I’m pretty sure at some point in the past ten years I’ve written about my mini-fascination with soldiers, mostly Japanese, who disappeared into the jungles of the Pacific during the closing days of World War II and lived for years thinking that the war was still being fought only to eventually learn that peace had been declared long ago. I suppose it’s just an extreme take on the marooned in the wilderness fantasy. Instead of just being Robinson Crusoe, or Chuck Noland, who were stranded because of accidents, these men were sent into the wilds with orders to fight to the death. When they emerge, the world has moved on in amazing ways. What a way to live your life!
Anyway, one of the most famous of those men, Hiroo Onoda, died last week. A fine summary of his life appeared in the New York Times.
The last holdout, Lieutenant Onoda — officially declared dead in 1959 — was found by Norio Suzuki, a student searching for him in 1974. The lieutenant rejected his pleas to go home, insisting he was still awaiting orders. Mr. Suzuki returned with photographs, and the Japanese government sent a delegation, including the lieutenant’s brother and his former commander, to formally relieve him of duty.