Hiroo Onoda (小野田 寛郎 Onoda Hirō, March 19, 1922 – January 16, 2014) was an Imperial Japanese Army intelligence officer who fought in World War II and did not surrender until 1974.
Onoda trained as an intelligence officer in the commando class “Futamata” (二俣分校 futamata-bunkō) of Nakano School. On December 26, 1944, he was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines. He was ordered to do all he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island, including destroying the airstrip and the pier at the harbor. Onoda’s orders also stated that under no circumstances was he to surrender or take his own life.
Onoda continued his campaign as a Japanese holdout, initially living in the mountains with three fellow soldiers. The first time they saw a leaflet announcing that Japan had surrendered was in October 1945; another cell had killed a cow and found a leaflet left behind by islanders which read: “The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!” Onoda’s group looked very closely at the leaflet to determine whether it was genuine, and decided it was not.
After extensive searches by others, Norio Suzuki (鈴木 紀夫 Suzuki Norio), a Japanese explorer and adventurer, independently encountered a Japanese soldier after four days of searching.
Suzuki expressed his decision for looking for the officer in this way: He wanted to search for “Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order”.
When Onoda was first discovered, he was ready to shoot Norio Suzuki at first sight, but fortunately, Suzuki had read all about the fugitive and quickly said: “Onoda-san, the emperor and the people of Japan are worried about you.” Onoda described this moment in a 2010 interview: "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…"
Onoda and Suzuki became friends, but Onoda still refused to surrender, saying that he was waiting for orders from a superior officer. Suzuki returned to Japan with photographs of himself and Onoda as proof of their encounter, and the Japanese government located Onoda’s commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, who had since become a bookseller. He flew to Lubang where on March 9, 1974, he properly relieved Onoda of duty and he surrendered.