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Lubang and Hiroo

Updated on April 13, 2018
Larry Fish profile image

I was born and raised as a country boy in the rural Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. I love the art of writing..


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It was in early January, 1970 that I arrived at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines in the middle of the night. When I stepped off the airplane it was like stepping into an oven. The heat was so hot at that time. I was directed to a barracks where I went to sleep, when I woke up there was a lizard in my bed with me. Not a good start to my time in the Philippines.

I was assigned to the 6200 Field Maintenance Squadron. The main mission was to fly supplies to different places around the Philippine Islands where we had service members stationed. We would deliver food, liquor, cigarettes, and mail. There are over 7,000 islands in the Philippines. It was toward the end of 1970 that I was assigned as a crew chief and flight mechanic on a C-47 aircraft. As I flew to different places I thought I was seeing the most beautiful country that I have ever seen.

Flying over mountains, gorgeous beaches, and volcanoes. C-47 aircraft were not pressurized so we only flew a few thousand in altitude.One of the islands that we flew to was Lubang Island. It is an island about 16 miles in length and approximately 6.2 miles wide. I made several trips to Lubang, we landed on the dirt airstrip. Looking over I saw the little airport terminal. I will never forget it. What a sight to behold. It was so small.


I met my wife at the AIrmen's Club on Clark AFB. We got married toward the end of the year 1970. We left the Philippines in April of 1972. I had spent 27 months in the Philippines. My wife was leaving behind her family, friends, and the only life she had ever known. We landed at Travis AFB in California.

It took us some time until we got back to Pennsylvania. Landing on our final flight we landed at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre airport in northeastern Pennsylvania. We were met there by my mother and brother. On the way back my wife kept looking and looking at the trees. They had no leaves on yet since it was early April. Finally she asked why the trees looked so bare. In the Philippines the trees always have leaves so it was a different experience for her. I think she wondered to herself, I left the lush green beauty of the Philippines for this.

It took some time for my wife to get adjusted, as you can well imagine. It was such a big change for her. I know she was missing her family. We had a daughter born in April of 1973, our second child. Our son was born in the Philippines.

It was in March, 1974 as we were watching the nighttime news on TV. I leaned forward in my chair. Hirro Onoda, a Japanese Army Intelligence Officer hid in the jungle when the allies reclaimed the Philippines. He adamantly believed the war was not over. In March of 1974 he was officially relieved of his duty, 29 years after the end of World War II.

He was originally living in the mountains with three fellow soldiers. One of the four walked away and surrendered to Filipino forces in 1950. One was killed by a search party in 1954. Another was killed by local police in 1972. Now, Onoda was left alone.

For 29 years, he survived on food gathered from the jungle or stolen from local farmers. His former commanding officer had to travel to Lubang to see him and tell him he was released from his military duties. In his tattered old army uniform, Onoda handed over his sword, nearly thirty years after the Japan surrendered.

After his return to Japan he received a heroes welcome. In 1975 he moved to Brazil and set up a cattle ranch. On January, 16, 2014 he died at the age of 91.

As I was watching the newscast in 1974 I leaned forward in my chair and took it all in. Onoda was on Lubang Island as I was unloading my C-47 aircraft in the early 1970s.. Was he watching me as I was doing so? It gave me an eerie feeling and a chill up and down my spine. Was I being spied on by a Japanese Intelligence Officer?


Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroo_Onoda

Ref: https://www.cnn.com/2014/01/17/world/asia/japan-philippines-ww2-soldier-dies/index.html


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    • Larry Fish profile image
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      Larry W Fish 3 days ago from Raleigh

      Thanks, Stella! Glad you enjoyed it.

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      Stella 3 days ago

      Thanks for sharing. Interesting story.

    • Larry Fish profile image
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      Larry W Fish 4 weeks ago from Raleigh

      Glad that you enjoyed the read, Dora!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      That you found time for romance and that this officer was in the dark for so long are very interesting tales. Thanks for sharing.

    • Larry Fish profile image
      Author

      Larry W Fish 5 weeks ago from Raleigh

      Yes, the heat and humidity in the Philippines is really at times unbearable, Dennis. Sorry that your dad had to go through that. The Philippines really is a beautiful country.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 weeks ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      I remember when they found this Japanese soldier. My dad fought in the jungles of the Philippines during WW II where he got malaria. I recall him telling me how hot it was. After fighting in the jungles my father never again wanted to eat outside at a picnic.

    • Larry Fish profile image
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      Larry W Fish 5 weeks ago from Raleigh

      It is a very strange true story, Flourish. Can you imagine thinking the war was still on after almost 30 years? It really does boggle the mind. Yes, if his commander was no longer living, who knows what he would have done. I get chills just thinking that he was watching me.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 5 weeks ago from USA

      That’s persistence for you! I wonder what they are would have done if his commander was no longer living? I bet he was watching you.

    • Larry Fish profile image
      Author

      Larry W Fish 5 weeks ago from Raleigh

      Yes, when I saw it on the news that he finally walked out of the jungle, it was chilling, what a feeling I had. I'm glad you enjoyed the story, Jackie.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 weeks ago from The Beautiful South

      Thank you for sharing this with us Larry. Very interesting to have you share this and Onoda, What a story and I am sure so very many more like it. But 29 years?. Wow.

    • Larry Fish profile image
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      Larry W Fish 5 weeks ago from Raleigh

      I wish you and your wife the best, Eric. I guess we both love those Asian women.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Vietnam Larry. I met her through a corporate deployment ;-)

    • Larry Fish profile image
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      Larry W Fish 5 weeks ago from Raleigh

      Thank you for your comment as always, Eric. Yes, I was shocked when I learned about him being on the island the same time as me.

      My wife was like a little child the first time she saw snow too. Where is your wife from? I am sure you mentioned it, but it has slipped my mind.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      It is good to learn more about you and yours. My wife was overcome her first visit to the snow.

      I had forgotten about that fellow. How could it be? Really really strange. How close you came to him is very weird.

    • Larry Fish profile image
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      Larry W Fish 5 weeks ago from Raleigh

      Yes Bill, when I saw it on the news I was so surprised. I feel almost sure that he saw my military aircraft land. I wonder what was going through his head at the time?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      At the very best that was eerie...at the worst downright spooky. I remember that officer's story on the news....wow!

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