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WWII soldier who hid in jungle until 1974 dies

18 January, 2014

TOKYO: A Japanese soldier who hid in the Philippine jungle for three decades, refusing to believe World War II was over until his former commander returned and ordered him to surrender, has died in Tokyo aged 91.

Hiroo Onoda waged a guerilla campaign in Lubang Island near Luzon until he was finally persuaded in 1974 that peace had broken out, ignoring leaflet drops and successive attempts to convince him the Imperial Army had been defeated. He died in a Tokyo hospital on Thursday of heart failure.

Onoda was the last of several dozen so-called holdouts scattered around Asia, men who symbolised the astonishingly dogged perseverance of those called upon to fight for their emperor. Their number included a soldier arrested in the jungles of Guam in 1972. Trained as an information officer and guerrilla tactics coach, Onoda was dispatched to Lubang in 1944 and ordered never to surrender, never to resort to suicidal attacks and to hold firm until reinforcements arrived.

He and three other soldiers continued to obey that order long after Japan's 1945 defeat. Their existence became widely known in 1950, when one of their number emerged and returned to Japan. The others continued to survey military facilities in the area, attacking local residents and occasionally fighting with Philippine forces, although one of them died soon afterwards.

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