Tuesday, August 28, 2012

General Yamashita's Gold

 (Japanese Imperial Army General Tomoyuki Yamashita.)

Huge Treasure Stash

In the waning days of the Allies' World War II campaign against the Japanese in the Pacific it's said that Emperor Hirohito ordered General Tomoyuki Yamashita (the overall Imperial Army commander in the Philippines) to hide tons of gold and other "goodies" in a maze of secret, booby trapped tunnels. As unlikely as it sounds, the idea behind secreting this huge stash was to provide enough treasure to help Japan to recover after its imminent defeat.

There are about as many versions of the tale of "Yamashita's Gold" as there are treasure hunters out there searching for it. The basic run down of this treasure tale goes something like this:

Filled to the Gunwales

By the late 1930s Japan was already embroiled in an extended and bloody war of conquest in China and Manchuria. Not only was the Japanese Army able to seize large tracts of territory during this time, but staggering amounts of treasure were also seized in the form of gold, silver, jewelry, and priceless artifacts.

Treasure Hunting
Metal Detectors

In late 1944 as the Americans and their Allies prepared to invade the Philippine Islands, a single cargo vessel filled to the gunwales with part of this vast pillaged treasure set sail for Luzon, the largest (and main) island in the Philippine Archipelago. General Yamashita was ordered to hide this vast treasure trove on Luzon by the Emperor of the Sun himself.

Done in Secret

After the treasure had been unloaded, General Yamashita ordered it carefully hidden in a system of elaborately booby trapped defensive tunnels on Luzon. All of this work was done carefully and in secret, with Yamashita demanding that the human resources involved be kept to an absolute minimum and that anyone who divulged any information about this incredibly rich trove did so at the risk of their own life.

In October 1944 the Americans landed on the southern Philippine island of Leyte, fulfilling American General Douglas MacArthur's promise that "I shall return." After much bitter fighting on Leyte and eventually Luzon, the Japanese were forced to scatter into the hills and jungles of the interior where many starved, died from disease, or were killed by U.S forces or Filipino guerrillas.

Executed for War Crimes

On September 2, 1945 General Yamashita ordered his remaining 50,000 Imperial soldiers and sailors to lay down their arms and surrender to the Americans. Yamashita himself handed over his samurai sword to General Wainwright, a former POW of the Japanese who had been left in command in the Philippines when Bataan fell in 1942 (and MacArthur hightailed it for Australia).

 (American infantrymen fighting on Luzon.)

Eventually Yamashita was tried and convicted of war crimes in both Malaya and the Philippines, including the infamous Bataan Death March. For his (and his soldiers') brutality, General Yamashita was executed on December 23, 1948. At no point after his capture or subsequent trial did Yamashita elaborate upon the vast treasure trove he had supposedly ordered hidden.

"True Believers"

Does Yamashita's vast treasure exist, still hidden away in booby trapped tunnels on the island of Luzon? I personally doubt it based on the facts at hand. Then again, I've not researched this treasure tale much at all.

There are numerous "true believers" out there that are nearly fanatical in their belief that Yamashita's gold (and other "goodies") exists. Like those who believe in the Lost Dutchman Mine, these treasure hunters will never give up the search.

Good hunting to one and all.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Waybill to Lost Gold in California's Superstition Mountain (Part 1)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com