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TOKYO – Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese imperial soldier to emerge from hiding in a jungle in the Philippines and surrender, 29 years after the end of World War II, has died. He was 91.
Onoda died Thursday at a Tokyo hospital after a brief stay there. Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga on Friday expressed his condolences, praising Onoda for his strong will to live and indomitable spirit.
"After World War II, Mr. Onoda lived in the jungle for many years and when he returned to Japan, I felt that finally, the war was finished. That's how I felt," Suga said.
"I don't consider those 30 years a waste of time. Without that experience, I wouldn't have my life today."
- Hiroo Onoda told the AP in 1995
Onoda was an intelligence officer who came out of hiding, erect but emaciated, in fatigues patched many times over, on Lubang island in the Philippines in March 1974, on his 52nd birthday. He surrendered only when his former commander flew there to reverse his 1945 orders to stay behind and spy on American troops