May 27, 2005
A Different Kind of Fossil

Fark today linked up a story about evidence that there still might be WWII Japanese soldiers who haven't surrendered. Of course, at this distance it's far more likely they just decided they liked the Philippines better.

The last "real" Japanese soldier to surrender did so when I was about six. Back then, he was portrayed as a relatively harmless kook who'd holed up in various palm trees for thirty years because his radio had broken. A few years ago one of the cable channels (I think it was Discovery) aired a documentary about Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, who today lives in Brazil. Turns out in truth the guy was a complete round-the-bend psychopathic fanatic who, with a companion, terrorized various villages in the Philippines for the better part of twenty-five years. It was only when the area's peasants finally took co-ordinated steps to end their murderous reign of terror, steps that resulted in the death of his friend, that he began to put "feelers" out to various Japanese nationals in the area about a possible "surrender". Celebrated as a national hero, he still ended up emigrating to Brazil. In interviews, some thirty years later, the man was clearly unrepentant... the iron fist had simply rusted.

If these guys turn out to be legit, do not expect some sort of Asian "Skipper-and-Gilligan"-esque comedy duo. These are mean little men, the hardest of the hard core from an age that bred fanatics like mushrooms. Like Onoda, they almost certainly stayed out there not for the honor of their emperor, but for their own murderous little reasons. They are curiosities, true fossils from an age of cold steel hell and hot, violent death.

Would that they all end up toothless eighty-year-olds "hiding out" simply because nobody wants to go to the bother of finding them.

Posted by scott at May 27, 2005 08:14 AM

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