February 20, 1974 Holdout

Thus properly relieved of duty, Onada surrendered, turning over his sword, his rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and a number of hand grenades, along with the dagger his mother had given him, to kill himself if he were ever captured.  It was March 9, 1974. 

On December 7, 1941, Imperial Japanese air forces attacked the US Pacific Naval anchorage at Pearl Harbor.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress the following day, asking for a declaration of war.  Little did they know, the war with 450px-Shigemitsu-signs-surrenderImperial Japan would rage for another 33 years.

Alright, not really. Representatives of the Empire of Japan signed the instruments of surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945, formally ending the war in the Pacific.  Except, there were those who didn’t get the message.

Following the Battle of Saipan, June 15 – July 9, 1944, Captain Sakae Ōba and a company of 46 men took to carrying out guerrilla actions against American troops.  The company surrendered on December 1, 1945, three months after the end of the war.


Navy Lieutenant Hideo Horiuchi was arrested on August 13, 1946, while recovering from wounds received in a battle with Dutch troops.

Lieutenant Ei Yamaguchi led 33 soldiers in an attack on an American Marine Corps detachment on Peleliu in March, 1947. Reinforcements were sent in, including a Japanese admiral who finally convinced these guys that the war was over. The group surrendered in April.

Two machine gunners from the Imperial Japanese Navy surrendered on Iwo Jima, on January 6, 1949.

japanese-holdouts-of-wwii-5-728Several went on to fight for the Viet Minh against French troops in Indochina.

Seaman Noburo Kinoshita hanged himself in the Luzon jungle, in 1955.  Kinoshita had vowed never to “return to Japan in defeat”.  I guess he meant it.

Private Bunzō Minagawa held out until May 1960, on the American territory of Guam.  Minagawa’s immediate superior, Sergeant Masashi Itō, surrendered a few days later.  Corporal Shoichi Yokoi, who also served under Itō, was captured twelve years later.

After the war, 2nd Lieutenant Hirō Onoda took to the mountains of Lubang Island in the Philippines, along with Private Yūichi Akatsu, Corporal Shōichi Shimada and Private First Class Kinshichi Kozuka, carrying out guerilla actions and engaging in shootouts with local police.  Akatsu left the other three in 1949, and surrendered six months later.  Shimada was killed by a search party in 1954.  Kozuka was shot and killed by local police in 1972, while burning rice collected by farmers.

Suzuki returned to Japan with this photograph in February 1974, as proof of his encounter with Onada.

Two years later, the Japanese explorer and adventurer Norio Suzuki set out, looking for “Lieutenant Onoda, a wild panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order”.  The pair met on February 20, 1974 when Suzuki nearly got shot for his troubles, but he was quick.  “Onoda-san, the emperor and the people of Japan are worried about you.”

“I am a soldier” he said, “and remain true to my duties.” Onada would surrender when ordered to do so, by a superior officer.  Suzuki returned to Japan and located Onoda’s commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, who was working in a book store. The pair flew to Lubang, where Taniguchi issued the following orders:

In accordance with the Imperial command, the Fourteenth Area Army has ceased all combat activity.
In accordance with military Headquarters Command No. A-2003, the Special Squadron of Staff’s Headquarters is relieved of all military duties.
Units and individuals under the command of Special Squadron are to cease military activities and operations immediately and place themselves under the command of the nearest superior officer. When no officer can be found, they are to communicate with the American or Philippine forces and follow their directives.

Thus properly relieved of duty, Onada surrendered, turning over his sword, his rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition and a number of hand grenades, along with his kaiken, the dagger his mother had given him, to kill himself if he were ever captured.  It was March 9, 1974.


Private Teruo Nakamura, born Attun Palalin to the aboriginal Amis people of Taiwan, was the last confirmed holdout of WW2.  Nakamura, who spoke neither Japanese nor Chinese, was discovered by the Indonesian Air Force on Morotai, surrendering to a search patrol on December 18, 1974.  The war was over. 29 years, 3 months, and 16 days after the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.

Years later, Hirō Onada described that first encounter:  “This hippie boy Suzuki came to the island to listen to the feelings of a Japanese soldier. Suzuki asked me why I would not come out…”  Norio Suzuki had found his Onada, and the wild panda was soon to follow.  The explorer died in a Himalayan avalanche at age 37, still searching for the Abominable Snowman.

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