Friday, April 5, 2013

Yamashita's Gold

Yamashita's Gold
In the closing months of World War II General Yamashita Tomoyuki was in charge of hiding tons of Japan's looted gold and treasure.

Expert teams accompanying Japan's armed forces systematically striped anything of value from conquered territories. An effective US blockade prevented shipment and at one time there were more than 175 Imperial treasure sites hidden in caves and tunnels throughout the Philippines.

With US forces closing in, the chief engineers of all the vaults were called together with General Yamashita 67 meters underground in Tunnel 8 in the mountains of Luzon. They became drunk on sake and sang patriotic songs.
At midnight, General Yamashita Tomoyuki and his aids slipped out. Dynamite charges were set off in the access tunnels, entombing the engineers. The General escaped to Tokyo by submarine and three months later surrendered to American troops.

Yamashita's driver led the Americans to more than a dozen treasure vaults in the rugged country north of Manila. What they found astounded everyone. In November 1945, General MacArthur strolled down row after row of gold bars stacked two metres tall during a tour. In another 500 meter tunnel west of Mindanao, 12.5kg Gold bars were stacked 1 meter high. After discussions with his cabinet, President Harry Truman kept the recovery efforts a state secret.

After surrendering on September 2, 1945, General Yamashita was charged with war crimes. During his trial there was no mention made of plundered treasure or of Japanese looting during the war.

On 23 February 1946, at Los Baños, Laguna Prison Camp, 30 miles (48 km) south of Manila, Yamashita was hanged.

In 1992, Imelda Marcos claimed that Yamashita's gold accounted for the bulk of the wealth of her husband, Ferdinand Marcos. Despite the best efforts of treasure hunters, no gold hoards have ever (officially) been found.