For 29 years, Onoda refused to surrender, dismissing every attempt to convince him that the war was over as a ruse. He continued his campaign, living in the mountains with a small band of men, some of whom abandoned him and others who were killed, leaving him alone in the mountains. In 1960, Onoda was declared legally dead in Japan.
Found by a Japanese student, Onoda still refused to believe that the war was over until he received orders to lay down his arms from his superior officer. In 1974 the Japanese government located Onoda's commanding officer, who had since become a bookseller. He went to Lubang and ordered Onoda to surrender. Lieutenant Onoda emerged from the jungle 29 years after the end of World War II, and accepted the order of surrender in his dress uniform and sword, with his 25 calibre rifle still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades.
Though he had killed some thirty Philippine inhabitants of the island and engaged in several shootouts with the police, the circumstances of these events were taken into consideration, and Onoda received a pardon from President Ferdinand Marcos.
After his surrender, Onoda moved to Brazil, where he became a cattle farmer. He released an autobiography, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, shortly after his surrender, detailing his life as a guerilla fighter in a war that was long over. He revisited Lubang Island in 1996, donating $10,000 for the local school on Lubang. Onoda is still alive today.