By Tim Knowling
In 1944, Lt. Hiroo Onoda was sent by the Japanese Army to the remote Philippino island of Lubang. His mission
was to conduct guerrilla warfare during World War II. Unfortunately, he was never officially told the war had
ended. So for 29 years, Onoda continued to live in the jungle, ready for when his country would again need his
services and information.
Onoda was 20 years old when he was called up to join the army. In the Japanese army, he was trained as an
officer and was then chosen to be trained at an Imperial Army intelligence school. On December 17, 1944, Lt. Hiroo
Onoda left for the Philippines. Here, Onoda was given orders to lead the Lubang Garrison in guerrilla
The Division Commander ordered him:
“You are absolutely forbidden to die by your own hand. It may take three years, it may take five, but whatever
happens, we'll come back for you. Until then, so long as you have one soldier, you are to continue to lead him. You
may have to live on coconuts. If that's the case, live on coconuts! Under no circumstances are you to give up your
Onoda took these words more literally and seriously than the division commander could ever have meant them.
After the Allied invasion Onoda and three others retreated to the interior of the Island where for the next twenty
nine years they continued to fight in skirmishes using guerrilla tactics. Nine months after the invasion he
saw a leaflet which claimed that the war was over but this he thought must have been part of the Allied propaganda
to trick them into surrendering.
Over the ensuing years leaflet after leaflet was dropped, even Newspapers were left. Photographs and letters
from relatives were dropped and some even spoke out over loudspeakers. Filled with suspicion Onoda and his friends
couldn’t believe that the war had really ended. The men continued to hide, but eventually one by one, Onoda’s
friends where either killed or surrendered.
In October 1972, at the age of 51 and after 27 years of hiding, Kozuka, Onoda’s last comrade was killed during a
clash with a Filipino patrol. Onoda was now on his own. Remembering the Division Commander's order, he could not
kill himself, yet he no longer had a single soldier to command. Onoda continued to hide.
In 1974, a college dropout named Norio Suzuki decided to travel to the Philippines, as well as a few other
countries on his way. He told his friends he wanted to search for Lt. Onoda. Where others had failed, Suzuki
succeeded. He found Lt. Onoda and tried to convince him that the war was over. Onoda explained that he would only
surrender if his commander ordered him to do so.
Suzuki travelled back to Japan and found Onoda's former commander, Major Taniguchi, who had become a bookseller.
On March 9, 1974, Suzuki and Taniguchi met Onoda at a pre-appointed place and Major Taniguchi read the orders that
stated all combat activity was to be ceased. Onoda was shocked and, at first, disbelieving. It took some time for
the news to sink in. “We really lost the war! How could they have been so sloppy?” Gradually the realization sunk
in that his 29 year war had come to an end.
For those who have been following the articles in previous issues, particularly those relating to the importance
of character, I felt that there were some important spiritual truths that we could learn from this story. As in
previous articles we have been examining what makes a good soldier in the natural realm and then relating that to
what it means to be a soldier for Christ.
Here was a person who was dedicated to his mission. Once given an order by his commanding officer, he saw it as
his duty to obey that order no matter what circumstances surrounded him. Some would say it was fanatical. It is no
strange thing to relate the Christian life to that of a soldier. In fact the Apostle Paul made the same
In 2 Timothy 2:3-4 he said, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that
warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a
Friends don’t you think that the Lord is looking for people who are equally committed to His cause and will not
give up no matter what circumstances might be suggesting.
Just as Onoda had been given orders by his commander, we too, have been given orders by our commander. He stated
these orders in Mark 16:15-16, “and He said to them, Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every
For a long time this work has been seen as the duty of the evangelist or the pastor. I have even heard
people say, “I don't believe that this is my gifting”, thinking that this excuses them from sharing their
Eph 4:11-12 says, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets, and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and
teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
Notice that an evangelist is not someone who just preaches the Gospel, but is also someone who trains ‘the
saints’, (that’s you and me), to preach the gospel too.
Dr. Bill Bright, founder of ‘Campus Crusade for Christ’ said, “We cannot pick and choose which commandments of our
Lord we will follow. Jesus Christ’s last command to the Christian community was , ‘You are to go into the world and
preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere’ (Mark 16:15,TLB). This command, which the church calls the great
Commission, was not intended merely for the eleven remaining disciples, or just for the apostles or for those in
present times who may have the gift of evangelism. This command is the duty of every man and woman who confesses
Christ as Lord.”
These words by Bill Bright are very challenging. For many of us, me included, it may make us feel uncomfortable.
But that is just the point, we like our comfort zones.
Saints, I believe we have only touched the surface on what it means to be a faithful witness for Christ. In future
issues we will look at this subject further.
Source: Soldiers of the Cross Newsletter Issue 3