3. A Lionized Hero Who In Reality Was a Murderous Jerk
Although Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was lauded as a paragon of honor and devotion to duty, what he had done in Lubang Island was anything but honorable. Onoda had indulged in a decades-long violent tantrum, in which the only devotion he exhibited was a devotion to his ego and to a warped sense of honor that was actually quite dishonorable. In a nutshell, the famous Japanese holdout had his feelings hurt. He was upset that he and his country had been thoroughly defeated in war.
Onoda knew or should have known that the war had ended in 1945. Ample evidence, including orders from his chain of command, plus photos and letters from his and his men’s families, had been airdropped in the jungles and mountains of Lubang and picked up by the holdouts. However, in violent jerk fashion, he decided to dismiss reality as “fake news”. He took out his frustration and the perceived humiliation of his and his country’s defeat on poor Filipino civilians in an isolated island, whom he terrorized and murdered by the dozen.
2. The Unrepentant Maniac Who Got Away With Murder
It was the narrative of Onoda as a heroic holdout that took hold and captured the public imagination in Japan and around the world. The more troubling reality that Onoda was a homicidal maniac was downplayed or ignored. His decades-long crime spree in Lubang, which could have gotten him the death penalty for multiple murders, was instead swept under the rug by the authorities. At the time, the Philippines was ruled by dictator Ferdinand Marcos, a notoriously corrupt kleptomaniac. Marcos was eager for good relationships – and financial support and investments offering opportunities for graft – with Japan.
As a result, the fiction that Onoda did not know that the war had ended in 1945 was accepted as fact when it was anything but. President Ferdinand Marcos granted him a full pardon that was broadcast in a televised ceremony. In true jerk fashion, Onoda never apologized or expressed remorse for stealing the food and burning the crops of poor Lubangese, or for murdering dozens of innocent civilians in the island. Understandably, that did not sit well with the people of Lubang. When Onoda revisited the island in 1996, his return was surrounded by controversy.
1. A Jerk Who Murdered Dozens, Then Lived a Long and Happy Life in Peace and Comfort
Back home, Hiroo Onoda was so popular that he was urged to run for the Diet – Japan’s national legislature. However, he had trouble fitting in. A militarist through and through who thought the war had been a sacred mission, Onoda was unable to come to terms with the pacifist and futuristic country to which he had returned. Japan and its culture in the 1970s were radically different from what he had known growing up, and Onoda was troubled by what he saw as a withering away of traditional Japanese values. So troubled, that he decided to leave the country.