- In the closing months of World War II, in the Philippines,
several of Japan's highest ranking imperial princes hid tons of looted
gold bullion and other stolen treasure in caves and tunnels, to recover
later. This was the wealth of 12 Asian countries, accumulated over thousands
- Expert teams accompanying Japan's armed forces had systematically
emptied treasuries, banks, factories, private homes, pawn shops, art galleries,
and stripped ordinary people, while Japan's top gangsters looted Asia's
underworld and its black economy.
- There were 175 ''imperial'' treasure sites hidden throughout
the Philippines. When American tanks were close, the chief engineers of
those vaults were given a farewell party 67 metres underground in Tunnel
8 in the mountains of Luzon, stacked with row after row of gold bars. As
the evening progressed, they drank great quantities of sake, sang patriotic
songs and shouted banzai (long life).
- At midnight, General Yamashita Tomoyuki and the princes
slipped out, and dynamite charges were set off in the access tunnels, entombing
the engineers. Their vaults would remain secret. The princes escaped
to Tokyo by submarine, and three months later General Yamashita surrendered
to American troops. Japan had lost the war militarily, but the princes
made certain Japan did not lose financially.
- This grisly event has remained unknown until now, and
the hidden treasure was brushed off as a fanciful legend of ''Yamashita's
Gold''. But an eyewitness to the entombment has taken us there and given
us his personal account. During the war, Ben Valmores was the young Filipino
valet of a senior prince, who was in charge of closing all imperial
treasure sites in the Philippines. A sometimes sentimental man, the
prince spared Ben's life and led him out of Tunnel 8 just before the
dynamite was detonated.
- Japan's looting of Asia was overseen by [then-emperor]
Hirohito's brother Prince Chichibu. His organisation was codenamed kin
no yuri (Golden Lily), the title of one of the emperor's poems. Other
princes headed different parts of Golden Lily across the conquered territories.
Eventually, Japanese sources told us that Ben's wartime master was prince
Takeda Tsuneyoshi, first cousin of Hirohito and grandson of emperor
- In 1998, we tested Ben with 1930s photographs of many
princes, all the names removed, and he instantly identified prince Takeda,
Hirohito's brother prince Chichibu and other princes.
- Ben said he had spent time with each of them, bringing
them food, tea and cigarettes while they inventoried each treasure site.
When he saw our photo of Prince Takeda, Ben froze, then began softly
crooning the Japanese folk song Sakura, Sakura (Cherry Blossoms), which
he said Takeda often sang to himself.
- In the final stages of work on a biography of Japan's
imperial family titled The Yamato Dynasty, we were told that in October
1945, American intelligence agents learned where some of the Japanese loot
was hidden in the Philippines, and quietly recovered billions of dollars
worth of gold bullion, platinum, and loose diamonds. This information,
if true, revealed the existence of an extraordinary state secret, something
the United States Government kept from its own citizens for more than
half a century. There was no time to include this in the biography.
It had to be investigated separately. Here is some of what we have since
- After surrendering on September 2, 1945, General Yamashita
was charged with war crimes over gruesome atrocities committed in Manila
under the order of an admiral, while Yamashita had ordered withdrawing
troops to leave the city unharmed. During his trial, there was no mention
of plundered treasure, or of looting during the war.
- But we now know there was a hidden agenda. Because it
was not possible to torture General Yamashita physically without this becoming
evident to his lawyers, members of his staff were tortured. His driver,
Major Kojima Kashii, was given special attention. In charge of the torture
of Major Kojima was a Filipino-American intelligence officer named Severino
Garcia Santa Romana, whose friends called him Santy. He wanted the major
to reveal each place where he had taken Yamashita, where bullion and
other treasure was hidden for recovery after the war. Supervising Santy
during the torture was Captain Edward Lansdale, later one of America's
best known ''Cold Warriors''.
- Early that October, Kojima broke and led Lansdale and
Santy to more than a dozen Golden Lily treasure vaults in the rugged country
north of Manila. What they found astounded everyone from General Douglas
MacArthur all the way up to the White House. After discussions with
his cabinet, President Harry Truman decided to keep the recovery a state
- Santy's ensuing recoveries greatly altered America's
leverage during the Cold War. According to senior US government officials
and high-ranking US Army officers, the Truman administration set this
treasure aside along with Axis loot recovered in Europe, as a secret
political action fund to fight communism in the Cold War.
- Crudely put, it would be used to bribe statesmen and
military officers, and to buy elections for anti-communist political parties.
The idea for a global political action fund based on war loot had originated
with US secretary of war, Henry Stimson. During the war, Stimson had
a brain-trust thinking hard about recovered Axis plunder, and how it
should be handled after the war. Their solution was to set up what is
informally called the ''Black Eagle Trust'', after the black eagle emblem
of Hitler's Reichsbank in Berlin.
- The Black Eagle Trust was first discussed in secret during
July 1944, when 44 nations met at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to plan
the post-war economy. This was confirmed to us by a number of high-level
sources, including former CIA deputy director Ray Cline, who knew about
Santy's recoveries in 1945, and continued to be involved in attempts
in the 1980s and 1990s to hide blocks of Japanese war loot still said
to be in the vaults of banks in New York.
- In November 1945, General MacArthur strolled down row
after row of gold bars stacked two metres tall during a tour of vaults
opened by Santy. >From what was seen in these vaults alone, it was evident
that over a period of years Japan had looted billions of dollars in treasure
from all over Asia.Much of this plunder had reached Japan overland earlier,
from China through Korea, but the rest was hidden in the Philippines,
unable to be shipped to Japan by sea because of the successful US submarine
- According to Ray Cline and others, between 1945 and 1947
the gold bullion recovered by Santy and Lansdale was moved discreetly to
172 accounts at banks in 42 countries.
- There were important reasons for all this secrecy. If
the recovery of this huge mass of stolen gold was known only to a trusted
few, the countries and individuals that had been plundered could not lay
claim to it. Truman recognised that the very existence of so much black
gold, if it became public knowledge, would cause the metal's fixed price
to collapse. But as long as the gold was kept hidden, prices could be
maintained and currencies pegged to gold would be stable. Meanwhile,
the black gold would serve as a reserve asset, bolstering the prime
banks in each country, and strengthening the anti-communist governments
of those nations.
- To hide the existence of all this treasure, Washington
had to tell a number of lies. Especially lies about Japan, which had stolen
most of the gold. America wanted Japan to become its anti-communist bastion
in Asia, where the mainland was being overrun by communists. If American
conservatives and Japanese conservatives were to ally effectively against
communism, they had to begin by enlarging their financial resources
for the Cold War.
- Above all, the source of much of this hidden wealth must
never be acknowledged. Washington had to insist, starting in 1945, that
Japan never stole anything, and was flat broke and bankrupt when the war
ended. Here was the beginning of many terrible secrets.
- Because they remained ''off the books'', these enormous
political action funds got into the wrong hands, where they remain to this
day. We can reveal that in 1960, then vice-president Richard Nixon ''gave''
one of the biggest of these political action funds, the US$35-billion
(about HK$272 billion) M-Fund, to leading members of Japan's Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP). In return, he is believed to have sought their
support for his presidential campaign that year.
- The M-Fund, now said to be worth more than US$500 billion,
is still controlled by members of the LDP.
- Officially, we are told that Japan's wartime elite the
imperial family, the zaibatsu (large industrial business conglomerates),
the yakuza (Japanese mafia) and the ''good'' bureaucrats ended the war
as impoverished victims of a handful of ''bad'' military zealots. We
are told that Japan was badly damaged and impoverished, barely able
to feed itself at war's end.
- In fact, Japan emerged from the war far richer than before,
and with remarkably little damage, except to the homes of millions of ordinary
Japanese who did not count, at least in the view of their overlords.
- Evidence of Golden Lily loot comes also from straightforward
legal actions in America. Such simple things as the probating of the will
of Santa Romana (Santy), verification of his tax records, and legal evidence
of his fortune deposited in the US, Switzerland, Hong Kong and elsewhere,
provide hard proof that the world is awash with clandestine bank accounts
growing out of Golden Lily.
- Other lawsuits in the US prove that Golden Lily war loot
was indeed hidden in the Philippines. Rogelio Roxas, a Filipino locksmith,
found a one-tonne solid-gold Buddha and thousands of gold bars hidden in
a cave near Baguio only to have it stolen from him by President Ferdinand
Marcos. Roxas was subsequently tortured and died in suspicious circumstances.
Some believe he was murdered. In 1996, a US Federal Court awarded his heirs
a judgment of US$22 billion against the Marcos estate.
- As the 1951 Peace Treaty was skewed by secret deals,
thousands of Japan's victims have been deprived of any compensation for
their suffering. According to Article 14 of the Treaty: ''It is recognised
that Japan should pay reparations to the Allied Powers for the damage
and suffering caused by it during the war. Nevertheless it is also recognised
that the resources of Japan are not presently sufficient.'' To reinforce
the claim that Japan was broke, Article 14 noted that ''the Allied Powers
waive all reparations claims of the Allied Powers and their nationals
arising out of any actions taken by Japan...'' By signing the Treaty,
Allied countries concurred that Japan's plunder had vanished down a
rabbit hole, and all Japan's victims were out of luck. In return for
going along with the Treaty, the Allies received portions of the gold
bullion recovered by Santy.
- We have evidence from former CIA deputy director Cline
that the gold bullion Santy and Lansdale recovered was secretly moved to
national treasuries and prime banks in more than 42 countries, including
Great Britain. We also have evidence from British archives confirming
- More than half a century later, the last battle of the
Pacific War is being waged in courts in the US and Japan where surviving
prisoners of war, slave labourers, comfort women and civilian victims of
Japan have filed billion-dollar lawsuits to win compensation so mysteriously
denied them after the war. In 1995, it was estimated that there were
700,000 victims of the war who had still received no compensation.
- Today, their numbers are dwindling rapidly because of
age and illness. Backing them is an extraordinary coalition, including
international law firms with years of experience, fighting for compensation
from German industries and Swiss banks, for crimes committed and money
looted during the Nazi Holocaust.
- Sterling and Peggy Seagrave are the authors of ''Golden
Warriors''. This is an edited extract of the book's prologue. It will be
published in French by Editions Michalon in November