History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s04e23 Episode Script

The Lost Gold of WWII

Tonight, a fortune
worth hundreds of billions
of dollars plundered by
Japan during World War II.
Artwork, priceless treasures,
a hundred billion or more
in gold and silver alone.
It’s whereabouts
are still unknown
and shrouded in mystery.
The Philippines is
7,000 plus islands.
You can’t think of a better
place to hide things.
Now we explore the top theories
about this infamous,
missing treasure.
The United States government
would be very interested
in finding out
where this gold was.
These aren’t
just treasure hunters,
these are CIA agents.
The Marcoses aren’t
really doing a great job
of trying to hide the fact
that they suddenly
have a bunch of money.
In retrospect, how
did they get so rich?
Nobody was asking that question.
What really happened to the
lost gold of World War II?
It’s the spring of 1942,
just a few months
after Pearl Harbor.
War is raging in the Pacific.
Japan’s vast empire
stretches from Manchuria
through Southeast Asia
all the way to the
Solomon Islands,
and in every
territory it conquers,
Japanese forces seize a fortune.
The Japanese are actually
meticulous in their ability
to extract wealth and
they do so at every level.
So not only will they go after
things like national banks
and depositories of gold
bullion and silver bars,
but they will also
raid individual houses
to amass enormous
stockpiles of jewelry
and other symbols
of wealth and value.
Think about the
entire national treasure
of 13 countries.
This is a lot of
value, a lot of money.
The value of what’s estimated
that the Japanese looted
is between 60 and a
100 billion dollars
in 1945 dollars.
You know what that
translates to?
Between three and
$5 trillion today.
In March of 1942,
Japan has another conquest
in its sites, the US
territory of the Philippines.
The Japanese going to
very quickly sweep south
toward the capital of Manila.
There they’re going
to run into elements
of the United States army
that’s been in placed
under Douglas MacArthur to
try to halt their advance.
But before that happens,
MacArthur and his
headquarters team are ordered
by President Roosevelt to
withdraw from the Philippines.
So the Philippines
will fall in 1942
and MacArthur will
have to evacuate.
So he will leave
the Philippines.
He makes his sort
of famous promise.
I will return, I will be back,
back to help you
against the Japanese.
In some ways, the Philippines
is the perfect place
for the Japanese to
amass a lot of the loot
that they’re pulling off
of the mainland of Asia.
And that’s because
the Philippines
is an island location.
It’s a very easy
transshipment point.
There’s a lot of great
ports and harbors
and there’s no possibility
of an enemy overrunning
any of those storage depots.
And so what they’re gonna do
is they’re going to consolidate
the material that
they’re stealing
in a few specific locations
and then they’re
going to transship it
directly back to Japan.
But by early
1943, a US submarine blockade
has cut off the sea routes
back to Japan’s home islands.
The Japanese hold onto
the Philippines, for now.
There’s still this
hope among the Japanese
that the Philippines will
be one of the last things
that will kind of fall.
That they will continue to be
able to control that at least.
By late 1944,
the tides of war are turning.
MacArthur makes good on
his promise to return
to the Philippines, arriving
with 200,000 troops.
His opponent, the
notorious Japanese General,
Tomoyuki Yamashita.
Yamashita is one of
the great troubleshooters
of the Japanese army.
He’s widely perceived
as one of its greatest
field commanders.
His job is to both
enhance the defenses
and make it as
costly as possible
for any potential
American invasion.
They called him
the Tiger of Malaya.
What a great name, from
his victory in Malaya.
And what better a man
to lead the defense
of the Philippines than him.
According to
some, fighting off the allies,
wasn’t Yamashita’s only mission?
Some historians do suggest
that it wasn’t just
winning the war or staying
and keeping hold
the Philippines,
it was also what to do
with all of this wealth
that he had accumulated.
If they’re gonna
lose the Philippines,
they have to hide this
treasure somewhere
where they can come back
in the future for it.
The following summer,
after the US drops
two atomic bombs
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Emperor Hirohito
finally surrenders
on August 15th, 1945.
But Yamashita and his
army take another 17 days
to surrender, holding out in
the mountains of Northern Luzon
leading some to ask what were
they doing during that time?
According to Sterling Seagrave,
an author who’s an
expert in this field,
a General Yamashita,
was working in cahoots
with an organization
called the Golden Lily.
Who was in the Golden Lily?
Military strategists,
economic experts,
members of the
Japanese royal family,
they had the job to
find, take and use,
and ultimately hide
all of this treasure.
So 1943, tons of gold and
treasure piling up in Manila
and Emperor Hirohito hires
his brother Prince Chichibu,
to head the Golden Lily and
to spearhead the operation
of securing the treasure.
The Philippines is
7,000 plus islands.
You can’t think of a better
place to hide things.
Prince Chichibu arranged this
group to create locations
to place these
hundreds of tunnels.
And you can’t do this alone.
You need thousands of laborers
and the Japanese
had plenty of them.
They would build these
tunnels with allied forces.
They would use American
and Allied POWs
and they would use
enslaved Filipinos
to construct these tunnels.
They were really complex
so they weren’t just a tunnel
underground, they
were just massive.
There were all kinds of
little kind of secret ways
and a lot of things
designed to throw off anyone
who might go underground who
might discover the tunnels.
The defensive aspects
of Japanese tunnels
included booby traps and
these could take the form
of physical traps.
So pits with spikes
at the bottom of them.
Chemical weapon attacks, fragile
containers full of cyanide.
They even used the water table
so that when people
would come in,
the water tables could rise
and the people in the
caves would drown.
Likely the last 17 days they
would seal these entrances
with concrete and then they’d
let the jungle take over.
The story of buried treasure
sounds like the stuff of myth,
but there’s at least
one witness who says
he survived the destruction
of one treasure tunnel.
Decades later, a Filipino
civilian Ben Valmores
came forward, claimed
he had information.
As a kid, at 14 he was
hired to be the valet
for Prince Takeda.
So Valmores claims he was
there when this massive tunnel
was built that was 225
feet below the ground.
And Yamashita says they
want to have a party
to celebrate the construction
of this massive tunnel
and he tells all the engineers
to go inside the tunnel.
At that time, Prince
Takeda calls Valmores out.
He says, "No, you’re
my valet come out.
You don’t get to
go to the party."
They blow this thing up.
Everyone dies inside.
So Prince Takeda saves Valmores,
who is the witness to
watching the Japanese kill
their own engineers again
to keep everything silent.
The Japanese were really
interested in secrecy.
They wanted to preserve
what they had done,
making it off limits
knowledge-wise to the allies.
Anybody who knew about
this gold was gone.
According to Seagrave,
the loot is so cleverly hidden,
Golden Lily members will
need maps to find it again.
Maps were produced in
blue for the engineers
who actually designed
the various vaults
throughout the Philippines.
And then maps were
designed in red
to tell people how to
find the treasure.
And these maps would have flags
that pointed in one direction
if they were to be read
in a mirror and in
the other direction
if they were to
be read normally.
So even if you can read this map
and you can find
where the vault is,
you could have the
map upside down.
You could have the map backwards
and realize that you go the
wrong place, you can die.
The cartographers
supposedly draw up
several copies of the maps
which go only to the
highest ranking members
of the Golden Lily.
The Golden Lily was
really counting on
keeping the Philippines
for the peace talks,
to allow ’em to go back
and get the treasure
to refund the imperialist army.
They didn’t get that.
So Japan has to keep
not only the treasure
in the Philippines now because
they can’t transport it,
they’ve gotta keep it secret.
But did
Yamashita and his soldiers
really hide billions in gold?
There are lots of maps to
this gold in the Philippines
that start cropping up, why?
’Cause everybody wants to
go hunting for treasure.
The question is,
are these maps real?
Ben Valmores claims
that as Prince Takeda
prepared to leave Japan,
he approached him and gave him
a satchel that included maps
to 175 different treasure sites
throughout the Philippines.
Takeda was on a
submarine fleeing,
and in case the submarine sunk,
he wanted someone to
know where the gold was.
So Prince Takeda goes back,
he instructs Valmores to bury
these maps, these 40 maps,
and he does, he buries
them in his backyard.
Keep in mind that Prince
Takeda saved his life
when that tunnel was exploded,
he called him out of there.
And so maybe there’s a sense
of duty on Valmores’ part.
It’s sort of weird,
you think if he got
these maps from Takeda
that maybe he would’ve
gone and dug one up
and gone and gotten some gold
and lived an immensely
luxurious life, no.
allegedly being in possession
of so many of the
Golden Lily’s maps,
Valmores never seems
to profit from them.
Publicly, Valmores
never found anything,
never became a rich man.
But think about it for a second.
If you have a map and
you find treasure,
are you gonna tell anyone?
I wouldn’t.
It’s the fall of 1945.
The Pacific War is over,
but the US maintains a
strong military presence
in the Philippines.
America’s prime mission
is to rebuild the country
and provide relief for
its suffering people.
But there are also
whispers of hidden gold.
Think about this.
Estimates are that the value
of just the gold between 60
and a billion
dollars in 1945 money
that’s between three
and $5 trillion today.
It’s a pretty history
altering amount of wealth,
if it does exist.
And it wouldn’t just be
Japan that would want it,
it might be other nations
who might be interested
in getting it as well.
According to some,
President Truman is briefed
on the Golden Lily hoards
and orders the fortune
to be found and seized.
There starts to be
rumors that again soldiers,
American soldiers know of
perhaps former Japanese soldiers
or people who knew
Japanese soldiers
who had heard about
Yamashita’s wealth
and they know someone who
knows where to look for it.
According to this theory,
Japanese officers
looking for leniency
begin sharing information
about the Golden Lily’s
top secret operation.
That doesn’t mean
they know exactly
where the treasure
filled tunnels are,
but apparently there’s
one prisoner who might.
The person that
has the information,
most information is Yamashita,
who they have in custody.
He is in prison in Manila.
How do you get that
information from him?
You can’t torture him,
it’d be a war crime.
So US is trying to
think what they can do
to get this information.
Yamashita will never give
it up because in his eyes,
this is the future
of imperial Japan.
But Yamashita’s
driver, Major Kojima Kashii
is a much easier target.
Yamashita’s driver finds
himself in a small dark cell
being interviewed by a
couple of OSS operatives,
the precursor to the CIA.
It wasn’t a good day for him.
According to Seagrave’s
notorious American spook
Edward Lansdale and a
Filipino National by the name of
Santa Romana, who is referred to
generally as Santy,
were the people
who were involved
in the torture of
Yamashita’s driver.
So the driver
cracks, big surprise.
What’s he do?
He leads Santy and
Lansdale to a dozen or so
of the more easily
accessible treasure troves.
What do they find?
Gold bars, platinum bars,
diamonds, gold Buddhas.
They not literally, but
figuratively find Fort Knox.
While Santy
and his team are supposedly
breaking open more vaults,
Lansdale flies to Washington
to brief President Truman
about the find.
Truman consults with his cabinet
and makes a really
pivotal decision.
He says like, we
are gonna keep this.
We are gonna keep all of this,
but we’ve got to
keep it under wraps.
You’re looking
ahead to a cold war
that the US is
gonna be engaged in.
And the fear of communist
domination was at a fever pitch.
Pragmatic approach is to say
we have access to these funds,
we can keep off the books to
advance US democratic interests
around the world.
And why would we give that up?
To use this wealth, you
have to keep it a secret.
And what does that mean?
It means silencing Yamashita.
On October 29th, 1945,
an American military
tribunal in Manila
begins presenting its case
against General Yamashita
for war crimes relating to his
campaign in the Philippines.
It’s a controversial move.
So you think about how long
these tribunals usually take.
You think about like the
Nazis that were brought up
on trial.
It takes a long time.
Sometimes it takes decades.
Yamashita’s trial is run
through very, very fast.
Yamashita, once
Japan’s outstanding general
takes the stand.
Before him witnesses have
presented harrowing evidence
of atrocities committed
under his command.
The big question is what’s
Yamashita’s guilty of?
Yes, he was a Japanese general,
but he is not on record
ordering the death of,
for example, American POWs.
Yamashita himself
says he was not aware of
half the stuff
he was charged with.
In his position and with the
number of troops he oversaw,
he couldn’t have been.
On December 7th, 1945,
the four year anniversary
of Pearl Harbor,
they deliver their verdict.
The commission finds
you guilty as charged
and sentences you
to death by hanging.
Yamashita is really
the first commander
to be held
responsible for things
that his men commit
without him knowing it.
And that feeds into this
idea of why the execution?
Well, if the government
does want the money,
you wanna keep him quiet
and that’s how and
why he is executed.
The notorious general is hanged
on February 23rd, 1946.
Whatever secrets he’s
hiding about buried gold,
go to his grave with him.
What happens to the
wealth that supposedly
as historians
claim was collected
by the United States government?
Well it has to go somewhere.
And that’s this secret
banking society,
this secret wealth container
system, the Black Eagle Trust.
And according to the Seagraves,
this is a trust which
now houses all the funds
of the loot seized
from Yamashita,
but also all the loots
seized from the Nazis.
And it wasn’t
until decades later
that a former deputy
director of the CIA Ray Cline
admits to Seagraves
that this money
was put into 176 different
banks spanning 42 countries.
Now a lot of historians
will sort of question that idea.
Was there really a
Black Eagle Trust?
Is this a conspiracy theory?
But the reality is that when
Santy, Santa Romana died,
he left hundreds of
millions of dollars.
Some historians say it
was because he had access
to the looted Yamashita Gold
for his role that he was able
to play in uncovering it.
If you wanna
question this theory
or think about how
truthful this is,
one question would be, well,
why does the United States
care about keeping this secret?
One explanation could be
all of the logistic trouble
that we would have to
go through in admitting
that this stuff came
from victims of war.
This is the fruit
of the poison tree.
I didn’t steal the money,
but it’s stolen money.
You’re responsible and
you’re accountable.
So that’s why the US government
would probably want to keep
the existence of these
billions and billions
and billions of
dollars, a state secret.
It begs a very
tantalizing question.
If the US government got their
hand on billions of dollars
from 12 sites, what
happened to the other 163?
So what does that mean?
Billions of dollars today,
trillions of dollars could
be sitting hidden in caves
throughout the Philippines
waiting to be discovered.
If in fact
hundreds of millions of dollars
in treasure was buried in
tunnels in the Philippines
during the end of World War II,
then where did it go?
Was it handed to a secret
government slush fund
as some believe or did
it end up somewhere else.
Decades after the war,
one of the most infamous
dictators in world history
in the 20th century, he
becomes part of the story.
It’s 1986
and the eyes of the world
are on the Philippines.
As notorious dictator
Ferdinand Marcos is overthrown
in a popular uprising.
There’s a lot of complaints
living under a dictator,
but living under the Marcoses
has a very specific complaint.
While the Filipinos are
living in abject poverty,
Ferdinand Marcos and his wife,
they’re living in
the lap of luxury.
I vividly remember
being a kid in the 1980s
and reading about these million
dollar shoe shopping sprees
that Imelda Marcos went on.
The Marcos aren’t just rich,
they’re significantly wealthier
than most of the country.
And the way they spend money
is in complete contrast
to the way that most
Filipinos are living
after World War II
in the Philippines.
There’s the one story that
they went to Rome on vacation
and on the way back they
had to turn the plane around
because Imelda
Marcos had forgotten
that she wanted to buy a
particular kind of cheese.
The Marcoses aren’t
really doing a great job
of trying to hide the fact
that they suddenly
have a bunch of money.
The good only question comes,
where’s that money coming from?
It’s obviously not from
his government salary.
There are
accusations that Marcos
and his cronies embezzled
upwards of $10 billion
from the Philippines treasury.
But is there more to this story?
Could their wealth in fact
come from another source?
So if the Marcos are in
charge of the Philippines,
then they have such vast
power in the Philippines.
One explanation could be,
were the Marcos are drawing
from Yamashita’s gold.
If that’s the
case, it all begs the question,
how did the Marcoses get their
hands on Yamashita’s gold?
The Marcos chapter of the
lost gold saga
really begins in 1961,
with the 17 year old
boy named Rogelio Roger Roxas.
Enter Rogelio Roxas,
who is born towards the end
of the war in the Philippines.
And keep in mind the Philippines
is an impoverished country.
Roxas is born into poverty,
but he’s also born into
the legend of this gold.
And he meets this Japanese
man who claims to know
from a Japanese soldier where
Yamashita’s gold is located.
So he claims to know of a
site of one of these tunnels.
He has a map and he
knows where it is.
If he’s interpreting
this map correctly,
it says that one of
the Golden Lily vaults
is actually very close to
his hometown of Baguio.
In fact, right by the hospital.
Roxas thinks he’s
actually onto something.
In early 1970,
Roxas gets a permit from a
local judge to begin excavation.
That judge’s name
is P.O. Marcos.
Roxas didn’t really
make the connection,
but the judge that grants the
excavating permit to Roxas
is actually connected
to the Marcos family.
So he is part of, you know,
this vast network of Marcos.
It connects Roxas to Marcos
and to Yamashita’s gold.
So now Yamashita’s Gold is
part of the Marcos story.
In May of 1970,
Roxas and his team
start hacking away
through dense vegetation
near the hospital.
So after two months
they find a cave.
While the bad news is about a
hundred yards inside the cave,
it’s caved in and it appears
to have been dynamited shut.
What does that mean?
They’re gonna have
to tunnel around it.
Weeks go by, the
men are running out of money.
Treasure hunting,
it’s like gambling.
You’re sitting at
a roulette wheel
and you just can’t get up.
It’s that last spade of dirt.
It’s that last pass
with the metal detector
and that’s like Roxas.
They’re about to quit and
Roxas decides to give it
one last look with
his metal detector.
the metal detector
senses something.
Full of adrenaline, they
start digging and digging.
They break through, they find,
you know a whole
chamber underneath them.
And they look down and
what do they see inside?
28 inch tall, golden
Buddha, Burmese style.
They’ve hit the jackpot.
The thing weighs a ton.
It’s only this big.
They get it up and
they bring it back
and he stores it in his closet
because they want to
get back to excavating
and digging more.
That’s when Roxas claims
to have found another chamber,
crammed with wooden boxes
from floor to ceiling.
He opens one of the
boxes, inside gold bars.
And if Roxas is
telling the truth,
this is a massive
quantity of treasure.
It’s a mind blowing experience.
It’s like something out
of an Indiana Jones movie.
This is too much gold
to move in a day.
They’re gonna go
home, sell the Buddha
and use the money
to hire more workers
and get more personnel.
Go back up in the cave and
get the rest of the gold.
And Roxas of course
wants to celebrate.
He has his brother
take a picture of him
next to the Buddha.
We’ve got this picture
of the one thing of Roxas
with this golden Buddha and
a prospective buyer comes
and looks at it, test the gold
and finds it is
actually 22 karat.
The mysterious
buyer offers Roxas a $160,000
for the Buddha.
Roxas says, he’ll
think about it.
And as he’s thinking about it,
he’s looking at this
Buddha and he notices
what just imperceptively
looks like a fine liner
on the neck of the Buddha.
So he takes this and he looks
at it and he starts to strike.
It takes a fricking wooden stick
and he starts hitting this
thing until it comes loose,
removes the head and inside
are handfuls of diamonds,
cut and uncut.
Is all that glitters in
the Philippines really gold?
More than 20 years after
the Japanese Imperial Army
surrenders the islands,
Rogelio Roxas digs up
what appears to be part
of Yamashita’s
legendary treasure.
But just as Roxas is
celebrating his find,
the tale of the lost gold
takes another dramatic twist.
April 5th, 1971, 2:30 am and
there’s a knock at the door.
Bad thing in the
Philippines, opens the door,
it’s the police.
They come in, they arrest
Roxas, they seize the statue,
they later put him in jail.
But guess who is there?
The buyer and Roxas knows
what’s going on, why?
Because on the rifles there
are these little red ribbons
and that means palace
guard, Ferdinand Marcos,
who knows who’s behind this.
And if you go back and realize
that the permit originally
came from P.O. Marcos who was
related to Ferdinand Marcos,
connect the dots and you realize
that’s where their
information came,
then Marcos probably
sent that buyer
to make sure it was legit.
Then the palace guards come
and confiscate and arrest him.
Roxas goes to the police
and the media with his story.
It’s not long before
the word spreads
of his treatment by Marcos.
When the Buddha
is stolen from him,
this is really heartbreaking.
Again, it’s not just
about the money,
but what it meant to him and
what it meant for being able
to continue to
search for the truth.
Everyone knows about
Roxas and this Buddha.
And so there’s this
enormous public outcry
when this happens ’cause
he’s sort of a folk hero
and Marcos decides
to return the Buddha.
But the Buddha that’s returned
isn’t the same Buddha.
Buddha that returned
isn’t made of gold,
it’s made of bronze.
The head is stuck on.
It’s just not the same
Buddha that gives this like
copycat Buddha to
try to appease the public.
When Roxas speaks out,
he’s arrested and spends
the next two years in jail.
The guards then torture
Roxas and all of his teammates.
Roxas supposedly never
breaks, which makes sense,
being that driven as
a treasure hunter.
You’re not gonna break,
that’s your life’s goal.
But apparently one
of his team breaks
and gives up the location.
After Roxas
is released from prison
on November 19th,
1974, he finds soldiers
standing outside tents near
the Baguio General Hospital.
And the hospital staff later
actually remembers seeing
and they’ve reported seeing
soldiers come out of the cave
behind the hospital,
carrying wooden crates
and putting them
in military trucks.
They didn’t have to
guess what was inside,
’cause some of these
boxes they were rotten
and they broke up and now
they’re being carried.
And what falls out, gold bars
the size of cigarette boxes.
To give you an
extent of how much gold
we’re talking about, it’s 10
boxes a day going up every day
for a year.
Roxas is
certain Marcos’s soldiers
have found his tunnel
and stolen his treasure,
but there’s nothing he can
do, at least not for now.
Meanwhile, Ferdinand
Marcos is on the hunt
for even more
Golden Lily vaults.
Fast forward not
long after this,
Marcos allegedly gets his
hand on something else.
Not more treasure, but a
full set of Golden Lily maps.
So, remember those maps that
Valmores had 10, 15 years ago?
Maybe the same maps.
Allegedly Marcos uses these maps
to successfully excavate
five more tunnel complexes
piled high with dizzying
amounts of gold and jewels.
Ferdinand and Imelda
constantly spend money
and they do it
with wild a abandon
if it is connected
to this hoard.
Well that goes back to this idea
of whose money are
they actually spending.
They’re not spending just
Japanese captured goods,
they’re spending goods that
belong to all different people
across the Pacific.
So if Marcos is
gonna make this work,
he’s gotta make this gold
appear like it didn’t come
from the Japanese, stolen
from other countries.
So Marcos hires a mining expert
and a metallurgist
named Robert Curtis.
The theory is that
one of the things
that Robert Curtis was
able to do for Marcos
is to doctor the
gold or make it seem
through playing around
with the properties
that it did actually
come from the Philippines
and didn’t come
from someplace else
and wasn’t captured and
brought to the Philippines.
But in 1986,
Marcos’s plans change
when over a million
Filipinos take to the streets
to protest his corrupt regime.
On February 26th, 1986,
the Marcos family flees
the Philippines undercover
of darkness and having
been granted asylum
by President Reagan
take up a life of exile
in Honolulu, Hawaii.
But when the Marcos flee,
they leave behind
a lot of mystery.
There’s a lot of questions
about what happened to
you know the rest of
Yamashita’s hoard.
Is it still there?
And that’s something
that fuels Roxas.
Roxas is trying to
figure out what he can do.
He’s not gonna
get the gold back.
He decides to turn to the
law and he files a civil suit
in Hawaii against the Marcoses
and the suit goes through
the courts for years
and years and years.
It takes forever.
Meanwhile, Roxas’s
lawsuit against the Marcoses
takes another turn.
The suit’s still going on.
Roxas dies in a fairly
suspicious manner.
Official cause of
death is tuberculosis.
But there are questions
about how is it that he died.
According to his family,
he never had any signs of
symptoms of tuberculosis.
But despite his death,
Roxas has one trump
card still left to play.
In 1993, the court hears Bob
Curtis’s sworn testimony.
Can you raise
your right hand to be sworn.
Do you solemnly swear the
testimony you’re about to give
is constantly the
truth, so help you God.
I do.
Your name
again on the record please.
Robert H. Curtis.
Bob Curtis
claims he was hired by Marcos
to launder Yamashita’s gold.
He testifies to seeing another
item in Marcos’s possession,
a solid gold Buddha
with a removable head.
The very same golden Buddha
Roxas is photographed with.
Curtis’s testimony
helps the court
to come to a final decision.
In 1996, the court awards
the Roxas estate damages
of $22 billion.
The largest civil
settlement in history.
20 billion is a lot of money.
This was what the treasure
was worth from that one vault
that he found.
There were 175 vaults.
But even more important from
like a history perspective,
it’s not about the money,
it’s the that a court of
law actually validated
that the existence
of these vaults,
that these things were real,
that Yamashita did bury these,
and that this legend is
actually based in fact.
It was a hard fought victory
for the Roxas family, but
a largely symbolic one.
Despite Bob Curtis’s testimony,
the Marcos fortune is still
caught up in legal wrangling.
The Roxas family has
yet to see a penny
and the mystery of Japan’s
lost gold still lingers.
Now this just gives
even more sort of proof
if you subscribe to this
theory of Yamashita’s hoard
that there’s more
to be discovered.
Some people
are convinced whatever gold
the Japanese may have
hidden in the Philippines
was cleaned out by
Ferdinand Marcos.
There’s another theory,
the Marcos regime just
pretended to find gold
so they could cover their
tracks for embezzlement.
But others think
there’s reason to believe
that some Japanese
gold remained hidden
in the Philippine jungle
through the late 1980s.
It’s the promise of this gold
that brings retired US Army
General Jack Sinlaub
to the Philippines.
So Jack is a retiree and
an amateur fortune hunter.
That’s what he says.
And the US Embassy,
they back up his claim,
they paint him to the local
media, just a hobbyist.
But no one believes this
because in addition to being
a rabid anti-communist,
he also happens to be one
of the founders of the CIA.
Jack Sinlaub forms his own
treasure hunting organization
that he calls Nippon Star.
And his objective is to
go to the Philippines
and potentially take
advantage of information
he already knew about these
possible treasure troves.
One of his associates,
Alan Foringer,
he’s the acting CIA head
at the embassy in Manila.
And so there’s this idea
that these aren’t
just treasure hunters,
these are CIA agents
operating as part of a deeper,
darker, or more secret mission.
According to this theory,
Jack Sinlaub decides Nippon
Star needs to recruit someone
with proven insider information.
All they need to
know is where to dig
and who has that information.
They know one guy who’s
got it, Bob Curtis.
Bob Curtis is the metallurgist
that worked with
Ferdinand Marcos,
essentially to not only
decode Japanese maps
that were in
Marcos’s possession,
but also then to
effectively money launder
any loot that was discovered.
Bob Curtis saw himself
as an American patriot.
And according to one
version of the story,
President Reagan himself had
endorsed Sinlaub’s efforts
to recover stolen loot that
the Japanese had hidden
in the Philippines.
With all their expertise
and alleged deep pockets,
Jack Sinlaub’s team
should be well placed to
find Yamashita’s gold.
But their search for the
treasure doesn’t go to plan.
Publicly, Nippon Star
is a, is an abject failure
throughout the 1980s.
There are a whole host of media
stories about their efforts
to uncover buried treasure
and their failures
to be successful
in those endeavors.
Is it possible that they
actually recovered treasure
and put out a cover story
that suggested that
they’d been a failure?
Of course, Curtis
claims he was inspired
to give his all towards these
treasure hunting efforts
because any treasure
recovered might be used
as a private funding
source for defense
and intelligence initiatives
on behalf of the United States.
As Foringer
wrote in a letter to Curtis,
those initiatives included
the private funding
of defense projects
like the B-1 Bomber,
MX Missile and Ronald
Reagan’s Star Wars program.
He appears to
have been convinced
that these private funding
sources might create
so-called black budget programs
that would protect the United
States from Soviet aggression.
This money, if they find
the Golden Lily treasure
is going to be used to establish
a new arch conservative,
military industrial complex
controlled by the United States.
But by 1990,
the pressure is growing
on Nippon Star.
And there are rumors
of Soviet agents
listening in on
their communications.
While Foringer’s
vacationing in Hawaii,
he’s at the beach and
a passerby walks by
and something nicks his leg.
Within a day, he’s
in the hospital
suffering from
mysterious ailments.
And although he pulls through,
after returning to his
apartment in the Philippines,
the usually healthy 37 year
old begins having seizures
and his heart gives
out and he dies
under mysterious circumstances.
You gotta ask, was Foringer’s
worked with Nippon Star?
Is there a connection
to his death?
You gotta ask the question.
Maybe that put a
target on his back.
Despite Foringer’s death,
no gold is ever officially
found by Nippon Star.
Conspiracy theories
love unexplained deaths,
particularly to individuals
that are getting close
to the answers.
And we’ll often link
those deaths together
to suggest they’re part
of a bigger pattern.
Oftentimes humans die
for unknown causes.
Sometimes it really
is just an accident.
Since the end of World War II,
the legend of Japan’s lost gold
has captured the imagination
of treasure hunters worldwide.
But as the decades have passed
without new discoveries,
some question if the
treasure ever existed,
and if yes will
more ever be found?
We do know, we’ve got
one great photo of Roxas
with that Buddha,
and after 80 plus years of
searching for that treasure,
that is the only real
proof that we have.
Like a lot of theories,
there are certain key
points that you can see
or that you know are real.
And so with Yamashita’s hoard,
we certainly know that
the Japanese plundered.
They stole tens of
billions of dollars.
The Japanese
conquered the Pacific,
they plungered like
there was no tomorrow.
They brought the wealth
back to the Philippines.
There certainly was
looting in the Philippines
just like there was
looting by the Japanese
in really anywhere
that they went.
That is a fact.
But there’s no photos of vaults,
there’s no records of how much
gold was brought into Manila.
Probably the
diamond filled Buddha
is a spoil of the
Japanese looting,
but maybe it’s more of a one-off
than the tip of the iceberg.
Maybe this was just one
tunnel that was filled
and we found it
and maybe there isn’t
this vast network
that was part of
the Golden Lily.
Some also
point to logistical concerns
around Yamashita’s last
days during World War II
to question the extent
of the legendary treasure
he supposedly buried.
If you think about just
how much gold was purported
to have existed, how
heavy and how much it was,
the logistical requirements
to move that kind of wealth
would’ve been not only
one of their main tasks,
it would’ve been the only
thing that they could do.
I think one of the real
treasures in the Philippines
is that millions of dollars
spent on the local economy,
fortune hunting and
treasure hunting.
Treasure hunters are
drawn to the Philippines
and the Philippines,
from my experience,
seemed quite easy
to embrace them,
comfortable embracing them
and trying to send them
to these sites.
And again, I think it’s,
from what I’ve seen,
it’s people who
really believe that
you can find these things
buried on the island.
A lot of these legends
that sort of become folklore
that stay because they
become part of our history
and part of our culture and
the Filipino people like
are immensely proud people.
And in many ways they’re very,
very attached to this idea
that this could exist
and it could be here.
So it in many ways lives because
of the people themselves.
Treasure in the
Philippine jungle,
it’s a story that never dies.
Just when you think it’s over,
it comes right back to life.
Over the course
of one weekend in 2017,
a video is uploaded to YouTube.
It quickly gains hundreds
of thousands of views.
In a submerged cave
in the Philippines,
what appears to be gold bars.
They were really
dirty and muddy,
but became this
internet sensation
where people found
them and all of a sudden
the Yamashita’s gold
legend comes back.
Maybe this is really happening.
That stokes the fire again and
makes that legend continue.
Is there a connection
to Yamashita’s gold?
Maybe and a lot of viewers
like me, they remain skeptical.
Maybe they just want views.
It definitely warrants
further investigation.
Now you have a lot of
amateur treasure hunters
who can upload videos.
They can upload what they claim
is proof of what they found.
And going back to Roxas
and his Buddha’s statue,
that’s something
that people can see.
And when you can see something,
it makes it a little
bit more real.
The fact that it does
still spark interest,
I think is something
that it’s still creating
the conversation.
And as long as there’s a
conversation around it,
it’ll never die.
I have no doubt that
treasure went into the ground.
What I believe today is
that whatever is left there
is going to be
incredibly hard to find.
And based upon the stories
that we know about the way
that these places
are booby trapped
and trying to seek this treasure
would be incredibly dangerous.
And you know, I mean a
billion dollars worth of gold
would be really nifty to have,
but it’s also nice to be alive.
We never run out of
treasure hunters
and people never stop dreaming
for being the one person
that’s gonna find this
thing, to be the next Roxas.
To find that next Buddha
and to pop open the head
and find diamonds.
Every treasure
hunter wants that.
And so that legend’s
never gonna diminish.
For 80 years the lure
of Japan’s lost gold
has mesmerized world
leaders and commoners alike.
We won’t know the full truth
about this legendary treasure
until someone
finally strikes gold.
But with such a dazzling
fortune still on the line,
there is one certainty.
No one’s laying down their
treasure maps anytime soon.
I’m Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching,
History’s Greatest Mysteries.
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