RIP For The Castaway

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Oh, did he ever spend a long, long time stuck on that Pacific island, with prospects for rescue always so distant and remote. Still, he managed to hold out for many years, and all that while to be a source of support and strength for those stuck there with him, and perhaps that’s what we should recall now as we mourn his death.

Wait . . . you say you completely agree with me about the Professor? From Gilligan’s Island? Sorry, my friends, I know everyone – in the US, at least – is talking about Russell Johnson. But here I’m afraid you’ve run once again into one of the favorite tricks of any columnist, the Think-it’s-about-one-thing-then-it-turns-out-to-be-another gambit.

Or, if you like:
The “islander” I’m talking about – and the Philippines are after all a bunch of islands – is LT Hiroo Onoda of the Imperial Japanese Army, recently dead of a heart attack at 91, who was one of that crazy band of left-behind soldiers who got the word much too late that Japan had surrendered, and who himself only stopped fighting and came out of the jungle some 29 years after the war’s end, in 1974. And even after he was discovered there by an outsider – the Danmarks Radio piece says it was by a Japanese “hippie” – he refused to actually lay down his arms until his superior officer in the War, a Major Taniguchi who in the meantime had become a bookstore-owner, came to the Philippines jungle to order him to do so.

This is quite a character, although take a look at the full head-shot featured at the top of the piece from De Standaard. Doesn’t he look like the kindly old Japanese granddad-in-law you always wanted to have? (more…)

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