During WWII the Japanese Imperial Army systematically looted all the conquered Asian countries of their
national treasures (This included; gold, silver, precious stones/gems, golden statues, etc.). During the earlier
part of the war, WWII looted treasures were being shipped back to Japan for badly needed war finances.
However, when American patrolling naval vessels made the shipping of these looted treasures to Japan
much too risky to continue with due to almost certain loss, another plan was devised.
Investigative reports show that a great bulk of World War II treasures reached the Philippines from the latter
part of 1943 through October, 1944, at that period when Field Marshall Count Terauchi was in-charge of the
Japanese Imperial Forces in the Southeast area of the Pacific. He had ordered Admiral Masaharu (then
over-all military commander of the Philippines before Yamashita) and several other Admirals and Generals
(including Yamashita) that all war booties taken from their respective occupied territories comprising Java,
Sumatra, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, and Northern India be collected and thereafter transferred to
Why So Much WWII Loot In The Philippines?
by Tony Wells
Japan had always considered the
Philippine Islands to be a very
important strategic location for
military bases in Southeast Asia.
Unknown to the rest of the world,
the Japanese Imperial Forces
had a major plan for post war
sovereign and the Philippine
Archipelago was included in this
Once the shipping lanes became
too dangerous due to American
Naval vessels, almost all of the
loot that the Japanese had
accumulated thereafterwards was
being channeled to the
Philippines and buried.
Their ultimate plan was, that when
the war was over they were going
to withdraw forces from all the
other Asian countries but try to
maintain their colonial rule over
the Philippine islands.
Under the banner of "Asia for Asians" they prescribed some reforms in the guise of nationalism. In hopes to
win over the Philippine people, in 1943, the Japanese went as far as setting up a 'Philippine Republic', and
installing a puppet government with the Judge Jose' Laurel as president.
By winning over the hearts of the Philippine people and later even granting them independence, the
Japanese Forces hoped that they would be then regarded as 'hero's' by them. This would also allow them to
put military bases there as a pretext of 'protection for the Philippine people'. In this way, they could remain in
the Philippines for as long as they liked and take their time to re-excavate the stolen WWII loot at their
leisure. It was a good plan but in the end it didn't work out - the Americans invaded the Philippines in October
However, before this U.S. invasion, the Japanese Imperial Forces were busy hiding and securing its stolen
WW II loot. Elaborate tunnels were dug, some down to depths of a few hundred feet, to the final 'storage
chambers'. Many of these tunnels were dug down to just below the water table during dry season, which
would also be a deterrent to would-be future salvors.
Most, if not all of these tunnels, were booby-trapped and rigged with 1,000 and 2,000 pound WWII bombs
and poisonous gas. This trick would also help keep the buried loot from falling into enemy hands. Detailed
maps of the sites were drawn up on rectangular rice paper - all written in special treasure codes and the
2,000-year-old Japanese script known as 'Kungi'.
In most cases, POW labor
was used to dig the intricate
tunneling systems. In all cases,
upon completion of securing
the gold in the pits - the
POW's were all executed and
buried along with the
In some rare cases, Japanese
officers even had their own
soldiers killed and buried
along with the treasure to
protect their secret locations.
In all there were 172
'documented' Philippine burial
sites (138 land and 34 water
sites) left by the Japanese
Imperial Forces. This is not to
even mention the numerous
'private' burials of WWII loot by
greedy officers and renegade
There was still much treasure
remaining to be buried when
the U.S. abruptly invaded the
islands. Japanese Forces
took all of this with them up
into the mountains in the
northern Philippines and other
areas during their retreat, where it was all buried at many different locations.
It is estimated that the total worth of this war loot ranged up to 3 billion 1940's dollars - the equivalent of
over $100 billion today. According to various post war estimates, the amount of gold bullion alone was
4,000 to 6,000 tons. Ex-president Ferdinand Marcos himself managed to recover several sites and that is
how he became so wealthy.
The above information was collected from several books and other sources (including but not limited to) ;
Asian Loot (Charles C. McDougald)
The Gold of the Sun (Robert Curtis)
The Marcos Dynasty (Sterling Seagrave)
The Marcos Legacy Revisited: Raiders of the Lost Gold (Erick San Juan)
The World Atlas of Treasure (Derek Wilson)
The Yamamoto Dynasty (Sterling Seagrave)
Tracing Marcos' Gold - The True Story of the Yamashita's Treasure (D. Ahl Umali)
Plus... various newspaper articles and personal interviews.