RIO DE JANEIRO – Former army intelligence officer Hiroo Onoda has become the first Japanese to receive the Santos-Dumont Medal of Merit from the Brazilian air force, Brazil’s highest civilian award.
Onoda, 82, was stationed on Lubang Island in the Philippines during World War II and continued living in the jungle nearly 30 years without knowing that the war had ended.
Onoda returned to Japan in March 1974 and emigrated to Brazil in 1975.
The Brazilian air force decided to honor Onoda in recognition of his military record and for his service to Brazil.
In a ceremony earlier this month, Onoda said he was glad that his military record was recognized by the military of a foreign country and that he wants to do whatever he can to further promote Brazil-Japan relations.
Onoda was sent to Lubang Island in December 1944 after graduating from the Nakano School of the Imperial Japanese Army, an institution to train intelligence officers.
He became a cattle farmer in Brazil and has been actively involved in the Japanese community there, setting up a Japanese association.