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.