Hiroo Onada, 1944
On March 10, 1974, Lt. Hiroo Onada was the last World War II Japanese soldier to surrender.
Onada had been left on the island Lubang in the Philippines on December 25, 1944, with the command to “carry on the mission even if Japan surrenders.” Three other Japanese soldiers were left on the island as Japan evacuated Lubang. One soldier surrendered in 1950. Another was killed in a skirmish with local police in 1954. Another was killed in 1972. Onada continued his war alone.
All efforts to convince him to surrender or to capture him failed. He ignored messages from loudspeakers announcing Japan’s surrender and that Japan was now an ally of the United States. Leaflets were dropped over the jungle begging him to surrender so he could return to Japan. He refused to believe or surrender.
Over the years he lived off the land and raided the fields and gardens of local citizens. He was responsible for killing at least 30 nationals during his 29 year personal war. Almost a half million dollars was spent trying to locate and convince him to surrender. 13,000 men were used to try to locate him.
Finally, on March 10, 1974, almost 30 years after World War II ended, Onada surrendered his rusty sword after receiving a personal command from his former superior officer, who read the terms of the cease-fire order. Onada handed his sword to President Marcos, who pardoned him. The war was over.
Hiroo Onada, 1974
Onada was 22-years-old when left on the island. He returned a prematurely aged man of 52. Onada stated, “Nothing pleasant happened in the 29 years in the jungle.”
Like Onada, many people are still fighting a lonely war against their sin. Struggling with sin and shame. Living a meager life from the scraps of religious duty and obligations. Hoping that will help them get by. Inflicting pain and hardship on others because of their own misery. Like Onada, nothing pleasant ever happens.
The message of Easter is that the war is over. The battle has been won. No longer do we need to hide. We can come out of the jungles of our own making. We can give up our rusty swords of defensiveness and unforgiveness. We can return to the our home and enjoy the blessings of pardon and freedom.
The message of Easter is that we are finally free. Christ has conquered sin and death. Let us rejoice.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. ” (Romans 8:1–2, NIV)