Yamashita’s gold, also referred to as the Yamashita treasure, is the name given to the alleged war loot stolen in Southeast Asia by Japanese forces during World War II and hidden in caves, tunnels and underground complexes in the Philippines. It is named for the Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita, nicknamed “The Tiger of Malaya”. Though accounts that the treasure remains hidden in the Philippines have lured treasure hunters from around the world for over fifty years, its existence is dismissed by most experts. The rumored treasure has been the subject of a complex lawsuit that was filed in a Hawaiian state court in 1988 involving a Filipino treasure hunter, Rogelio Roxas, and the former Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos.
The looting and the alleged cover-up
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 (controversially) convicted of war crimes and executed by the U.S. Army on February 23, 1946.
The stolen property reportedly included many different kinds of valuables looted from banks, depositories, other commercial premises, museums , private homes and religious buildings. 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 War in the Pacific progressed, U.S. Navy submarines and Allied warplanes inflicted increasingly heavy sinkings of Japanese merchant shipping. Some of the ships carrying the war booty back to Japan were sunk in combat.
The Seagraves and a few others have claimed that American military intelligence operatives (Edward Lansdale) located much of the loot; they colluded with Hirohito and other senior Japanese figures to conceal its existence, and they used it to finance American covert intelligence operations around the world during the Cold War. These rumors have inspired many hopeful treasure hunters, but most experts and Filipino historians say there is no credible evidence behind these claims.
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