The loot of Luzon
by Mike Tharp
Shortly before his trial for war crimes, Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yama#a was asked the main cause of Japan's defeat. According to historian John Dower,
the general "responded with the only English word he used in the entire interview: 'science.' "
Science, as it turns out, has almost nothing to do with Yama#a's personal legacy. As legend has it, Emperor Hirohito ordered him to hide tons of gold
and other treasures in a maze of booby-trapped Philippine tunnels–riches to help Japan rebuild from the ashes of its imminent defeat.
Historians have never unearthed credible evidence of the Yama#a gold, but the story took on a life of its own. Today, 55 years after the stocky
general walked out of his mountain redoubt and surrendered to U.S. infantrymen, there's a ready supply of books, articles, and Web sites about the
treasure. The bestselling novel Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson cuts between World War II and the present in a tale about the gold. Earlier this
year, a nonfiction "secret history" of Japan's Yamato Dynasty breathlessly exposed a plot in which stolen Pacific War gold has underwritten Japan's
postwar economic miracle. Stephenson's book is much more believable.
There are many versions of the tale, but the main elements are pretty standard. Beginning in the late 1930s in Manchuria and China, Japanese teams
pillaged the countries they colonized, stripping them of the most precious metals and jewels. Ultimately, this hoard was loaded onto a Japanese ship,
which sailed for the Philippines. The ship made land in the Philippines, the story goes, and Yama#a hid the riches on the island of Luzon in tunnels
guarded by trip mines and gas canisters. After the war, the Japanese are said to have funneled the gold back to Tokyo.
The legend ignores several facts. Yama#a was never a favorite of the military clique running the war. He was cashiered by Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.
In 1944, after Tojo was removed, Yama#a was dispatched to the Philippines. From December 1944 until he handed over his sword in September 1945, Yama#a
had to relocate his headquarters at least six times, driven ever deeper into the mountains and the jungles by devastating U.S. air, land, and sea
power. It's hard to see when he would have had time to hide all that gold.
It makes a good yarn–but that may be all. "We heard rumors, but we couldn't track any of them down," recalls Kay Tateishi, stationed in the
Philippines with the Japanese news agency Domei in 1943-44. "As far as I know and the sources I talked to, it was a lot of hogwash."
edit on 093030p://4326 by mike dangerously because: Reworked the article.