On December 26, 1944, [Hiroo Onoda] was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines.He was ordered to do all he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island, including destroying the airstrip and the pier at the harbor.
Onoda continued his campaign as a Japanese holdout, initially living in the mountains with three fellow soldiers (Private Yūichi Akatsu, Corporal Shōichi Shimada and Private First Class Kinshichi Kozuka). During his stay Onoda and his companions carried out guerrilla activities, killed some 30 Filipino inhabitants of the island, and engaged in several shootouts with the police.
The first time they saw a leaflet which claimed that the war was over was in October 1945; another cell had killed a cow and found a leaflet left behind by islanders which read: “The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!” However, they mistrusted the leaflet, since another cell had been fired upon a few days previously. They concluded that the leaflet was Allied propaganda.
Over the years, his three companions were variously killed or came down on their own accord to surrender to Philippine authorities.
Several more attempts were made to convince the soldiers the war was over but mutual distrust between the holdouts and the local authorities meant these efforts went for naught until 1974
On February 20, 1974, Onoda met a Japanese man, Norio Suzuki, who was traveling around the world and was looking for “Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order”.
Onoda still refused to surrender, saying that he was waiting for orders from a superior officer. [T]he Japanese government located Onoda’s commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi. He flew to Lubang where on March 9, 1974, he finally met with Onoda.
Onoda was thus properly relieved of duty. He turned over his sword, his Arisaka Type 99 rifle (in working order), 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades, as well as the dagger his mother had given him in 1944 for protection.
Only private Teruo Nakamura, arrested on 18 December 1974, held out for longer.
Obviously, Onoda had killed several people and fired on the police during his time in the mountains, but given the unique circumstances, President Ferdinand Marcos issues a general pardon and Onoda was allowed to return home, though he would find it so different from what he remembered that he eventually wound up an expatriate in a Japanese community in Brazil.