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Lubang Island

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Lubang Island, An imperial Japanese soldier who spent 29 years in hiding on an island in the Philippines after World War II has died aged 91.

Hiroo Onoda was one of about 60 soldiers who fought on from their jungle strongholds after the war, refusing to believe that the Japanese empire had been defeated.

The former army intelligence officer spent three decades waging his own guerrilla war on Lubang Island in the north-western Philippines.

In 1974 he laid down his arms, but only after his former commanding officer returned and personally ordered him to do so.

“Every Japanese soldier was prepared for death but as an intelligence officer I was ordered to conduct guerrilla warfare and not to die,” he told the ABC in 2010.

“I became an officer and I received an order. If I could not carry it out I would feel shame. I am very competitive.”

For years, Hiroo Onoda would ignore attempts to get him to surrender. He dismissed leaflet drops and search parties as enemy trickery.

“The leaflets they dropped were filled with mistakes, so I judged it was a plot by the Americans,” he said.

Hiroo Onoda, who was drafted in 1942, received training for two years and was sent to the island in 1944.

In the beginning, Hiroo Onoda was hiding out alongside two fellow soldiers. But they died in clashes with Filipino villagers and soldiers.

He survived on coconut milk, bananas and by stealing and butchering cattle.

For information, he would listen to a stolen shortwave radio. His favourite broadcast was ABC Radio Australia.

“Once I listened to an Australian election broadcast,” he said.

“Another time I was interested in a cattle story – that helped me to later become a cattle breeder.”

After returning to Japan, Hiroo Onoda emigrated in 1975 to Brazil to run a cattle ranch.

He later returned to his home country to teach students survival skills and authored several books including No Surrender: My 30 Year War.

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