filipino friendship monument during his visit, demanding compensation.

"He killed my brother, shot him on his foot," said Christina Evangelista. "What I want is for him to pay."

Although many did not welcome Onoda's visit, his was one of the more unusual post-war dramas.

CNN's Brian Yasui contributed to this report.


Send us your comments.
Selected responses are posted daily.


Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.