Published in the South China Morning Post on Sunday, October 31, 1999
SUNDAY AGENDA - Secret of Hirohito's hidden billions CHARMAINE CHAN It contains all the elements of a
political thriller: family squabbles, power struggles, duplicity and murder. It involves a huge pile of treasure -
bullion worth billions stashed all over the world - and secret operations to retrieve it. It promises a sequel. And
best of all, it is all true.
So say Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, in their latest work, The Yamato Dynasty (Bantam Press), an incisive
biography of five generations of Japan's imperial family since the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Their most
controversial claims, however, centre on the country's longest-reigning emperor, Hirohito, who died in 1989.
The book claims to reveal for the first time the imperial family's alleged role in Japan's wartime looting of Asia
- a covert operation named Golden Lily that was headed by Prince Chichibu, a brother of Hirohito, and
involved the military, the secret service, underworld figures and businessmen.
It aims to expose the extent to which Washington and Tokyo supposedly collaborated to keep this secret and
deceive the world into thinking the fighting had left Japan too poor to compensate its victims meaningfully.
It dashes once and for all assumptions that the imperial family was a fossilised symbol removed from
day-to-day decisions during the war.
It also says that the people involved in Hirohito's exoneration of war crimes - including General Douglas
MacArthur and former US president Herbert Hoover - walked away from the occupation with huge amounts of
"I think this is going to turn out to be one of the great scandals of the century," Sterling Seagrave says
matter-of-factly. In a phone interview from his home in Europe, the former journalist explains how he and his
wife first stumbled across information that would lead them on an 18-year investigation of the Japanese
imperial family. He tiptoes around exactly where he lives because of possible retaliation over the latest
"In the course of working on a book about the Marcoses [The Marcos Dynasty] we discovered how much of
the Japanese war loot Ferdinand Marcos had recovered," Seagrave says. "At the time we didn't really
understand too well how the looting operation had occurred during World War II. We assumed there was
collaboration between the Japanese army and the Japanese underworld. It was only after we published the
book that we realised there were a number of imperial princes involved in the looting."
While Japan's war aggression is well documented, much less has been written about its plundering and the
people killed to keep hideaways secret. According to the Seagraves, many POWs prisoners of war and
Japanese soldiers were buried alive in vaults they dug for the booty, which included gold bullion, gems and
Others died when the ships they were on were scuttled so the treasure could be hidden at sea.
That it has taken so long for the imperial family to be implicated is not surprising because, according to
Seagrave, "nobody had looked beyond Hirohito himself".
Seagrave says nobody had done a study of Prince Chichibu, who until now was believed to have sat out the
war recuperating from tuberculosis in an estate near Mount Fuji, or Prince Takeda, a cousin of Hirohito who,
Seagrave says, oversaw the collection and concealment of Japan's war loot, or any of the others, like Prince
Asaka, an uncle of Hirohito who commanded the rape of Nanking.
The authors contend that Hirohito appointed Chichibu head of Golden Lily (named after one of the emperor's
poems) in 1940, with Takeda as his deputy. According to their sources - participants and other eyewitnesses,
as well as Chichibu's retinue - the two apparently travelled to China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia,
Burma, Malaya, Singapore, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Philippines, looting treasures and supervising
their transport to Japan using ships disguised with hospital crosses.
The imperial family's actual role in Golden Lily was never apparent for several reasons, Seagrave says. "For
example, Prince Takeda used a nom de guerre everywhere he worked in Asia during the war, so people who
came into contact with him knew him by different names.
This has taken us nearly 20 years to figure out," he says.
But the couple was able to pinpoint Takeda and others by putting together information gleaned from various
sources. "People who described Takeda to us physically knew he was a prince, but they didn't know which
prince he was and weren't quite sure what his relationship was to Hirohito,"
Seagrave says. "It turned out there were actually uncles, cousins and brothers all there [involved in the
plundering] at the same time."
After the war, the story takes a more sinister turn when US forces led by MacArthur occupied Japan, raising
expectations that, among other things, democracy would flourish, the zaibatsu conglomerates that had
bankrolled Japan's warmongering would be dissolved, and the guilty would be brought to justice.
But those hopes proved premature when Allied investigators proclaimed - falsely, the Seagraves say - Japan
to be bankrupt, removing from it the duty of paying meaningful reparations.
In comparison with Germany, which has provided US$30 billion (HK$233 billion) in compensation over the
years, Japan has paid only US$2 billion. According to Seagrave, "British PoWs received only US$48 each.
Most victims got zero". MacArthur also allowed Hirohito's own accountants to audit the emperor's wealth -
which they hugely underestimated at US$100 million, a point that has been noted by others.
In addition the Supreme Commander Allied Powers announced that after taxes and other penalties, Hirohito
had only US$42,000 in cash - a laughable figure in the Seagraves' opinion.
Not only did the imperious general downplay Japan's and the emperor's net worth but, the authors contend, he
went out of his way to make Hirohito seem innocent of any war crimes by forcing wartime prime minister
General Hideki Tojo and other officers to perjure themselves by claiming exclusive responsibility for the war.
But MacArthur was not alone. His aide, General Bonner Fellers, Hoover, and US ambassador to Japan
Joseph Grew were also in on the conspiracy to exonerate Hirohito, the Seagraves say.
And Hirohito was not the only member of the imperial household to escape punishment. None of his family
was tried for war crimes.
Why the deception? MacArthur and a clique of right-wing Americans (financiers included) wanted Hirohito to
remain in power so they could hold him hostage to their demands, the authors argue. They needed to protect
US interests in Japan, including massive loans and business investments made before the war. They also
wanted a shield against communist expansion in the East. "Hoover wanted conservative, anti-communist
Japan to be America's political, commercial and financial ally in Asia," the Seagraves write.
"Tokyo would be the Asian base for the Republican Party and its Wall Street supporters."
Even if the sham had stopped there, Tokyo and Washington would have enough reason now to take up the
cudgels; there is likely to be a surge of reparation claims, for one.
But there is more. The Seagraves contend that while Washington was declaring Japan to be insolvent,
between 1945 and 1948 agents of the Office of Strategic Services (which became the CIA in 1947) and US
Army officers were led by an OSS officer, Severino Garcia Santa Romana, in the recovery of billions of
dollars worth of war loot from mountain caves in the Philippines.
Gold bullion emptied from vaults were deposited in 176 bank accounts in 42 countries, they add. And some
of this bounty ended up lining the pockets of Hoover and MacArthur.
"The loot was earmarked for secret anti-communist operations during the Cold War," Seagrave says. "What
this means is that there is now incontrovertible evidence of collusion between America and Japan, while
millions of war victims went without any form of compensation to this day."
Seagrave's calm, steady voice belies the excitement he must have felt when he found what he says is proof of
this unholy alliance. "It's only as this book began to come into its final form [in the past two years] that things
dovetailed - to the extent we knew beyond question there had been collusion," he says.
"We were doing research at the Hoover Library in California and the MacArthur Memorial Library in Norfolk,
Virginia. At both places we suddenly came across documents, personal notes, diaries, entries and also
some annotations that confirmed the link between General MacArthur's staff in Tokyo and the people in the
Philippines making these recoveries. That . . led us to the bank documents that showed the Japanese war
loot in bank accounts in the name of Herbert Hoover and of General MacArthur."
How much did they profit from the war? "We know that when Herbert Hoover died, his son had to get
permission from the American Treasury to sell US$100 million in gold bullion that was in his father's bank
account," says Seagrave, adding that he has yet to calculate the exact amount MacArthur had in his account.
But, he continues, "we do know MacArthur had an account with millions of dollars in gold in it at the Hong
Kong branch of the Sanwa Bank. He held this account jointly with Hirohito. If that isn't collusion at the highest
level . . ." According to Seagrave, the US has kept its role "in all of this very, very secret". But, "we got some
documents connected to the CIA, who were involved in the Santa Romana bank accounts. These were
people who in the last 20 years or so have been trying to get their hands on some of the gold deposits, for
their own benefit". What are their names? "I'd rather leave that for the next book," Seagrave says, estimating
that the sequel, which will focus on the revelations about Golden Lily, will be out in 18 months. "I need to have
enough documentation so that I can't get challenged at this point legally." Seagrave's caution is
understandable, considering the furore this book could cause in Washington and in Tokyo (though, to date,
there has been nothing but stony silence). Already, however, the wheels of justice may be starting to turn with
new legal action being
taken by war victims.
"What's happening now is that various PoWs and their lawyers are grouping together in what could become
something equivalent to the tobacco industry class-action suit," Seagrave says.
"I think it could end up being a suit against the zaibatsu on the one hand and the Japanese Government on
the other. "But, eventually, I think it's going to involve the US Government for collusion." The Seagraves are
also taking no chances by revealing before they are ready the names of other players in this game of political
poker. No doubt they will also sleep easier as their web of researchers and sources expands.
"There might be people who become outraged and decide we have to be murdered but it's not going to be
that easy . . . murdering me is not going to stop this story coming out."
After Seagrave's 1986 publication of The Soong Dynasty, in which he revealed Chiang Kai-shek's underworld
links, he and his family went into hiding because of death threats. Seagrave, who grew up in Burma and has
spent his career investigating East-West history, is also the author of Lords Of The Rim, which is about
overseas-Chinese networks. Peggy Seagrave, with whom he worked to produce Dragon Lady, a book about
the Dowager Empress Ci Xi, will be collaborating on the sequel to The Yamato Dynasty.
No doubt treasure hunters will take a close interest. As the Seagraves point out: "In the Japanese holocaust,
millions were killed and billions were stolen, but the loot vanished. One of the great mysteries is what
happened to the billions of dollars' worth of treasure confiscated by the Japanese army from a dozen
Chichibu had much of the plunder sent to him in the Philippines, where it was hidden in 172 "imperial"
locations for later shipment to Japan, the authors say.
In Japan, loot was stashed in several places, including Nagano, where the 1998 Winter Olympics were held.
"We have no idea how much made its way to Japan, either overland from China, through Korea or by sea,"
says Seagrave, who believes it is with this secret fund that the zaibatsu financed Japan's post-war economic
"miracle". He also contends a member of the imperial family has confided that the army had amassed more
than US$100 billion in loot (in 1945 dollars), much of it salted away in the Philippines, where "it will take a
century to uncover".
Seagrave also believes "there are small repositories all over the place, because individual officers or groups
of officers managed to siphon off a certain amount of loot". "The equivalent of what were then the imperial
sites in the Philippines are known to exist in Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Celebes. It's possible there were
some in Malaya as well," he says.
Seagrave says it is hard to say where else the loot may be hidden, because in many cases wartime
inventories fell into the hands of the Marcoses or those who worked with them.
"But we have photographic evidence of site maps of these 172 sites and we know one-third of them that have
not been recovered," he says.
As to why countries have not made concerted efforts to reclaim their stolen property, the Seagraves in part
blame the tumultuous scramble for independence after the war.
But they also point to ongoing operations - in the Philippines, for instance, groups are trying to uncover loot at
an army base in Rizal, southeast of Manila. In Nagano, however, Seagrave says: "I think the loot has simply
been left there as national treasure.
Perhaps it will be needed if Seagrave's dream is to come true. "All these people who've been cruelly treated
and whose lives have been deformed by their experience during the war were simply cheated, very often by
their own governments after the war in collusion with Japan," he says. "I hope the war victims in the end get
what they should have had all along, which is
some justice." ----------------------------------------------
Business Age Book Review - http://www.sightings.com/politics5/hiro.htm
BusinessAge Magazine, October 1999
HIROHITO'S GOLD - Explosive Japanese WW11 Secrets Revealed - By Andrew Springer
The history of the war in the Pacific is littered with tales of Japanese cruelty against British and American
servicemen, amongst others. Not only did Imperial Japanese forces treat Allied POW's as slaves to build
their railway in Burma, but also used them in horrific medical experiments at Mukden, Manchuria, the
headquarters of the secretive Unit 731 - Japan's chemical and biological warfare weapons facility.
Yet, even while all this was taking place, another more furtive Japanese force was engaged in work so secret
that it has remained concealed, until now.
Operating under the command of a Royal prince of the Imperial household, a highly secret unit was tasked
with the methodical plunder of Southeast Asia. The project was called "Golden Lily" - named after a poem
written by Emperor Hirohito.
The unit plundered such profoundly large quantities of loot from China and Southeast Asia that, following the
end of the war, the west determined to keep its activities secret. A mixture of fear, greed, an impending cold
war and a vast complex of international corruption sat behind this decision.
Cynically forgotten were the horrific deaths of Allied POW's who were forced to build complex tunnel systems
and other underground depositories and then buried alive with the loot. One reason, perhaps, why history will
record this as one of the most explosive stories of World War Two ever to be told.
American author, Sterling Seagrave, has previously received international acclaim for his penetrating
investigative books: "The Soong Dynasty," and "The Marcos Dynasty." Now, in his latest work, The Yamato
Dynasty, Seagrave unveils some of the most enduring secrets of the war in the Pacific. The revelations are
certain to cause uproar in London, Washington & Tokyo and will, in all likelihood, contribute to a number of
major class action lawsuits against the US & Japanese governments.
Bearing the sub-title: "The Secret History of Japan's Imperial Family," Seagrave's book sets out to expose
numerous aspects of the Japanese imperial family and their way of life that, even today, remains eclipsed
from the general Japanese public. Some of this information came from memoirs written by members of the
imperial family but also includes "fragments" extracted from Emperor Hirohito's own diaries that the Imperial
Household has tried to suppress. Other information has been gathered over nearly twenty years of intense
What was learned dispels the accepted view of history, replacing it with a reality that is both shocking and
absorbing for the
The first myth to be exploded is the claim that the current imperial family has ruled as part of a single dynasty
that has "reined unbroken since time memorial." The facts are quite different. The present Meiji family was
installed on the throne in the mid 18th century as part of a coup orchestrated by the powerful Satsuma,
Choshu, Hizen and Tosa clans. In consolidating the coup, the plotters plundered the vast assets of the
previous imperial family - a fact that should not be overlooked as this story unfolds.
Nor is the word "rule" at all accurate.
As Sterling and Peggy Seagrave make clear, the ruling family of Japan has always been governed by others
more powerful than themselves. The emperor and imperial family are figureheads used to conceal from the
public the real power brokers who lurk behind the "black curtain." These are the family owned and managed
businesses or Zaibatsu that include such trans-national corporations as Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Sumitomo
The authors say this corporate power has grown stronger, not weaker and that the "postwar financial cliques
share power with nobody. Not with the emperor, who is only a magic wand, and not with elected politicians,
who are only hand-puppets. Financial cliques are the most powerful forces in modern Japan."
Moreover, Japan's post-war business structure is unlike any other modern industrial society for the simple
reason that organised crime are openly factored into it. Hence the zaibatsu include not only "financiers,
bankers and heads of corporations, but underworld bosses" - the so-called Yakuza crime clans.
The financial elite maintain their positions of power by paying bribes. In the same way that Japanese society
is rigidly structured in certain key ways, it should come as no surprise that political bribery and large scale
corruption are also disciplined art-forms. Political bribes are paid in "Bullets" with each shot amounting to
100 million Yen equivalent to US$800,000. This enables the most powerful families to govern from a position
of invisibility - a feature that has dominated the thoughts of Japan's ruling elite throughout recent history.
The most powerful man in Japan today is virtually unknown in the west, and is only rarely mentioned at home
because of his connections with international sporting events. As head of the Seibu group, Tsutsumi
Yoshiaki's power snakes out to over 100 Japanese corporations and numerous international businesses.
Yet, the authors say that Tsutsumi Yoshiaki is probably the richest man in the world with declared assets
greater than those of Bill Gates before the American computer whiz-kids bank balance hit $50 billion.
Meanwhile, Tsumtimi's undeclared assets are greater still, the authors believe.
A significant proportion of the current financial power of the zaibatsu and, indeed, that of the imperial family,
has its origin in WW11. For instance Seagrave reveals that "Most zaibatsu had participated in the looting of
conquered countries and helped in running the wartime drug trade on the mainland. An estimated $3 billion
was made in the heroin trade alone." After the war, the vast wealth that had been accumulated from the heroin
trade and from plundering China and other Southeast Asian nations magically disappeared. The result was
that Allied military Supremo, General Douglas MacArthur accepted the position that Japan was technically
bankrupt. This minimised the amount Japan was ordered to pay in war reparations to a meagre $1 billion.
From this, Allied Prisoners of War were paid trivial amounts in recompense for the inhumanities inflicted upon
them during their internment. British POW's were paid a miserable £48 each, for example.
A part of his duties as Supreme Commander Allied Powers, General Douglas MacArthur was ordered by
Washington, to conduct a meticulous audit of the imperial family's entire wealth. MacArthur silently demurred
and, instead, instructed Hirohito's own accountants and advisers to prepare a "self-audit listing only the
emperor's domestic holdings as of late October 1945."
Hirohito's team set about their task with relish, latching on to numerous, ingenious ploys to minimise the
emperor's wealth. The figure they eventually presented to MacArthur totalled about $100 million. This led to
the bizarre announcement by Supreme Commander Allied Powers that the emperor, after paying taxes and
other 'penalties" only possessed the paltry sum of $42,000 in cash.
The reality was, as ever, quite different. Experts who have investigated these matters now conclude that the
emperor's domestic wealth, excluding art treasures, land, palaces and other items, was closer to $4 billion.
This huge sum had accumulated over many decades and represented the throne's percentage of zaibatsu
company profits and shareholdings that formed the historical arrangements to keep the emperor "above"
Yet this sum was just part of an even greater hoard of wealth that was hidden at the end of the war. In January
1944, when it became clear that the Allies would win the war, Privy Seal Kido called a meeting of Japan's
leading investment bankers to advise the throne on how best to preserve the wealth of the imperial family. The
authors go on to reveal that in addition to large foreign investments and shareholdings, the emperor's large
portfolio of gold, silver and platinum was "held under various covers in the vaults of banks in Switzerland,
Sweden, the Vatican, Portugal, Argentina, Spain, Britain and the United States." The bullion that could not be
laundered in time was trucked to a vast underground imperial "bunker" where it was stashed in secret.
This was at Nagano, north of Tokyo, a backwater town artfully developed by Tsutsumi Yoshiaki in time for the
1998 Winter Olympics. Tsutsumi, as head of Japan's Olympic Committee, had earlier courted Juan Antonio
Samaranch, chairman of the International Olympic Committee. This would later lead to sensational press
stories that huge bribes had changed hands.
The Nagona bullion bunker was only one of numerous treasure sites where loot from all over Asia was buried
before the war's end. On the Philippines alone, there were 172 locations used to stash booty plundered by the
imperial Golden Lily treasure teams. The author's reproduce one of Prince Chichibu's burial maps showing a
complex tunnel system dug by POW's under the army base at Teresa, near Rizal, southeast of Manilla. Here,
bullion, platinum diamonds and valuable religious artefacts - including a golden Buddha figurine weighing one
tonne - and collectively valued by Golden Lily accountants at $190 billion - were buried together with live Allied
POW's that had been forced to dig the tunnels.
Part of the Teresa site was later recovered by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos - lending real weight to
tales of "Marcos gold" that have been treated more as fantasy than fact by the international media. Press
interest has been limited, until now, to the 1971 recovery of a Burmese Golden Buddha figurine by amateur
treasure hunter Rogelio "Roger" Roxas. The figurine had a detachable head that when removed left a small
cavity stuffed full of diamonds. The figurine was later stolen from Roxas by President Marcos. Roxas was later
murdered before he could give evidence in a US court in Hawaii that awarded Marcos victims a total of $25
billion in damages.
The sheer quantity and value of plunder gathered by the Golden Lily was mind numbing. The whole of Asia
under Japanese control had been combed for treasure. Most of it was shipped to Prince Chichibu's
headquarters in the Philippines. By 1943, American submarine activity had cut the sea lanes making gold
shipments less certain. To circumvent Allied air and naval attacks, Prince Chichibu had a fleet of four vessels
painted with a Red Cross. These continued to ply their way back and forth between Japanese controlled
territories and the Philippines carrying huge amounts of plunder.
After the war had finished, Japanese led groups began to recover large amounts treasure hidden in the
Philippines. They were not alone.
Seagrave reveals that American OSS (forerunner of the CIA) agents watched as Japanese troops buried
treasure at Luzon in the Philippines and began a clandestine recovery operation between 1945 and 1948.
This was headed by a Filipino-American OSS - and later CIA -officer, Severino Garcia Santa Romana.
Romana, in turn, worked under the watchful eye of the late and now infamous CIA operative, General Edward
Lansdale - who was embroiled in Operation Mongoose and the abortive CIA invasion of Cuba during the
There was no intention on the part of the OSS/CIA to return any of the plunder to the rightful owners. Instead,
Santa Romana set up numerous front companies to launder the gold bullion secretly recovered. In all
OSS/CIA gold bullion was secretly deposited in a total of 176 bank accounts located in 42 countries.
Nor was this a rogue operation conducted by a knowing few. The authors reveal that General William
Donovan, head of the OSS, knew of the Lansdale-Romana recoveries, as did General Douglas MacArthur,
and former US President Herbert Hoover. Knowledge also extended to cold war warrior and later head of the
CIA Allen Dulles. Seagrave also believes it likely that President Truman was in the charmed circle of those
who were informed.
The twice-looted gold became "the basis of the CIA's 'off the books' operational funds during the immediate
postwar years, to create a worldwide anti-communist network." To ensure loyalty to the cause, the CIA
distributed Gold Bullion Certificates to influential and well-known people throughout the world.
The authors hold documents showing that "one of the big gold bullion accounts set up by Santa Romana was
in the name of General Douglas MacArthur." Other documents indicate that gold bullion worth $100 million
was placed in an account in the name of Herbert Hoover, former President of the United States.
Meanwhile, Allied veterans of the war in the Pacific continue to fight for meaningful compensation for the
barbarous treatment they experienced.
The $1 billion reparations paid by Japan, once it had been divided among the many millions entitled to
compensation, amounted to a pittance. As late as November 1998 a Tokyo court rejected an appeal from
20,000 British, Australian, New Zealand and American former internees who had asked for compensation of
In contrast to this miserly sum paid to Allied POW's, leading Japanese zaibatsu submitted their own claims
for compensation after the war, arguing that the damage inflicted on their armaments factories by Allied air
raids required restitution.
These claims totalled $5 billion and many were paid.
THE YAMATO DYNASTY
The Secret History Of Japan's Imperial Family
by Sterling & Peggy Seagrave, Published by Bantam Press (October, 1999)
ISBN: 0593 04482 7 & 0593 04523 8
Two Yamato Dynasty Book Reviews follow below...