The continuous search for Yamashitas Gold Treasure
Much in the following article is uncertain and remains–apart from a few reality-shreds - in the atmosphere of wobbling, inconsistent presumptions and speculations. Only the life and career of general Yamashita Actually is more clear. His alleged „gold-treasure" is still fifty years after his death igniting the fantasy of treasure-seekers on the Philippines and gives rise to mysterious treasure-hunting activities again and again. It is like the search for the lost Rhine-gold or reminds to Hitler's alleged treasures of the Reichsbank in the Toplitzsee. Further, the still existing gold-fever was heated up by the film "Yamashita: The tiger's Treasure " that appeared in 2002 in Philippine movie theatres.
After his officer-training Yamashita, 1885–1946, was appointed to the Japanese general staff. He visited Germany and Switzerland and became a military-attaché in Vienna. Later in 1936 he is slightly involved into a coup of military and is send as army-commander on the border of the Manchuria. Later he gets the rank-highest position of a general in the imperial air force. World War II breaks out in Europe. For a short time he is as representative of the axis-power Japan on a goodwill-mission in Germany and compares the military potentials. He is not a friend of war declarations against Great Britain and the United States and is nominated in 1941 as commander of the 25 the Army. He conquers quickly the peninsula of Malacca. In 1942, he succeeds in capering Singapore after a siege of seventy days in a surprise-attack despite the higher number of British soldiers. The losses of the British are high. Now his myth as „Tiger of Malaya "begins to establish. Until 1944, he remains in the Manchuria.
In 1941/42, the invasion of Japanese troops takes place in the Philippines. Under the ideological umbrella „Asia the Asian " the Japanese establish a puppet government under Jose P. Laurel, which doesn't find the wide support of the population despite initially stronger collaboration. The despotism of the Japanese strikes soon fear into the population of the Philippines.
At this time in the conquered areas of Asia a well-directed looting on a large scale through the Japanese troops takes place, at which also the princes of the Japanese emperor-house take part (Organization „Golden Lily"). After an estimate approximately 4000 - 6000 tons of gold well as precious metals, gems, coins, bills, works of art and antiques are confiscated or rubbed. The value the treasures robbed in twelve Asian countries is supposed to represent a sum of over 100 billion dollars („Treasure Quest Magazine "). A part of the booty is shipped on direct way to Japan. The war-luck begins however to turn and the ship-passage to Japan becomes more and more dangerous by American submarines. The Japanese government decides on hiding the robbery-properties on the Philippines, still hoping that the Philippines remain after end of war in the Japanese dominion.
Back to general Yamashita. It is not known whether the general was concerned directly with looting and confiscations during his time in Malaya and Singapore Due to the military pressures of the Americans he is engaged in the defence of the Philippines relatively late in October 1944 . A big part of the treasures is already buried on the Philippines already, that's the reason why the name „Yamashitas Treasure "is not quite correct. In the battles in Leyte and Luzon the general gets defeated. Six times, he must transfer his headquarters, because Mac Arthur's troops are approaching. He declares Manila as an open city, that should not be defended and went back with the rest of his troops to Baguio. But the subordinated Admiral Iwabuchi Sanji and his soldiers decide to defend Manila however. They cause an extraordinary massacre under the population and the partly destruction of Manila. More than 100.000 Filipinos lose in these days their life.
In September 1945, general Yamashita is seized and delivered up to a war criminal process. It is controversial whether the hastily staged process followed strict legality-principles. General Yamashita defends himself with the argument that he did not have any part in person in the accused war-crimes and that he could not influence anymore the military actions in connection with the defence of Manila. He is declared as guilty and hanged in February 1946 after an useless mercy-attempt. The general does not make any statements with regard to the buried robbery-treasures.
Let's now focus the assumed buried treasures. There are some experts, who doubt fundamentally the existence of the treasure. The archaeologist Eusebio Dizon of the Manila National museum is belonging to this group. After a search for eighteen years, he comes to the conclusion that there is not any evidence for the existence of the treasure. Other authors are thinking that there was no reason for the Japanese in 1943 to bury the treasures in the Philippines. These authors however ignore the testified findings of treasures in the Marcos-era.
Again and again, it is written in literature that 172 (175) treasure-places on water- and countryside are "documented". These „documents" are not accessible for the public and are square maps made of rice-paper and show characters of a two thousand year language („Kungi"), which is nearly unknown today. The cards refer to markers, that are in the environment of the treasure-places. There are also surviving eyewitnesses, for example Ben Valmores, a Philippine servant of a Japanese prince, who informed about the construction of the treasure-tunnels. Mostly prisoners of war (POW´s) were obliged to dig the caves or vaults. After completion they were shot and left behind in the vaults.
The vaults – so the legend - were safeguarded in different manners. The descriptions of the protections are remembering at specific computer-adventure-games like „Tomb Raider "or „Indiana Jones ". There are warnings about water traps, Egyptian-style rock falls, spring-loaded bomb detonators and glass-encased cyanide capsules.
What happened to the treasures after the war? Sterling and Peggy Seagrave claim in their book "Gold Warriors ", that the driver of general Yamashita was tortured by the Americans and that he betrayed more than twelve hiding places. The Americans would have lifted the findings in cloak-and-dagger operations and transferred them to America. President Truman - so this theory - declared the findings as a „state-secret "in order to exclude rights for compensation of other states and private-persons. The treasure would have been used then for financing the fight against the communism in the phase of the cold war. – Another book about Japans „Yamato dynasty ", which is classified as less credible, develops the thesis, that the Japanese would have succeeded in transferring bigger parts of the treasure. With help of the treasure they would have financed their economic miracle in the post-war era. - It is known, that the Japanese TVB Asahi found 1800 gold barts in the value of 150 million dollars near Manila.
There are more numerous proofs, that Filipinos themselves have found parts of the treasure. A Mr. Roxas, who was a translator during the war for the Japanese, found in 1970 a tunnel filled with gold and some skeletons. He took at home a three feet high golden Buddha. A short time later president Marcos was informed over the finding. After a torture Mr. Roxas revealed the place of discovery, nevertheless he was thrown into the prison. Mr Roxas took proceedings in 1986 - a short time before his death - against Ferdinand Marcos. The complaint failed however because of joint tenancy of the married couple Marcos.
There are some witnesses, (among others Mr Dominguez / Mr Caoile) that soldiers from the 16th Infantry Battalion exploited over 13 years altogether 30 treasure-positions on order of president Marcos and General Ver. An article in „The Philippine Daily Inquirer " gives the information, that 60.000 (!) tons of gold bars, precious metals and gems would have been lifted. Mrs Marcos herself conceded that parts of the treasure fell into the hands of her husband. But she did not give any information about the places and values. This statement of Mrs Marcos is also considered as a protection-contention in order to cover other raids (development-funds / monopolies). If the Ex-CIA-Agent Reiner, hired by the government Aquino, is telling the truth, than 1240 tons of gold are deposited in a free warehouse in Zurich / Switzerland. The gold is told to be in the property of the Marcos.
The treasure-search on the Philippines goes on. „Death secure" tips are sold, maps exchanged, war-veterans questioned, diviners are called and .... foreigners considered to be rich are taken for a ride by cheaters. Who nevertheless is "faithful" and does not shun a risk, the following Internet-addresses are recommended for further information:
The authors of the last address are pretending that 260 from the 720 treasure-places are not yet exploited and they invite investors. On the way, soldiers of fortune!
© W. Bethge