Hiroo Onoda: Never Surrender!



Everyday, we read so many tales of amazing people around us. Some well-known and some not. Some who fade into history’s archives after being a bright spark and some who continue to stay and refresh our memory. My effort is to bring out the best of management and life’s lessons that could be gleaned from these individuals.

This is the story of Hiroo Onoda, a soldier from the Japanese Imperial Army. His story dates to the Second World War and beyond.

Hiroo Onoda was trained as an Imperial Army Intelligence Officer.  His mission was to go behind enemy lines and gather intelligence that would be useful for the Japanese army, while leading small teams of men to create havoc and unrest. If you are able to win skirmishes and ensure fatalities for the enemy (the allies, in this case), all the more better. Waging guerilla warfare and collecting intelligence were his training focus areas.

So, what’s special about him?

Hiroo Onoda continued his war for a period of 30 years (December 26th 1944 to March 10th, 1975) on Lubang Island (Philippines)! This is long after Japan had surrendered. He did not know about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and neither did he believe Japan’s surrender (extremely Jingoistic).

What actually happened?

Hiroo Onoda was following orders from his superior to the T:

  • No matter how long it Takes, the Japanese army will come for him
  • Even if there is just one man, continue leading him
  • No suicide
  • Collect intelligence and don’t be caught by the allied troops

Onoda and his companions employed guerilla tactics and continued harassing the enemy soldiers. One by one, his men fell but that did not deter Onoda in continuing his fight. He and his band of men refused to believe Allied propaganda on Japan’s surrender as for them there was no way that Japan could lose the war. Hence, all efforts from the Philippines government to draw them out failed as they construed the steps taken as traps. Efforts from the free locals, who were tired of being harassed also failed at convincing Onoda to surrender. What kept them going was the thought:

” Japanese army hasn’t come for us, so that means we haven’t still won. We can’t lose, so the war must still be on”

Though his men fell to the Filipino police and patrols, Onoda continued his individual efforts. He was so good at his work, that Japanese search patrols could not locate him. It was in 1974 that a student  Nario Suzuki succeeded in locating Onoda and tried persuading him to come home. As expected Onoda refused and it took his commanding officer, who was now working at a book store, to meet and talk him into surrendering. Onoda finally surrendered on the 10th of March, 1975 to the Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos. He was pardoned for his crimes (he had killed around 30 Filipinos and injured scores as part of his guerilla warfare) against the Filipinos as Onoda has committed them in the mindset of an ‘At war’ soldier.

What’s the learning?

  1. Dedication to country and to duty: One would actually call Onodo crazy, but looking at his perspective, he performed what was right for Japan. He did not fail to carry out his orders. His intelligence notes and logs were maintained and preserved.
  2. Resourcefulness: Even on the day he surrendered, he had a working  rifle – all oiled and in an excellent condition with 500 rounds to spare! His uniform was well maintained and had very neat patches sewn on. He survived in the jungles on what the forest could offer and by looting the farms and livestock in the villages adjoining the jungle.
  3. Planning & Decision making: His decision making (despite being contradictory to the facts and based on minimal information) is still commendable. Where to attack, how to conceal oneself, how to make the best of his men and meagre resources and all along ensuring that Japan was benefiting from their service.

The strength of character demonstrated was exemplary – how many can continue such a hard life for so long, driven just by his duty to his country? It only takes the twist of fate to accord the right treatment – if Japan had won, Onoda would have been a certain hero for his valiant efforts and not looked at as a soldier who killed innocent civilians. He deserves respect for not opting to give-up and for pursuing his duty relentlessly.






Let’s Skype: Talk in 6,Chat in 56

When I and a colleague completed a Coursera course on Chinese,  I asked my colleague Abhishek a question – So, What next?

His reply: Making friends from 1.4 Billion People! 🙂


Hello in Many Languages

Knowing an additional language can be awesome. There are so many more people to reach out to! What if we could achieve the same benefits without having to really learn a new language? Reading about Skype Translator and looking at how it has already started changing lives thrills me to no end!

Imagine being able to speak in 6 languages (Spanish, Mandarin, Italian, German, English, and French) and type/chat in another 50 (called messaging languages) – you can reach out to almost anyone in the world! And Skype is going to make sure that people understand you and are able to express themselves well. Simply superb.

I am excited and while making it obvious, share some areas where I believe disruptions are going to be common because of real-time Language translation, that is readily accessible:


  • Reduction of the emotion conundrum:

LOL, ROFL, HA HA – they really don’t express the underlying emotions! You can have a poker-faced person typing out these in the chat window on the other side and yet come away thinking you just cracked a great joke! Similarly, in a conversation, where  the importance of emotions is often underplayed, the conversing parties can actually see each other utter the words, and follow the emotions – helps to reduce the confusion and also promotes better understanding!

In languages such as French and Chinese, where a minor difference in the accents can make a world of difference, the parties will understand the real intent and act accordingly rather getting culturally sensitive about a misplaced accent!

Now, you can emote in your language and still ensure that the person on the other side understands you and is able to feel the passion….completely!


  • Connect more:

What prevents one from approaching another from a different country/culture? The language! Our folks on the USS Enterprise (StarTrek) had these fancy language synthesizers and converters that helped them carry on a conversion, talk peace and even plan war with Alien races. Skype translator is similar, though restricted to earthlings at the moment!

Doesn’t it feel wonderful that the entire population (~7.4 Billion) can now be reached out to and engaged in a conversation!

There is a phrase in Sanskrit – ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam’ ( वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ), which means – “The World is one family”. We shall now connect with our other members, in the language that they prefer!

  • Reach out more:

A Tourist asking for directions, a student of theology wishing to connect to great teachers from around the world, an academician willing share and get his work reviewed by the eminent in his field – they will all be now able to reach out better than what has been happening now. Berlitz translation books and notes, however useful, will have to pave way for a translated speech and text that clearly question and communicate with the local population!

Students  will be able to discuss science projects and lessons with their counterparts across the world!

  • Help more:

Mankind’s problems are global. Patients in trauma, students in need of counselling, people with suicidal tendencies, victims suffering from phobias and post traumatic experiences – they are all over the world. The number of hands that can help has now exponentially increased!

A counsellor in India can now help  someone in Kenya to overcome depression, a US based consultant can help speed up an initiative in China by providing experiential inputs…the scope is literally endless.

  • Expand:

Establishing Businesses or outsourcing work have more markets to consider, now that the language barriers are eroding faster. More social entrepreneurs in the areas where help is needed the most can help in faster development. More businesses can increase the count of developing and developed countries. The sharing of best practices across countries and industries will be simpler and so will be the sharing of relevant intelligence.

Countries that prided themselves on communication skills, especially knowledge and fluency in English will now need to take a relook at their USP as language will cease to be a barrier for business.

  •  Increased knowledge base:

Videos, Podcasts, Songs, Dialogues and Audiobooks – they can all be made available in multiple languages without significant effort. You could actually watch a Chinese movie in French by having edited the sound track (except for the lip sync!)

Skype Translator, as I understand, is a spin-off from Microsoft’s Siri-like clone called Cortana. The translation technology has evolved over 15+ years of development at Microsoft as mentioned by Satya Nadella.


It has positive network  externalities, which means that I benefit from more and more users joining and using it. You get better translations, an increased spread of the languages covered and of course, have more people to communicate with!


Though these are the initial days, the future is full of promise and the expectations are huge! It wouldn’t be long before ‘Skype’ would actually refer to a verb that means to communicate in native language with a translator!

All the best #Skype & #Microsoft!

Hope we increase the tribe of the folks below, so that their languages can be learnt by more people and thus prevented from getting wiped out!