[Marxism] The Looting of Asia: Gold Warriors

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Wed Nov 26 19:22:50 MST 2003

*****   Chalmers Johnson, "The Looting of Asia"
LRB 25.22 (20 November 2003)

Gold Warriors: America's Secret Recovery of Yamashita's Gold by 
Sterling Seagrave and Peggy Seagrave | Verso, 332 pp, £17.00

It may be pointless to try to establish which World War Two Axis 
aggressor, Germany or Japan, was the more brutal to the peoples it 
victimised. The Germans killed six million Jews and 20 million 
Russians; the Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos, 
Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, at least 23 
million of them ethnic Chinese. Both nations looted the countries 
they conquered on a monumental scale, though Japan plundered more, 
over a longer period, than the Nazis. Both conquerors enslaved 
millions and exploited them as forced labourers - and, in the case of 
the Japanese, as prostitutes for front-line troops. If you were a 
Nazi prisoner of war from Britain, America, Australia, New Zealand or 
Canada (but not Russia) you faced a 4 per cent chance of not 
surviving the war; the death rate for Allied POWs held by the 
Japanese was nearly 30 per cent.

The real differences between the two nations, however, developed in 
the years and decades after 1945. Survivors and relatives of victims 
of the Holocaust have worked for almost six decades to win 
compensation from German corporations for slave labour and to regain 
possession of works of art stolen from their homes and offices. 
Litigation continues against Swiss banks that hid much of the Nazi 
loot. As recently as July 2001, the Austrian Government began to 
disburse some $300 million out of an endowment of almost $500 million 
to more than 100,000 former slave labourers. The German Government 
has long recognised that, in order to re-establish relations of 
mutual respect with the countries it pillaged, serious gestures 
towards restitution are necessary. It has so far paid more than $45 
billion in compensation and reparations. Japan, on the other hand, 
has given its victims a mere $3 billion, while giving its own 
nationals around $400 billion in compensation for war losses.

One reason for these differences is that victims of the Nazis have 
been politically influential in the US and Britain, forcing their 
Governments to put pressure on Germany, whereas Japan's victims live 
in countries that for most of the postwar period were torn by 
revolution, anticolonial movements and civil wars. This has begun to 
change with the rise of Sino-American activists. The success of Iris 
Chang's The Rape of Nanking (1997), a book the Japanese establishment 
did everything in its power to impugn, heralded the emergence of this 

More significant, however, are differences in US Government policies 
towards the two countries. From the moment of Germany's defeat, the 
United States was active in apprehending war criminals, denazifying 
German society, and collecting and protecting archives of the Nazi 
regime, all of which have by now been declassified. By contrast, from 
the moment of Japan's defeat, the US Government sought to exonerate 
the Emperor and his relatives from any responsibility for the war. By 
1948, it was seeking to restore the wartime ruling class to positions 
of power (Japan's wartime minister of munitions, Nobusuke Kishi, for 
example, was prime minister from 1957 to 1960). The US keeps many of 
its archives concerned with postwar Japan highly classified, in 
violation of its own laws.

Most important, John Foster Dulles, President Truman's special envoy 
to Japan charged with ending the occupation, wrote the peace treaty 
of 1951 in such a way that most former POWs and civilian victims of 
Japan are prevented from obtaining any form of compensation from 
either the Japanese Government or private Japanese corporations who 
profited from their slave labour. He did so in perfect secrecy and 
forced the other Allies to accept his draft (except for China and 
Russia, which did not sign). Article 14(b) of the treaty, signed at 
San Francisco on 8 September 1951, specifies: 'Except as otherwise 
provided in the present Treaty, the Allied Powers waive all 
reparations claims of the Allied Powers, other claims of the Allied 
Powers and their nationals arising out of any actions taken by Japan 
and its nationals in the course of the prosecution of the war, and 
claims of the Allied Powers for direct military costs of occupation.' 
As recently as 25 September 2001, three former American Ambassadors 
to Japan - Thomas Foley, a former Speaker of the House of 
Representatives, Michael Armacost, the president of the Brookings 
Institution, and Walter Mondale, Carter's Vice-President - wrote a 
joint letter to the Washington Post denouncing Congress for its 
willingness even to think about helping former American slave 
labourers get around the treaty.

Why do these attitudes protecting and excusing Japan persist? Why has 
the US pursued such divergent policies towards postwar Germany and 
Japan? Why was the peace treaty written in the way it was? Many 
reasons have been offered over the years, including that Japan was 
too poor to pay, that these policies were necessary to keep postwar 
Japan from 'going Communist', and that the Emperor and Japanese 
people had been misled into war by a cabal of insane militarists, all 
of whom the occupation had eliminated from positions of 
responsibility. The explanation offered in the Seagraves' book is 
considerably more sinister. It concerns what the United States did 
with Japan's loot once it discovered how much of it there was, the 
form it took, and how little influence its original owners had.

Almost as soon as the war was over, American forces began to discover 
stupendous caches of Japanese war treasure. General MacArthur, in 
charge of the occupation, reported finding 'great hoards of gold, 
silver, precious stones, foreign postage stamps, engraving plates and 
. . . currency not legal in Japan'. His officials arrested the 
underworld boss Yoshio Kodama, who had worked in China during the 
war, selling opium and supervising the collection and shipment to 
Japan of industrial metals such as tungsten, titanium and platinum. 
Japan was by far the largest opium producer in Asia throughout the 
first half of the 20th century, initially in its colony of Korea and 
then in Manchuria, which it seized in 1931. Kodama supplied heroin 
and liquor to occupied China in return for gold coins, jewellery and 
objets d'art, which the Japanese melted down into ingots.

Kodama returned to Japan after the surrender immensely rich. Before 
going to prison he transferred part of his booty to the conservative 
politicians Ichiro Hatoyama and Ichiro Kono, who used the proceeds to 
finance the newly created Liberal Party, precursor of the party that 
has ruled Japan almost uninterruptedly since 1949. When Kodama was 
released from prison, also in 1949, he went to work for the CIA and 
later became the chief agent in Japan for the Lockheed Aircraft 
Company, bribing and blackmailing politicians to buy the Lockheed 
F-104 fighter and the L-1011 airbus. With his stolen wealth, 
underworld ties and history as a supporter of militarism, Kodama 
became one of the godfathers of pro-American single-party rule in 
Japan. . . .

[The full text of the review is available at 

Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, _Gold Warriors: The Covert History of 
Yamashita's Gold_: <http://www.bowstring.net/>

*****   The Seagraves have uncovered one of the biggest secrets of 
the twentieth century. -- Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking

In 1945, US Intelligence officers in Manila discovered that the 
Japanese had hidden large quantities of gold bullion and other looted 
treasure in the Philippines. President Truman decided to recover the 
gold but to keep its riches secret. These would be combined with 
treasure recovered inside Japan during the US occupation, and with 
Nazi loot recovered in Europe, to create a worldwide American 
political action fund to fight communism.

Overseen by General MacArthur, President Truman, and John Foster 
Dulles, this "Black Gold" gave Washington virtually limitless, 
unaccountable funds, providing an asset base to reinforce the 
treasuries of America's allies, to bribe political and military 
leaders, and to manipulate elections in foreign countries for more 
than fifty years. Drawing on a vast range of original documents and 
thousands of hours of interviews, Gold Warriors exposes one of the 
great state secrets of the twentieth century.

"Fast-paced and jammed with racy details and incident Š engrossing to 
anyone who has ever attempted to filter through the mass of detail 
and conjecture, fact and rumor, and bare-faced lying that fill the 
bewildering hodgepodge of source we must draw on the studies of 
China." -- Jonathan Spence, New York Times Book Review, on The Soong 

Sterling Seagrave was a reporter for the Washington Post before 
becoming a freelance investigative journalist contributing to Time, 
Life, Atlantic Monthly, and the Far Eastern Economic Review. He is 
the author of The Soong Dynasty, among other books. Peggy Seagrave 
was the senior researcher and picture editor at Time-Life Books. 
Together they are the authors of the bestselling Lords of the Rim and 
The Yamato Dynasty



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