Rabbi Sol Solomon’s Rabbinical Reflection #89 (1/26/14) – HIROO ONODA

aired Jan. 26, 2014 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/U7eFyMWo1A8

Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of January 26th, 2014.

Old soldiers never die, they just – well, no, old soldiers do die. They die all the time. Just try looking for World War I veterans.

Eisenhower died, Sherman died, Patton died, and two weeks ago, Israel’s Ariel Sharon died. And now, Japan’s Hiroo Onoda has died. He fought in World War II from 1941 through 1974. As Lewis Black would say: let me repeat that: Hiroo Onoda fought the Second World War for 33 years, approximately 29 years after World War II ended for everybody else.

Yes, this is the guy they made fun of on “Gilligan’s Island.” He’s the crazy loon living in the jungle so cut off from the world, no one’s told him about color TV, liquid paper, hula hoops or the end of armed military hostility between eastern and western civilization. Hey, it happens.

Ironically, Hiroo Onoda was an intelligence officer. Well, what was it George Carlin said about military intelligence? Anyhoo, at age 22, Onoda was stationed in the Philippines and told under no circumstances to surrender. Not even if they torture him with paddles and cigarette butts and Barbra Streisand movies. Being a good little soldier, Onoda followed his orders to the letter. And since Japanese letters are weird symbolic shapey things, I guess he never figured out that the Emperor surrendered.

Onoda didn’t even give up when the allies scattered leaflets over the Philippines reading, “Come out, come out wherever you are. There’s free barbecue. Or, as we like to call it, Hiroshima.” This loyal-to-a-fault yutz didn’t believe the authenticity of the leaflets, so he and his band of stragglers kept on fighting and killing and living off coconuts.

In 1974, a Japanese hippie – who apparently didn’t realize that hippies were over in 1971 – this hippie tourist visits the island, finds Onoda and gives him the bad news that the land of the rising sun sank in 1945. Onoda sort-of believed him but still wouldn’t surrender until he got official notification from higher up. His old Major had to fly to the island and officially relieve him of duty. Heh heh…I said “duty.”

Even though he murdered people in the jungle, Onoda was pardoned by Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos – I guess he didn’t want to be the pot calling the kettle – and Mr. What-Year-Is-This actually came home to Japan something of a national hero. After all, that level of devotion and honor is pretty rare in people. Granted, that’s because most people are sane, but still…

Hiroo Onoda actually didn’t like all the attention – even the adulation – possibly because the more people inquired into his activities during his three decades on Lubang Island, the more skeletons were dug up – literal ones. Onoda started spending half the year in Brazil, presumably because he liked to be surrounded by sexy women, Jacaranda trees and fellow war criminals.

On January 16th of this year, at age 91, Hiroo Onoda succumbed to pneumonia – the first time he surrendered to anything. Well, that’s arguable; he was married, after all. And while there is something to admire about his willingness to sacrifice everything for his country, including common sense, let’s not make too much of this loser. He was part of the army and the nation that attacked us for no reason in 1941. He fought against American soldiers and may have killed a couple before he went off to pineappleville. Try asking anyone who survived Okinawa or Iwo Jima how amusing they find Hiroo Onoda or the Nipponese mindset that made him. Ask them to think of anything nice to say, and they might ponder for a moment and then say, “I give up. Too bad Hiroo Onoda didn’t.”

This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.

(c) 2014 TotalTheater. All rights reserved.

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