In 1944, as a lieutenant, Onoda was sent to a small island of Lubang in the western Philippines to spy on U.S. forces in the area. Japanese imperial army was defeated in the Philippines in the latter stages of the war, but Onoda evaded capture. Most of the Japanese troops on the island withdrew or surrendered in the face of oncoming American forces.But Onoda and few colleagues remained in the jungle, refusing to come out as they believed that the war wasn't over yet.
He stayed in the jungle for 29 years during which he survived on food gathered from the jungle or stolen from local farmers. One by one, Onoda's colleagues in the hide out died due to various circumstances. Finally, left alone to live in difficult conditions, Onoda was persuaded to come out of hiding in 1974. His former commanding officer visited him and told him he was released from his military duties.
In his battered old army uniform, Onoda handed over his sword, nearly 30 years after Japan surrendered..
"Every Japanese soldier was prepared for death, but as an intelligence officer I was ordered to conduct guerrilla warfare and not to die," Onoda told CNN affiliate, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
When he returned to Japan, he received a hero's welcome. There, he was a figure from a different era emerging into post-war modernity. But anger remained in the Philippines, where he was blamed for multiple killings. He, suring the hiding stint, had killed at least 30 people passing them for enemy soldiers. The Philippines government pardoned him. But when he returned to Lubang in 1996, relatives of people he was accused of killing gathered to demand compensation.
After his return to Japan, he moved to Brazil in 1975 and set up a cattle ranch. "Japan's philosophy and ideas changed dramatically after World War II," Onoda told ABC. "That philosophy clashed with mine so I went to live in Brazil." In 1984, he set up an organization, Onoda Shizenjyuku, to train young Japanese in the survival and camping skills he had acquired during his decades in Lubang's jungles. His adventures are detailed in his book "No Surrender: My Thirty-year War."