Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese imperial soldier to emerge from hiding in a jungle in the Philippines and surrender, 29 years after the end of World War II, has died. He was 91.
Onoda died Thursday at a Tokyo hospital after a brief stay there. Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga on Friday expressed his condolences, praising Onoda for his strong will to live and indomitable spirit.
Onoda refused to give up, despite at least four searches during which family members appealed to him over loudspeakers and flights dropped leaflets urging him to surrender.
In his formal surrender to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Onoda wore his 30-year-old imperial army uniform, cap and sword, all still in good condition.
In December 1944, he was sent to Lubang, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Manila. Most other Japanese soldiers surrendered when U.S. troops landed on Lubang in February 1945, though hundreds remained missing for years after the war.
The turning point came on Feb. 20, 1974, when he met a young globe-trotter, Norio Suzuki, who ventured to Lubang in pursuit of Onoda.
Suzuki quietly pitched camp in lonely jungle clearings and waited. "Oi," Onoda eventually called out, and eventually began speaking with him.
Suzuki returned to Japan and contacted the government, which located Onoda's superior - Maj. Yoshimi Taniguchi - and flew him to Lubang to deliver his surrender order in person.
WWII soldier who hid in jungle for 29 years dies at 91 - CBS News