This is the follow-up work of the Seagraves after their controversial book The Yamato Dynasty: The Secret History of Japan’s Imperial Family (1999).
Gold Warriors: America’s Secret Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold (2006) is the chronicle of how the Japanese military joined hands with yakuza and indigenous gangsters alike throughout Japan’s conquered territories in Asia to systematically blackmail, terrorize and loot civilians of valuable assets during the Pacific War. At the risk of simplifying a very complex story that took many decades to unfold, essentially the Japanese military had outsourced spying, intelligence and counter-intelligence activities to the yakuza. The yakuza in turn forged links with indigenous gangsters in occupied lands, who provided valuable information as to what wealth was owned by whom in the local areas and helped to make these blundering operations both effective and efficient. At the top overseeing these activities was Prince Chichibu, younger brother of the Showa Emperor.
The book asserts:
It was as if a giant vacuum cleaner passed across East and Southeast Asia. Much of the plunder reached Japan overland through Korea. The rest, moving by sea, got no father than the Philippines as the U.S. submarine blockade became complete in early 1943. Hiding the treasure there was crucial, so that if Japan lost the war militarily, it would not lose financially. […]
When we were writing a biography of Japan’s imperial family, The Yamato Dynasty, we were told that in October 1945, American intelligence agents learned the location of some Japanese treasure vaults in the Philippines, and secretly recovered billions of dollars worth of gold, platinum, cultural artifacts, and loose gems.
The treasure – gold, platinum, and barrels of loose gems – was combined with the Axis loot recovered in Europe to create a worldwide covert political action fund to fight communism. This ‘black gold’ gave the Truman Administration access to virtually limitless unvouchered funds for covert operations.
Some of this fund was later given to Japan’s right-wing conservatives and former war criminals with the change of America’s policy at the start of the Cold War, and came to be known as ‘M-fund’ where ‘M’ is said to be ‘M’ for ‘MacArthur’. M-fund was used to buy off elections to bring right-wing factions (now the Liberal Democratic Party) into power and to bully left-wing activists into submission. It was also used as seed money to propel Japan’s economic miracle.
What is the size of M-Fund? The Seagraves assert that it was then worth $35 billion and, at the time of the book’s publication in 2006, was said to be worth upwards of $500 billion. Suppose we set a modest annual rate of 5% return, the $500 billion, if invested, would have ballooned into around $855 billion by now. And just how much is $855 billion in real world terms? Well, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world – Norway’s Government Pension Fund – is valued at $847 billion. That is already well ahead of the second largest – the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority – at $792 billion. To put this into perspective, ISIS’s war chest is said to be $2 billion and the net income of Apple Computer in 2015 was $53 billion.
The Seagraves also told curious stories about the birthing process of this book as well as their earlier works:
When we published The Soong Dynasty we were warned by a senior CIA official that a hit team was being assembled in Taiwan to come murder us. He said, “I would take this very seriously, if I were you.” We vanished for a year to an island off the coast of British Columbia. While we were gone, a Taiwan hit team arrived in San Francisco and shot dead the Chinese-American journalist Henry Liu. […]
After publishing The Yamato Dynasty, which briefly mentioned the discovery that is the basis for Gold Warriors, our phones and email were tapped. […]
When a brief extract of this book was published in the South China Morning Post in August 2001, several phone calls from the editors were cut off suddenly. Emails from the newspaper took 72 hours to reach us, while copies sent to an associate nearly arrived instantly.
Although The Yamato Dynasty eventually appeared in Japanese translation in 2007, as of the writing of this post, Gold Warriors – in spite of its earth-shattering revelations about Japan’s past and (more importantly) about the corrupt political realities of the present – seems to be received in Japan by mokusatsu [黙殺] – or ‘death by silence’. If it is any comparison – the British food writer Michael Booth wrote Sushi and Beyond: What the Japanese Know About Cooking in 2009 which celebrates Japanese cuisine unreservedly, and it was translated into Japanese in 2013 and adapted into an anime on NHK in 2015. (Michael Booth is a talented writer and I particularly like his most recent and most mature work The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About the Nordic Miracle. His success in Japan is well-deserved. I am only using this to illustrate Japan’s mindset.)
Ten years have passed since Gold Warriors appeared in 2006, and much has happened since then. For one, Harutoshi Fukui [福井晴敏] (1968 – present), best known in the West for his Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn novels, penned a fiction series called Jinrui Shikin [人類資金], or ‘Mankind Fund’. This runs for 7 volumes, roughly 200 pages each, and was all published at breakneck speed between August 2013 and July 2015.
Jinrui Shikin tells a contrary story to the Seagraves’ historic account. I have only skimped through its manga adaptation and personally found it tedious, not to mention repulsive, to follow. As the story has it, all the looting in Asia was done by America during the war (!!!), and Japan invaded the Philippines in order to capture the loot which was stored there. They succeeded in shipping the loot back to Japan, used this enormous wealth as a bargaining chip with the Americas, and set up a secret organization which manages and employs this asset for the future of the whole of mankind. The ‘M’ for ‘M-Fund’ in the story is not ‘MacArthur’, but ‘Mankind’. With this stash of money, the Japanese protagonists save the entire world.
For what it’s worth, Jinrui Shikin has also been adapted into a movie entitled The Human Trust in October 2013 – a mere three months after the first novel volume appeared. The film journal Eiga Getjutsu [映画芸術] ranked it 4th among its list of 10 lousiest films released in 2013.
The first volume of the manga, too, appeared roughly at the same time in September 2013, followed by the second volume in 2014. Well, I shall confine myself to saying that this looks to me like the sort of work an inexperienced manga artist would take on for money’s sake but without a commitment of heart.
I do not recall any book called Jinrui Shikin among Japan’s runaway bestsellers in the summer of 2013, so it would seem that plans to propagate this story in novel, manga and movie formats all at once were in place long before. That’s a very, very special treatment that is not accorded to thousands of more worthy novels appearing in Japan very year. It just seems ironic to me that a painstaking work of history is cold-shouldered in favour of a well-funded, albeit artistically crude, propaganda campaign about the same M-Fund.