Money in the Pacific and European theaters of World War II is the
focus of the articles in the recently released summer 2013 issue of
the Journal of Numismatic Research by author Roger W. Burdette.
Burdette writes that he dedicated this issue to the “valiant
attempts by Filipino and American military and civilian personnel to
prevent gold and silver from falling into the hands of the invading
Japanese Army at the onset of World War II.”
On Dec. 22, 1941, the American high commissioner took custody of
all gold, silver and paper money from banks and the Philippine
Treasury to remove the possibility of it falling into enemy hands.
More than $2.7 million in paper currency was burned after a
careful accounting by American and Philippine officials. The gold bars
and silver coins were hidden in a system of tunnels on the island of
Corregidor, according to Burdette.
In January 1942 orders were given to the USS Trout submarine to
take much needed supplies of ammo to American forces on Corregidor.
After unloading its cargo of ammo and other supplies, the Trout
sailed away from Corregidor on Feb. 3, 1942, with a cargo of gold bars
and silver coins, also serving as ballast, toward Pearl Harbor.
The crew and the bullion arrived safely in Hawaii on March 3. The
bars and coins were transferred the light cruiser USS Detroit, where
the bullion was temporarily held until its transfer to vaults in
Honolulu for storage during the war.
Silver coins dumped
After all the gold bullion and some of the Philippine silver coins
were smuggled out on the Trout, more than 27,000 bags of silver coins
(worth $13.7 million U.S.) remained in Corregidor.
Had it been possible, at least 20 more trips would have been
needed to remove the coins from the island, according to Burdette.
Instead, in the interest of keeping the money out of the hands of
the Japanese, U.S. officials ordered the silver coins dumped into
The island of Corregidor surrendered to Japan on May 6, 1942, and
Japanese forces quickly learned the location of the silver.
U.S. Navy divers taken prisoner by the Japanese were forced to
recover the silver coins, though they engineered as much sabotage of
those efforts as possible, Burdette reveals.
Many of the facts Burdette presents of the silver coin recovery
are from a private memoir published by one of the American divers,
Robert C. Sheats, in his book One Man’s War: Diving as a Guest of the Emperor.
Salt mine treasure
In another article by Burdette in the journal, he tells about
stolen gold hidden at the Merkers Kaiseroda salt mine at Thuringia,
Germany, and its recovery from June to August 1945.
According to Burdette, “Under orders from Nazi leadership,
primarily Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, conquered people and
nations were systematically stripped of art, gold and other valuables.
Recovery of the treasure after the end of the European war had an
unexpected connection to the U.S. Mint.”
The Journal of Numismatic Research is dedicated to original
research in American numismatics.
Adobe PDF copies of the journal may be downloaded from the Wizard
Coin Supply online at www.wizardcoinsupply.com.
Click on the “Coin Books” link on the left side of the home page, then
look for the JNR link.
Burdette can be reached by writing him in care of Seneca Mill
Press LLC, Box 1423, Great Falls, VA 22066. ■