O for me today is for Onoda. In case you don’t know who he is, I don’t blame you one bit. If you are a World War freak like me, you might remember that Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army was one of the last to surrender. Some days ago there was a discussion about the Second World War amongst my group of friends. The question of discipline, service to a cause, and patriotism as defined by themselves came up for discussion. When we spoke of the determination of the Japanese, for example, to fight to the very end, we had to talk about Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who fought on long after Japan had officially surrendered. He finally surrendered in 1974.
In December, 1944 as a young Lieutenant Onoda reached the island of Lubang in the Philipines to undertake guerrilla operations there. About. com in this very interesting article tells Onoda’s story. I was struck by the orders he was given by his commanding officer. “You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever happens, we’ll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You may have to live on coconuts. If that’s the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you [to] give up your life voluntarily.”
Onoda’s squad started with a four man squad and in the end he was alone. Onoda’s story speaks of the spirit of man and how determined and wedded to a cause one can be. You may not agree with the Japanese war objectives or with all that Onoda did, but his story stands testimony to his fighting spirit. Here was a determined and disciplined man who continued to be at war (even if it did not matter to the rest of the world) for 30 long years!
Lt. Onoda passed away fairly recently, in January 2014, having lived upto the ripe old age of 91.