Podcast Episode 156: The Most Dedicated Soldier


When American forces overran the Philippine island of Lubang in 1945, Japanese intelligence officer Hiroo Onoda withdrew into the mountains to wait for reinforcements. He was still waiting 29 years later. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll meet the dedicated soldier who fought World War II until 1974.

We’ll also dig up a murderer and puzzle over an offensive compliment.


In 1896, Austrian engineers designed a mountain railway pulled by a balloon.

In 1965 Kingsley Amis inventoried Ian Fleming’s unsavory descriptions of M.

Sources for our feature on Hiroo Onoda:

Hiroo Onoda, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, 1974.

Mark Felton, “The Soldiers Who Would Not Surrender,” World War II 18:4 (November 2003), 18.

Robert D. McFadden, “Hiroo Onoda, Soldier Who Hid in Jungle for Decades, Dies at 91,” New York Times, Jan. 17, 2014.

Adam Bernstein, “Hiroo Onoda, Japanese Soldier Who Hid in Philippine Jungle for 29 Years, Dies at 91,” Washington Post, Jan. 17, 2014.

David Powers, “Japan: No Surrender in World War Two,” BBC, Feb. 17, 2011.

“Last Man Fighting: Hiroo Onoda,” Economist 410:8871 (Jan. 25, 2014).

“Hiroo Onoda – Obituary,” Telegraph, Jan. 17, 2014.

Justin McCurry, “Hiroo Onoda: Japanese Soldier Who Took Three Decades to Surrender, Dies,” Guardian, Jan. 17, 2014.

“Japan WW2 Soldier Who Refused to Surrender Hiroo Onoda Dies,” BBC News, Jan. 17, 2014.

Jethro Mullen, Yoko Wakatsuki and Chandrika Narayan, “Hiroo Onoda, Japanese Soldier Who Long Refused to Surrender, Dies at 91,” CNN, Jan. 17, 2014.

Noah Rayman, “Hiroo Onoda, World’s ‘Last Ninja’, Dead at 91,” Time.com, Jan. 21, 2013.

Mike Dash, “Final Straggler: The Japanese Soldier Who Outlasted Hiroo Onoda,” Mike Dash History, Sept. 15, 2015.

Associated Press, “Bulletins,” March 16, 1974.

Listener mail:

Travis M. Andrews, “An Infamous and Sadistic American Serial Killer Was Hanged in 1896. Or Was He?” Washington Post, May 4, 2017.

Kristen De Groot, “Body of 19th Century Serial Killer Exhumed Near Philadelphia,” Associated Press, May 3, 2017.

“New Jersey Couple Says They Found Note in Family Bible Signed by Notorious Serial Killer H.H. Holmes,” NBC Philadelphia, May 22, 2017.

Craig Cook, “Scientist at Centre of DNA Break-Throughs in Cold Case Appeals for Government to Exhume the Body Somerton Man to Finally ‘Give Him Name,'” The Advertiser, Oct. 1, 2016.

Dan Vergano, “DNA Just Tied a Mystery Death in Australia to Thomas Jefferson,” BuzzFeed, Sept. 24, 2016.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Noah Kurland.

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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!