Hiroo Onoda, Japanese WW2 soldier who refused to surrender for three decades, dies

Hiroo Onoda, who remained on the island for nearly 29 years without knowledge of Japan's surrender in World War II, died aged 91 Credit: Reuters

A Japanese soldier who hid in the Philippine jungle for nearly three decades after refusing to surrender at the end of World War Two has died aged 91 in Tokyo.

Hiroo Onoda finally came out of hiding on Lubang island in the Philippines in March 1974 after 29 years.

Onoda was sent to Lubang, 90 miles southwest of Manila, in December 1944.

The majority of Japanese soldiers surrendered when US troops landed in Lubang in February 1945, however hundreds of military personnel remained missing for years after the war.

Hiroo Onoda come out of hiding on Lubang island in the Philippines in March 1974. Credit: RTV

Onoda refused to believe the conflict was over and subsequently killed as many as 30 people during his period in the jungle.

The former intelligence officer stole rice, bananas and reportedly even shot cows to make dried beef in his long fight for survival.

Onoda was only persuaded to surrender when his former commander flew to the Philippines to convince him to come out of hiding.

Onoda received a heroes welcome upon returning to Japan. Credit: RTV

During his formal surrender to the Philippine president, the soldier wore his imperial army uniform, cap and sword.

Mr Onoda and another wartime exile Shoichi Yokoi, who surrendered in 1972, received a heroes welcome upon returning to Japan in 1974.

"I don't consider those 30 years a waste of time," the former intelligence officer said in 1995.

"Without that experience, I wouldn't have my life today."

Onoda refused to believe the war was over and spent 29 years in hiding. Credit: RTV

Onoda has also previously spoken of the lengths he was prepared to go to for his country during the war during an interview with ABC in 2010:

"Every Japanese soldier was prepared for death, but as an intelligence officer I was ordered to conduct guerrilla warfare and not to die. I had to follow my orders as I was a soldier."

The Japanese government's chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga expressed his condolences, and praised Mr Onoda for his strong will to live.