Yamashita's Gold

During World War II, Japanese forces gather valuable items from the countries that they occupied. When it became obvious that Japan was losing the war, the soldiers quickly buried a large collection of gold, silver and diamonds somewhere in the Philippines. This collection is known as Yamashita’s Gold - named after General Tomoyuki Yamashita, nicknamed "The Tiger of Malaya". Those who might have known about the location of the hidden treasure have already been killed or executed. Though accounts that the treasure remains hidden in Philippines have lured treasure hunters from around the world for over fifty years, its existence is disputed by most experts. The so-called “Yamashita Treasure” is not a wild tale but true. During the war, acting directly under the authority of the emperor, Japanese teams swarmed over China and the other Japanese occupied areas and as if with a giant vacuum cleaner, took all of the gold and gems they could lay their hands on. Their methods were not pretty, but they ended up with uncounted tons of gold which, they hid in caves in the Philippines.

The stolen property reportedly included many different kinds of valuables looted from banks, depositories, temples, churches, other commercial premises, mosques, museums and private homes. It takes its name from General Tomoyuki Yamashita, who assumed command of Japanese forces in the Philippines in 1944. According to various accounts, the loot was initially concentrated in Singapore, and later transported to the Philippines. The Japanese hoped to ship the treasure from the Philippines to the Japanese home islands after the war ended. As the Pacific War progressed, Allied submarines and aircraft inflicted increasingly heavy losses on Japanese merchant shipping. Some ships carrying loot back to Japan were sunk.

After hostilities, those in the know went on a big treasure hunt. Primary in this exercise was Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippine Islands. Ferdinand was certainly not alone. The cast of characters is fascinating, involving all of the leading political personalities of the day from President Truman on down, including people like Gen. John Singlaub, Melvin Belli, Laurence Butler, Bonner Fellers, Orrin Hatch, Rep. Larry McDonald, Robert Welch, Floyd Paxton, etc., etc. Most of them lost money trying to recover the hidden gold.

Prominent among those arguing for the existence of Yamashita's gold are Sterling Seagrave and Peggy Seagrave, who have written two books relating to the subject: The Yamato Dynasty: the Secret History of Japan's Imperial Family (2000) and Gold Warriors: America's Secret Recovery of Yamashita's Gold (2003).

The Seagraves contend that looting was organized on a massive scale, by both yakuza gangsters such as Yoshio Kodama, and the highest levels of Japanese society, including Emperor Hirohito. The Japanese government intended that loot from Southeast Asia would finance Japan's war effort. The Seagraves allege that Hirohito appointed his brother, Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, to head a secret organization called Kin no yuri ("Golden Lily"), for this purpose.

It is purported that many of those who knew the locations of the loot were killed during the war, or later tried by the Allies for war crimes and executed or incarcerated. Yamashita himself was executed for war crimes on February 23, 1946.

The Seagraves and a few others have claimed that United States military intelligence operatives located much of the loot; colluded with Hirohito and other senior Japanese figures to conceal its existence, and; used it to finance US covert intelligence operations around the world during the Cold War. These rumors have inspired many hopeful treasure hunters, but most experts and Philippine historians say there is no credible evidence behind them.

Jimmy R. McCormick fans the flames by saying in his 1992 workbook on treasure hunting in the Philippines, that for 20 years, he “personally observed” many Japanese groups making regular trips to the Philippines, always to the same locations with treasure markings, guided by maps they jealously guarded.

In March 1988, a Filipino treasure hunter named Rogelio Roxas filed a lawsuit in the state of Hawaii against the former president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda Marcos for theft and human rights abuses. Roxas claimed that in Baguio City in 1961 he met the son of a former member of the Japanese army who mapped for him the location of the legendary Yamashita Treasure. Roxas claimed a second man, who served as Yamashita's interpreter during the Second World War, told him of visiting an underground chamber there where stores of gold and silver were kept, and who told of a golden buddha kept at a convent located near the underground chambers.

Roxas claimed that within the next few years he formed a group to search for the treasure, and obtained a permit for the purpose from a relative of Ferdinand, Judge Pio Marcos. In 1971, Roxas claimed, he and his group uncovered an enclosed chamber on state lands near Baguio City where he found bayonets, samurai swords, radios, and skeletal remains dressed in a Japanese military uniform.

Also found in the chamber, Roxas claimed, were a three foot high golden colored buddha and numerous stacked crates which filled an area approximately 6 feet x 6 feet x 35 feet. He claimed he opened just one of the boxes, and found it packed with gold bullion. He said he took from the chamber the golden buddha, which he estimated to weigh 1,000 kilograms, and one box with twenty-four gold bars, and hid them in his home. He claimed he resealed the chamber for safekeeping until he could arrange the removal of the remaining boxes which he suspected were also filled with gold bars.

Roxas said he sold seven of the gold bars from the opened box, and sought potential buyers for the golden buddha. Two individuals representing prospective buyers examined and tested the metal in the buddha, Roxas said, and reported it was made of solid, 20 carat gold. It was soon after this, Roxas claimed, that President Ferdinand Marcos learned of Roxas' discovery and ordered him arrested, beaten, and the buddha and remaining gold seized. Roxas alleged that in retaliation to his vocal campaign to reclaim the buddha and the remainder of the treasure taken from him, Ferdinand continued to have Roxas threatened, beaten and eventually incarcerated for over a year.

In 1998, The Hawaii Supreme Court held that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding that Roxas found the treasure and that Marcos converted it. However, the court reversed the damage award, holding that the $22 billion award of damages for the chamber full of gold was too speculative as there was no evidence of quantity or quality, and ordered a new hearing on the value of the golden buddha and 17 bars of gold only.

Many individuals and consortia, both Philippine and foreign, continue to search for treasure sites. A lot of local participants that interested with Yamashita’s Gold discuss the treasure maps and sightings of possible treasure symbols everywhere from Quezon City, Batangas and Bicol to Cebu, Negros, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat.

Sources :
SunStar Cebu May 2, 2007, Treasure Hunters : “The Blinding Sheen” by Cherry Ann T. Lim;
The Phoenix Project Journal, News Review Vol. 43, No. 9;
YG Bet You Didn’t Know : “Lost and Found” page 18;

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  1. The Seagraves actually published three (3) books about this, The Marcos Dynasty, The Yamato Dynasty, and Gold Warriors.

  2. (@Anonymous) Thank you for your information, really appreciate it.


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