Onoda: The man who hid in the jungle for 30 years

According to Harari’s film, Onoda was still a very young man – just 23 years old – at the time of his surrender, and probably heavily catechized by the ideologies perpetuated by Japan during the war. “Soldiers are supposed to have died for the cause,” Onoda wrote in his memoirs (a fact supported by the country that produces up to 5,000 kamikaze fighters in World War II) and the consequences for a soldier who resigns or does not. adheres to traditional standards, was strict: Even if the death sentence was not carried out, [a disgraced soldier] was further excommunicated by others so that he could be dead. ” And it would have burdened him that he had already failed in his mission to destroy the pier and the Lubang airport.

“The ideology of non-surrender during the war was strong,” Beatrice Trefalt, a senior lecturer in Japanese Studies at Monash University in Australia, told BBC Culture, but that hardly explains the extent of Onoda’s commitment. “There are, of course, many people who committed suicide or ran into desperate battles as a last resort, knowing they would die. But if the ideology of war was so strong and everyone was a fanatic, how did they stop being fanatics in 1945? The answer is no. was, and was not, and so the tradition was very welcome to most people. “He concludes that Onoda was probably” a very irreconcilable person “who refused to give up his principles. from his comrades / friends, but also to many citizens in Lubang. Therefore, when faced with the end, Onoda could have been easier to convince himself that he did not know [the war was over]instead of facing the disaster caused by his own, stupid pride “.

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Onoda was not the only soldier who found it difficult to believe that the war was over. In fact, many Japanese groups continued to fight long after the country’s surrender. Twenty-one soldiers gathered on Anatahan Island in 1951. Teruo Nakamura, a Taiwanese-Japanese soldier, endured 29 years in the jungle after the end of World War II in Morotai, in present-day Indonesia. And Shoichi Yokoi remained hidden in the Guam jungle until 1972. The latter revealed that he knew the war was over for 20 years – but he was too scared to surrender. The main difference, Seriu says, is that many other Japanese prisoners “found ways to live in the formerly occupied country” and even raised families in some cases. Onoda, on the other hand, “refused to live in cooperation with the inhabitants [of Lubang]. “

Welcome the hero?

When Onoda returned to Japan in 1974, he was greeted by a crowd of up to 8,000 – a moment that was broadcast live on NHK, the country’s national television station. At the time, Japan was experiencing its worst economic performance in two decades, and more progressive views on war, including atonement for crime, began to spread. Onoda provided an early reminder of the traditional and positive Japanese virtues of bravery, faith, pride and devotion that were widespread during the war. His reappearance provided a useful propaganda tool for the country’s powerful conservatives – or at least, a good distraction. “He joined the strong faction and played the role that would give him the greatest benefit,” says Trefalt. “The money he made from the media frenzy would always be better than the miserable retirement of veterans.”

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