Let me give you a starting place: imagine a sword so unimaginably balanced and so masterfully constructed that it is considered by experts and collectors to be the finest sword ever made. Well, that sword existed, and it had a name – the Honjo Masamune. I’ve been fascinated with weapons for my entire life, and chiefly among them, swords. After I was given access to the internet, in my teens, I discovered the stories of the Honjo Masamune, which lay dorment in my brain until only recently. Last summer, as I was hacking brush in the backyard with a rusty Honduran machete, I was recounting the story to my then-girlfriend, Denali. She asked, “Did they ever find it?” I admitted that I had no idea, that I hadn’t followed up since my teens, and I proceeded to dive back into the bowels of the internet with a renewed vigor.
Now for the abbreviated history lesson (if you’d like the slightly longer version, just search “Honjo Masamune” on Wikipedia): Goro Nyudo Masamune (1264-1343 AD) is generally considered Japan’s greatest swordsmith, and his magnum opus was the Honjo Masamune, named for its creator and its most famous owner, General Honjo Shigenaga, who won the sword in a duel after its previous owner used it to split General Shigenaga’s helmet. Shigenaga survived, won the duel, and took possession of the sword. Later, when Shigenaga ran into financial trouble, he sold the sword for 13 gold coins to Toyotomi Hidetsugu, the nephew of respected general and politician, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. From there, the sword passed among the hands of the elite, until finally coming to rest with Prince Tokugawa Iemasa, a Japanese political figure, at the end of World War 2. This is where the story gets interesting.
In compliance with the disarmament of Japan ordered by General Douglas MacArthur, Tokugawa surrendered 14 swords to a police station at Mejiro, an upscale residential district in Toshima, Tokyo in December of 1945. Among these 14 swords was the Honjo Masamune. A month later, in January of 1946, the swords were surrendered to an American representative of the Foreign Liquidations Commission of AFWESPAC (Army Forces, Western Pacific). The representative’s name, as recorded by the police station, was “Sgt. Coldy Bimore.”
Who the hell is Coldy Bimore!?
For many years, this is where the trail went cold. There was no record, whatsoever, of a Sgt. Coldy Bimore. Eventually, some savvy sleuth discovered record of a Cole D.B. Moore attached to the Foreign Liquidations Commission in Japan during WW2. Cole D.B. Moore = “Coldy Bimore.” Say it aloud, you’ll get it.
As per Wikipedia:
“D. B. Moore (nickname ‘Cole’) achieved the rank of US Army Technician 4th Grade (T/4). Soldiers with the rank of T/4 were often addressed as ‘Sargent’ due to the insignia with three chevrons; thus “T/4 ‘Cole’ D. B. Moore” possibly became “Sgt. Coldy Bimore”.
Moore was attached to the Foreign Liquidations Commission of AFWESPAC (Army Forces, Western Pacific) and was stationed in Japan after the second world war. ‘Cole’ D. B. Moore was discharged on April 22, 1946. Detailed military records for Moore were lost in the National Personnel Records Center fire (1973) which destroyed 16 – 18 million Official Military Personnel Files including 80% of records for servicemen and women serving between 1912 and 1960.”
This is where the trail officially goes cold. Wikipedia listed (at that time) no other information for D.B. Moore, and a few hours spent searching and questioning sword and samurai forums left me with no other leads. That’s when I decided to follow the link from the Coldy Bimore Wikipedia entry to the only remaining information on D.B. Moore – his entry in The National Archives (aad.archives.gov). A search for D.B. Moore (Army serial number 34681402) lists no useful information, aside from his race (white), original residence (Wilcox County, Georgia), and his original occupation (farmer).
Both of my grandfathers were in the service, and both returned to their home towns. My mother’s father was also a farmer, and wished to be buried near it, in the family cemetery. I would assume that a young farmer from Wilcox County Georgia might feel the same way. Enter Findagrave.com. “Find a Grave” is a website that catalogues graves and headstones and links related obit information – in this case, it broke the cold case back open. A search for D.B. Moore led me to a grave for D.B. Moore in the Christian Home Cemetery in Pitts, Wilcox County, Georgia. All the info, from the place and date of birth to the WW2 veteran status, matches exactly. This might be, quite possibly, the grave of the famous Coldy Bimore.
Moore’s information is limited, but scrolling to the very bottom of the page lists a spouse: Ruby Morris Moore (1932-2012). Following the link to Ruby Moore’s entry on the website reveals much more information. D.B. and Ruby had five children. For the purposes of this article, and out of respect for their privacy, I will not list their names.
I found the oldest son on facebook, of all places, but numerous attempts to contact him were met with no response. I was open with him, in my initial message, about why I was contacting him – I told the truth – that I was researching his late father in conjunction with a missing sword. He was “seeing” my messages, but choosing not to respond. Before attempting to call him, send him a letter, or visit him (which I frankly couldn’t afford to do anyway), I figured I’d call in the big dogs – the Japanese Embassy in Washington DC.
In order to be thorough, I drafted a letter containing the exact information as this article, only more respectfully and formally written, and made three copies. I sent a copy to the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C., a copy to the Japanese consulate in Oklahoma, and a copy to the Japanese consulate in Georgia. I also emailed a copy of the letter to all three places, each copied on the same email, so they would know I was contacting them all. About a week later, I received a very formal “Thank You” email from the Japanese consulate, but without any mention of future follow-up. I was satisfied. If the issue is anyone’s business, it’s their business, and I’ve done my part to give them all the information I have. Done.
Or so I thought.
Last fall, I got a call from a producer at the Travel channel (all Travel Channel employees shall also remain nameless, because who cares) who said she’d heard from someone in one of the samurai forums that I was digging up new information on the story. She said they were planning to do a documentary about the lost sword, and that any info I had would be appreciated. I sent her an exact copy of the letter that I’d sent to the Japanese embassy, and told her that they were welcome to pursue the same leads. She asked if I’d be willing to appear on the documentary as an “expert”, and I said no. I told her that I wasn’t an expert – I was just some guy who knew how to use the internet… “However,” I added, “if you’re planning to actually go to Georgia and try to speak to his family, let me come with you. Hell, let me DO it.” She thought about, and replied, “Send me a headshot. I’ll talk to my boss.”
Weeks passed, and I figured I’d heard the last of it (again) until I got another call from another Travel Channel producer – this one was, indeed, the last one’s boss. This producer verified my info and told me that, yes, they were putting together the funding to fly me and the camera crew out to Georgia to personally find and ask the family about the sword their father allegedly may have stolen. I was, to say the least, stoked. She told me that they would contact me later with additional information.
I got a final phone call about a week later. The second producer stated, simply, that they would no longer be requiring my assistance with the documentary. A bit annoyed, I asked why they’d decided to exclude me from the project when it was my leads that gave them their ending. She paused, and when she spoke, she seemed… troubled. She told me that they weren’t including the Moore family in the documentary at all. In fact, they weren’t including the United States in the story whatsoever. The documentary would be a historical piece that ended with the theft of the sword, and would take place wholly in Japan. They would not try to relocate the sword.
With that, she said goodbye, and I never spoke to anyone at the Travel Channel again. I don’t know why they abandoned the lead. Perhaps the family threatened legal action. Perhaps the Japanese embassy told them not to interfere with an official investigation. Perhaps my hunch was way off. *shrug* I have no idea. That’s where my involvement in the search for the Honjo Masamune ends.
So far, anyway.
To be safe, I sent this story, and all of my gathered information, to VICE. If any group of people on the planet are good enough, and crazy enough, to find a missing legendary sword, it’s definitely the beautiful bastard cowboy adventurers at VICE. In my opinion, there is no greater modern-day journalistic force on Earth.
[UPDATE – 7/30/15] This post is getting far more attention than anything on the site, and I’m getting quite a few emails asking if I’ve made any progress. To be clear, I’ve pursued this as far as I am legally and financially able. I welcome others to pick up where I left off. If you’d really like to see a resolution to this, my best advice would be to contact VICE @ [email protected], link them back to this page, and ask them to pick up the story. I think it’s the best bet, considering the apparent lack of interest with other organizations. If they get enough emails, and see that there’s really a demand, I could see them potentially following this through to a more satisfying conclusion. – eric
bonjour, je suis très intéressé par cette épée, je suis un amateur dans la matière mais j’ai quelle que idée pour les recherches. vous dit qu’il était dans un lot de 14 épées, si on cherché aussi les 13 autres épées, peut être pourra ton trouver le honjo?, ou alors chercher les familles de tout les sergents qui aller au japon en 1945 est repartie au état unis dans les archives?. voila j’espère pouvoir vous était, merci au revoir.
There is also a Claude v. Moore who served in the ww2. He is also listed on find a grave.
Interesting research. Though I’d be looking at the names of the other swords that were collected by the Foreign Liquidations Commission agent (Moore?) and tracking the whereabouts of those in order to get a better idea of that happened to the Honjo Masamune.
I am Extremely fond of the Honjo Masamune story and I really hope that the sword is found as it is such a great piece of Japanese history. Hopefully someone at Vice does investigate the Honjo Masamune story.
You can help by going to their site and contacting them and asking them to do it. Point them back to this article, as well. 🙂
Wow I want to go pay them a visit I feel they know somthing that there not letting on what if the American government has the sword and payed the family to keep quiet, u know dogey stuff governments are…
While flipping through channels recently, I paused on a piece about the Honjo Masamune. Being familiar with the story, I was interested. That program asserted that the Yakuza was/is in final possession of the sword. If that’s true, it may be have played some part in the Travel Channel’s decision to end their segment at the original theft of the sword and leave the rest alone.
Eric, and friends,
Don’t lose hope to find the sword. The sword is in the USA.
M. P. from travel channel also contacted me about an interview. At the time I was giving another party info for their newsletter so I declined. They said they wanted to take the story to Japan and wondered if I knew anybody who claimed to have it in Japan even though I showed them my evidence. I think they just wanted entertainment and it had nothing to do with finding the Honjo. So Eric, don’t feel bad, they already had their minds made up. Who knows, you may still get a call if they do a part two. : )
I am going to do a webpage so stay tuned.
como es la Honji Masamune?
tienen alguna foto?
Como es su empuñadura?
Quienes son los Shogun que la han poseido?
Es de la epoca del Shogunato de EDO?
Conoces algun dato?
creo que podria ayudar.
Que valor puede tener?
Very interesting post… This is possibly the furtherest anyone got to this investigation.
Any updates to the story? If you called him then surely you can get a faster response or at least some form of response.
I will let someone else give the other answers but as far as value, perhaps I can be of assistance.
It is said that the Honjo Masamune is priceless.
In the early 90’s, a travelling sword dealer said if found, his cash offer was for one million dollars for the Honjo Masamune. His name Susumu Takeda. When considering inflation and art values, who knows what top current values are.
What is the Honjo Masamune sword actually worth?
Perhaps this will help. One of the three Hocho Masamune sold for the equivalent of 2 million dollars thirty years ago. A sword dealer in Japan says on his site, the same sword now (Hocho Masamune), is not worth less than the equivalent of 10 million dollars. (exchange rate used) This particular knife has no history near as important as the Honjo Masamune.
All the best, S
I would love followup if there ever is any. It breaks my heart to think of the possibility of such a sword being destroyed, misused, or damaged. I have a great interest in historical artifacts (especially from Japan). I just wish I could be of assistance. I would love followup and leads from anyone who may have it. I know I may never physically be able to see the sword (if it still exists) but it would be wonderfully fulfilling if I could be of some assistance in finding the sword.
There are two sides to the Honjo Masamune. In saying this, I mean there are two different descriptions of it. This I believe is one of the reasons the sword was lost without a trace for so many years.
One description tells it is an o-suriage tachi cut down to katana, and another description I got from Dean Hartley some years ago was that it was really an unusual short sword. Dean Hartley told me he obtained his information from his friend, Dr. Homma Junji, who was present when the Honjo Masamune was made Kokuho (National Treasure) in 1939.
Not many people have heard this other description so it is probably the reason for the uproar it has caused in the sword society and some have made it clear on reddit and the sword forums that I am mistaken.
Everyone has a right to have their opinion. You may want to read my article before having a spoken opinion though. It may save face. LOL!
In 2012, when the Documentary came out that was produced by World Media Rights in UK, a collector on the show said if you find a sword that you think is Honjo Masamune, you need to compare the sword in question to drawings of the tempered edge that were made of it before the war. The tempered edge, (Hamon) is a like a fingerprint in steel and it cannot be copied.
I did just that. In late 2012, I took the drawing I obtained from the Library of Congress in D.C. and I made comparison videos of a sword I own and different areas of the drawings. What do you think the outcome was….. ; )
I have a large article that I wrote concerning finding the sword that I will be putting on a webpage soon.
Does anyone have any ideas on a good webpage maker? Been a long time since I did one.
Eric, I hope this is ok to post here.
Please see my youtube videos.
Weren’t many of the swords confiscated by our military destroyed. Is there a chance that it could have been destroyed? That would break my heart, but how do we know that it wasn’t?
Hey, a reason you may be getting more traffic on this post is because several Japanese swords and whoever took them from Japan figure heavily into the latest few books in a series by SM Stirling.
The most recent book, called The Desert and the Blade, mentions “Cody Biltmore” and the honjo masamune directly, and it’s how I found this page.
Why would the government keep it a secret? It is just a sword. I could see an individual keeping it secret to keep internet weirdos from bothering them but the US government would have nothing to hide. “Yeah we have the sword… So what?”
Mystery solved, Steve has it. Everyone get back to working and paying taxes on Monday.
Travel channel, expedition unknown
Of course it was destroyed. To them it was nothing but just another sword. Which, in reality, it was.
Hi guys! interresting chatter, but there is some key issues about the Honjo Masamunes disappearance that have been blatantly ignored.
First of all it is assumed that the Tokyo police at Mejiro police station didn’t appreciate the fact that an American soldier were about to walk off with the entire sword collection of the former Tokugawa shogunate clan. The Tokugawa handed them off in a very public display of compliance. Therefore It is highy unlikely that the signing over of the Honjo was a hurried affair, which is the sole basis of the B.D Moore hypothesis.
A proper american soldier would also be conditioned by training to automatically identify himself by rank, name and file, that is “sergeant + name, nationality & unit,” something that would have been meticiously recorded in the phonetic katakana-type script used by the japanese to convert english into japanese signs.
Where is the japanese phonetic eqvivalent of D (Di) of B.D Moore in “Coldy Bimore”? Nowhere.
This being said, it doesen’t really matter if this Coldy Bimore was a fake or real name.
One possible, in my opinion unlikely, scenario is that The Honjo’s disappearence took place while it was in the keeping of japanese police, making up or using the name of a known or imagined american soldier to cover their tracks.
The probable scenario is that it disappeared somewhere between Mejiro police station, and one of the official collection points of the US army.
In my opinion (again), this means that the Honjo vanished into the black market and left Japan with one of the veterans, probably an officer, as an unofficial, unregistred war-trophy. To put it in harsh words: It was stolen.
The usual practice at the time, was that the US authority (ACA) first collected the samurai swords, and first then rewarded them (often randomly) to veterans and officers as war-trophies to be brought back home. Initially there wasn’t being made any distinction between family heirloom-mastercraft blades and the mass-produced ones. That is until japanese interrests managed to convince ACA to grudingly give heirloom-blades status as untouchable “art swords”, and issue counterorders to that effect.
Japanese specialists soon volounteered at collection pionts, to help sort out the “art swords” from the thousands of ordinary blades destined for furnaces or american mantlepieces.
It is known that the ACA counterorders regarding “art swords” was imperfectly implemented. Likewise, a lot of valuable swords passed undiscovered through the collection points. However, it is unlikely that the Tokugawa collection suffered this fate, the reason for this being their provenance, and the public circumstance of their surrender.
In December 1945, when Iemaseu Tokugawa surrendered his heirloom sword collection, all US soldiers and officers involved in the collection effort wuld have been keenly aware of the potential value of ancient “art swords”. Any US soldier showing up to collect the Tokugawa collection at Mejiro station, would therefore immediately realize its inherent value. In fact, it is likely that the japanese police would have informed him about it.
It would also have been clear to him that the Tokugawa collection immediately would be identified as the “art swords” they were upon their arrival at the collection point, their arrival maybe even expected by prewarned japanese inspectors ready to whisk them away, back into japanese hands.
This also mean that the only way to realize some of the collections value, was by diverting the military bureacracy, and make the Tokugawa collection “disappear” somewhere between the Mejiro police station and their designated delivery point.
Would a T/4 private such as B.D Moore (if he was the one actually collecting the swords) have been able to pull this caper off on his own? I don’t think so. There must already have been a black market network in place, involving several other people from his unit, officers included.
For all we know, the Honji Masamune could have been traded, bartered and sold between Us personell for weeks and months, before leaving Japan as The One Sword allowed to any veteran from the Pacific theater of war.
The pool of potential “suspects” is enormous. There are only two hopes of retrieving the Honjo Masamune. The first a random find in some granpa’s loft or den. the second being that its reason for not surfacing is the fact that the Honjo is in the posession of someone closely linked to its initial theft, who is painfully aware of its enormous cultural value, and the illegal way in which it was aquired.
Is there any description of it’s scabbard?
What I found strange from this is why no military service number was used along with name to identify the person collecting the swords, as this would lead to accurate records.what was the format used in this situation?.I find it highly unusual that the military supposedly very strict and accurate with record keeping and training would overlook such a simple thing as a service number for accurate files.Some possible scenarios-1-Japanese owner kept sword knowing its history and not handed in. 2-poor record format by military administration to possibly seek out valuable treasures with no traceable accurate record.ie using a name only and no rank.3-due to poor record format and procedures the sword could have been melted down without its historical significance being known.also the posslbility of the Japanese language being phoneticall is poses the questions 1- Why a print , signature and service number was not used to affirm the collecttion of goods.2-Why an organisation such as the military,recognised on its accolades of discipline could oversee such a simple mistake of armament collections procedure. I have a few other involved scenarios but also also a way to narrow down the scenarios into stratigy and plan to see if this sword still exists as I have a passion for Japanese martial arts,weaponary and culture. Look forward to any comment from you through email about my comments as you showed an interest about your targeted reasearched.regards peter
I have considered and rejected several possible avenues of investigation myself. The main problem is the abysmal lack of solid, factual information.
This means that any “trails” one might choose to track down, will be crippled by the need to stitch together conjecture and contextual evidence into a working “start point” – hypothesis from the very outset.
This problem also means that it will be virtually impossible to rate any theory as more feasible than another. You would be forced to chase every single one of them down.
Translated into Time & Expenditure, the hunt for the Honjo Masamune lies beyond any ordinary Jane or Joe. It would require substantial manpower and funding, enough to make it easier to just offer a substantially large enough reward for people to start searching their own houses for you.
Never mind the prolonged, expensive legal battles of ownership that surely would follow any authenticated discovery…..
Stolen, no……. Japan was under McArthurs command. He told them confiscate the weapons. They did. What is illegal about that?
If not convinced, In 1953 Japan signed a treaty called the San Francisco Peace Treaty that gives one a legal right to own it unless it was expressly used in a shrine.
It was used for fighting and has battle marks so it is legal for anyone to own.
The piont is not the confiscation of swords, it is wether the custodial chain established by the US army authority was wilflully broken by its own personel. If this is the case, it represents a violation of US military law.
I also presume you are referring to article 14 & 19 of the 1953 SFPT, legalizing any and all actions and OFFICIAL seizures by allied nations and nationals. It does not cover potential theft.
The Honjo wasn’t used during the Pacific war, it was used five hundred years ago, so your last remark is invalid. Imagine someone saying that the sword George Washington carried across the Delaware isn’t an antique national treasure because it was carried into war centuries ago.
Sounds like you know an awful lot. Wow!
Hey guys, this is Eric, the writer of the article. I love the amount of discussion that is happening here. Keep it up! Also, a reminder, if you haven’t already, contact Vice via the links near the end of the article and try to generate some interest in the story on their end. Thanks!
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the sword!
Have you considered it may have not been the fault of the US military at all? This is not an attempt to point fingers as I realize in midst of turmoil, anything can happen.
Why was Iemasa Tokugawa asked to hand in only 3 swords when originally allowed to keep them in his possession? An order came asking to see these three swords.
You hear the story told often that is was 14 swords. This is a misunderstanding. There were a total of 14 Kokuho in the list that the government put out that were lost from various places/shrines throughout Japan. The Honjo was one of these 14 kokuho that were lost.
I took photocopies of an original document signed by Iemasa’s hand that he claimed the loss of only three swords.
The sword’s identification was known only to a few people. Sure, there are basic descriptions in tons of history books. The Tokugawa’s were known to allow only a few select people even see the sword.
The sword was given Kokuho in 1939. Three people were in line to judge the sword. Only two were allowed in to hold it. Haku Koza was not allowed because of political reasons.
When the time came to inspect all the gathered swords in the holding depot and to look for the lost important swords, there were Japanese inspectors chosen for the job. I have the list of inspectors that could be called to look at the swords in the holding depot.
Remember Haku Koza who was turned down to judge Honjo Masamune? He is the first on the inspector list!! If he was called to recognize the Honjo, would he have known what to look for?
Here is why I ask this question.
Dr. Homma Junji was one of the judges when Honjo was awarded Kokuho. Years later, he gave Dean Hartley, his friend, information and photos that indicates Honjo Masamune was not an O-suriage tachi with kengyo nakago jiri, like history seems to indicate.
I spoke with Dean Hartley, and Dr. Homma’s description was much different!!! Dean Hartley told me Honjo Masamune was a tanto of Wakizashi length made in shinogi tsukuri. He said, “ that was a secret!!!”
So, If they were searching in all those swords for a big sword when really it was a little sword, ………you cannot blame the US government or the Japanese inspectors……
It is simple, The Honjo Masamune was given away, free!
So sad, but miscommunication is a very bad thing!
Please contact me…I wish to discuss a proposition with you.
The government would keep it a secret, kept in a vault, so as to avoid having to return it to Japan. If it were found to be in the possession of the US Government, they would immediately face immense international pressure to return it. Refusal could possibly lead to another declaration of war.
Just watched the Myth Busters documentary on Lost Sword of the Samurai about this on Netflix. They did discus the theory that the sword went home with Cole D.B. Moore. It does feel like they just drop the lead however which is what led me to google the name and get to your site. Thank you for providing all the additional information you did.
I followed that path you identified Eric – a quick google search go me to the obituary listings. Cole and his wife Ruby were buried in Rochelle, GA. Rochelle is a pretty small town with only 1500 people. There isn’t a lot of information about the Moore’s online.
I would imagine that if the story of Moore and the sword are true, Moore’s children and grand-children would have grown up with Grandpa’s sword and it may have become a family heirloom without anyone really knowing the value of the item. So often ancient items are found in people’s storage completely forgotten about through the ages and only find their way out on the market through estate sales or garage sales.
It’s unfortunate that you weren’t able to make contact with any of the Moore’s. It seems to me that there would have at least been some interest in finding out if their father / grand-father holds one of the most famous pieces of Japanese history. It certainly would be an honor to reveal the sword to the world after years of being hidden. I’m pretty sure most people would rather have the million dollars and give to sword to Japanese museum than keep in storage somewhere.
Here’s some of the Mythbusters documentary on Youtube:
Anyway, if you truly have it Stephen, perhaps there is more that you can do than just provide a link to youtube video. History has to be shared with the world and hopefully the sword will be found one day.
You say there is more a person could do…… what is that?
Well I’ve been reading everything I can on swords over the past 15 years. I’ve been trying to find out about the one I have. No one wants to tell me anything but want it. I only have the one I am NOT a collector. But I do believe I have this missing sword. My great uncle brought it back in 1946 or early 47 he was in the army he gave it to my grandfather whom I bought it from. It is approx 63.2 cm long the the tang is another 18 or so cm. one peg hole tang has been shortened and tip looks to have been sharpened I have looked at this scroll online and several points that I can see are the same as missing one. Sword does need polished to better see everything. There is a very small marking on tang and some of it to me looks like part of masamune. If anyone is interested in seeing pictures leave me a comment. Thanks
Well I’m conflicted actually. I would love to see pictures but am no expert. Do what you feel is right.
Hi Rocky! Interresting to hear from another one who thinks he might have the real deal in his posession.
Like The Prudent Ninja, I’m not an expert on japanese swords. My own interrest in the subject matter is purely historical, and to a certain extent archaeological.
Believe it or not, myths and legends about great swordsmiths and legendary swords, stretches all the way from way back in Norwegian (my own country’s) prehistory, then into our written history, and all the way across the globe, to Japan on the opposite side of the Earth, who again share remarkably similar legends as those of my own people in ages past.
This being said, there are some particularities concerning great japanese blades, that set them apart from this general narrative.
If I were you, the first step I would have taken, based on my own training, would be to check out if my sword fits into any known TYPOLOGICAL sequence, matching that of the time we know that the Honjo Masamune was made in. By typological, I mean:
– Mode of manufacture at the time (swordsmithing-techniques).
– Type of iron / metal used at the time (degree of purity / impurity).
– Popular sword shapes at the time (curvature, lenght etc.).
– Popular ways / patterns to decorate swords at the time.
– How common the usage of makers’ marks were at the time.
This will allow you to give the sword in your posession a relative date, +/- a certain amopunt of years, which may or may not give you the initial answer you’re hoping for.
If you find your sword to be a general or spescific typological fit for the Honjo Masamune, the next, all important question, is whether the oshigata (that you are able to trace) on your own sword, matches that of the Honjo Masamune. This is the only thing that might give you a PARTICULAR fit to this specific weapon.
You must take care NOT to identifying battle-nicks and pits caused by corrosion, poor maintenance etc. as part of the oshigata. I guess you already know that this clay-penciled pattern would have been trapped inside the Honjos’ steel edge, a ghost in the blade upon its final tempering. It is this ghost, the hand of Masamune, that you have to conjure out of the sword.
Personally, if I was an expert, I would rebuff anything close, but not close enough to the entire oshigata, so you need to bring out as much of it as you can.
To do that, you really need to get the blade professionally cleaned.
If you are worried about trusting the weapon to a second US-based party, my advice would be to establish right of ownership through an insurance company, and have the proper chain of custody documentation signed when you hand it over.
Good luck – And hey – The realm of possibilities is a vast place!
I love what’s happening here. Keep it up, guys! I’m watching with with much interest. I’ve been contacted pretty recently by two separate parties who are both attempting to push the story along via some old fasioned boots-on-the-ground detective work, and I’ve promised both that if either’s path bears fruit, I’ll write another addendum to the article. Keep it up, and as always, keep pressuring larger forces to take an interest (i.e. Vice). The more attention and eyes we have on this story, the more likely it is to reach a conclusion.
Well, well Eric! Congrats. From one writer to another author: Hope you have gotten enough factional stuff to get the documentarian engines burning, would love to see the result!
Thank you Esben
I sent pictures to a man in Japan a while back and he said the from the shape the curve and the tip it looks to be 500 years or older. On the scroll drawing that’s on line of the Masamune there is a place in the hamon that looks kinda like a small flame beside a cactus is only way I know to describe it the sword I have has it. Also several more of the same things as scroll. Like if you look at the cutting edge where collar goes on at tang one side looks normal while other side looks like it’s chipped mine is same. The shape of the ridge running along side of blade toward tip same as scroll. I saw the YouTube video of the one the guy says is it but I have a question. Did the honjo have a blood grove. The one I have does not. The one in the video did. I have pictures on my Facebook page.
Would love to join the search, its time for a vacation anyways. I’m just curious if the honjo is so perfectly balanced as they say. Currently I’m studying iaido and koto nihontos, if you need some insight feel free to ask or send some pics.
Hello , you asked if that sword had a blood groove aka a (Hi).
There is much argument over this since the oshigata do not show a Hi. However on Google books, there is a book in Japanese called 続泰平年表 1 that gives Honjo Masamune a Hi.
Just because the mention of a groove on the sword is in a book, that is not evidence enough. Dean Hartley had photos. His photos showed a Hi.
I am “fiddlin4you” on youtube and those are my videos. 😉
You could ask about your sword on Nihonto Message Board but you’ll also want to research on your own to find out what it is.
Hi Stephen I have been trying for 15 years or so I have called and sent pictures to 3 museums in Japan. All sorts of experts. But no one would tell me anything. I would be happy to let an expert see in person but I am not sending it anywhere. I have a newspaper from November 1950 that the sword is in with my grandfather. Like I said in first comment I am no collector. I think my next move that will be proof I’m havin it X-rayed that will tell me if its a seven layer I’ll know.
HI again Rocky! Your question about whether the Honjo have a blood-grove or not, belongs to the typological study I recommended you to perform.
If some swords at the time were made with blood-groves and others not, your sword still remains within the the proper typological time-frame, as your japanese contact seems to have confirmed.
As Stephen points out, a single, written source, doesen’t necessarily say much. The same goes for the (for some strange reason still unseen) Hartley-photos, which for the time being is nothing more than pure hear-say. A singular written source cannot be verified as true or false based on such uncorroborated and unsubstantiated evidence.
Source critisism aside, I still think your best bet is to focus on the oshigata. If it is the right one, it will immediately tell you if the Honjo have a blood-grove or not. If it is the wrong one, you’ll still have a great antique on your hands.
Thank you Stephen. Where can I send you pictures to.
Rocky, feel free to use a free, public image host such as TinyPic (http://tinypic.com/) or Imgur (http://imgur.com/) and post the links here so we, and other visitors to the article, can view them as well 🙂
I personally believe there are better ways than an x-ray to get an understanding of what you have.
Go to nihontomessageboard.com and show clear pictures of your sword there. If you’d like to show your sword here using the picture host that Eric gave, that’s fine also.
All the best, Stephen
Stephen I have been on some message board one I sent a message to tsubame1 said I needed a doctor that I had lost my mind. I will try posting picture for you to see. What I think is writing is very small very hard to get a picture of only 6 mm long top to bottom.
Stephen do you have a face book?
So sorry that you were insulted. Not all sword society members are like this. This is a dealers trick to get you to lose interest so you will wish a quick sale of it.
There are some really good people ready to help but you must find them. A good club to join is the JSSUS. They have a bi-monthly newsletter with some very nice articles. I think membership is around $45 / year.
Ok, lets see it…..
I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to get pictures put on here. I work 7 days a week 12 hours a day. I do most everything from phone. So it takes me a while. Tell ya what Stephen Ebsen and Eric here is my email [email protected] drop me a line I’ll send out pictures. Thank you all very much. Yall are great
The below links are to images sent to me by Rocky.
More pictures from the user Rocky.
Thanks Prudent Ninja for posting pictures I sent I think 6 more hope everyone sees and if anyone has questions feel free to ask I’ll tell you what I know. I can get measurements for any part just tell
Me where to measure
This discusion is now way beyond my expertise. Rocky & Stephen, I wish you both the best of luck, and leave you for now with a word to the wise from the high priest of rock’n roll himself; Lemmy of Motörhead:
“I like it fine, I feel your touch,
But your appearance don’t hold no class,
You know The Chase Is Better Than The Catch!”
The best advice I can offer is to show your sword to collectors on Nihonto Message Board for an opinion on what it is. You need crisp clear photos.
All the best,
Thanks to everyone that is looking or has looked. I have sent picture on a CD to Japan three museums. They want more picture but won’t say anything. This was over 3 years ago. Anyways thanks again guys yall are great. If anyone know where a complete description of the missing sword is where I can measure every point might help. Have a great day happy holidays
Best wishes to all
Have any of the other surrendered Tokugawa swords been recovered? If not, they may have all gone to the foundry.
I don’t know if this is relevant, but, I have actually been to Wilcox County, GA. It’s basically the middle of nowhere, like something you would see in a cartoon or a movie. Very rural, very redneck. I suppose if you wanted to follow the B.D. Moore thread, if you actually went to this place, most people, or at least the older generation, would know exactly who he is (everyone knows everyone kind of place). His kids are probably still living there if he had any.
To those interested, I am currently in contact with someone in GA who has spoken to one of Moore’s children, and this particular descendant, in contrast with my own attempts, appears to be open to the discussion. I’ve asked that out of courtesy and respect to the family, people avoid bothering them too much. As soon as this contact makes any progress whatsoever, and gives me permission to disclose the details, I’ll do so here by making an addendum to this article. Thanks!
Hi Eric if your interested I can show you the sword I have I’m like 2 hours north of Atlanta near chattanooga tn. I would happy show it to anyone. I have a friend that have contacts in Japan and they wouldn’t even talk to him about it. Doesn’t make since if they are wanting to find this sword why not check out any possibility of it like with Stephens or the one I have. I have a newspaper from November 1959 done on my grandfather and the sword is mentioned and is in the picture. Like I said before my great uncle was in the army at the time it was given to the army then he comes home and gives to my grandfather.
Wow good article, Eric. I was watching an documentary about the sword then searched the internet for more information and discovered your blog.
Please update the article if you get more information.
The historical significance of the sword makes it above value of money. It is the first katana ever as we know them. It is also the symbol of Japanese spirit. I wish to find the sword as well. I just hope it wasn’t melted down with so many other priceless swords.
That is, indeed, the marker in question. You can scroll to the bottom of that page for more relevant information.
Hi Stephen I called today to make an appointment to have the sword X-ray done. So hopefully I’ll know something soon. I saw either on history channel or the discovery channel where they did X-ray and it showed his seven layer. So I hoping to know for sure now either yes or no. I’m going to get copies of the X-ray when I do I’ll post them.
rocky if you think sword is real masamune, why not test by putting it in stream, maybe leaf will go around?
Hi Bert I’m not real sure by what you mean. I am willing to try anything. I had a guy take pictures several years ago but they aren’t that good either. I have this IPhone is about the best thing I have to take pictures. We have a laptop also but I’m not that good with it. I would like to be able to do as Stephen did and have the side beside comparison. But don’t know how. Like I said I’m willing to do just about anything. I would have to go get the sword I had it locked away. Which I need to do soon anyway so that I can have the X-ray done. I posted my email address earlier so if you prefer to email me with any ideas suggestions feel free to please.
I can recall a news report from the early 80’s. I wish that I could narrow the time frame down but I can’t. The news article was distributed internationally at least to British Columbia and the western United States.
The story, or the small clip, was about a fathers or grandfathers house fire. The son or grandson claimed that his now deceased relative had served in Japan shortly after WWII. He claimed that his relative owned a famous Japanese sword that was probably now lost forever.
Hi Eric, you’re not going to belive this, but I think I have more info on this famous sword. I care for an elderly couple in their nineties & the husband Jack Sr.is a military vet from WWII. He just told us the story of the sword a few weeks ago. He acquired it from the tons of swords that were in the possession of the US military at that. He said he had no idea of it’s true value, but knew he probably wouldn’t be able to sneak it back home to US without getting caught, so he sold it to a man who was buying up swords from the US soldiers before he left Japan. He said he thinks it must have been one if the ones they were looking for that had went missing, but it was too late by the time he found out. He said it had jewels on the handle & one very large ruby on the butt. Is there any info on what the sword looked like?
why would it be lost in a house fire?
Excessive heat! For the record, I would like to be wrong about this recollection. However, that being said, the absence of a sword has now created a mythical treasure hunt. Its unique temper pattern would obviously confirm its heritage. Its unique temper pattern is publicly available for comparison. After considering these two facts, logic suggests that the sword has not surfaced because it probably no longer exists. Some are hopeful that it will turn up in some grandfathers attic perhaps, which is still possible. It is also very possible that the attic had caught fire many years ago.
Just had a phone conversation with D.B. Moore’s daughter. D.B. Was drafted in the army during ww2 but never went over seas. He was stationed in Atlanta the whole time. Not a big story life for the Moore’s, just farmers in Georgia making a living.
Watching Expedition Unknown
Josh in Japan investigating the sword.
After doing research and reading that Moore never left the states, a hunch could be to look into Moores brother, James Axon Moore Jr. (DOB 9-24-20, death 10/24/97) he was a Tech 5 US Army WWII to see if he may have been overseas and possibly used his brothers name. It’s a long shot and it could be something or lead to nothing. James was buried in same cemetery as his brother D B Moore.
By the way, my husband, who is actively researching this story of this swords, rearranged the letters in the name Coldy Bimore, and found out it could mean “BLOODY CRIME” lol. If you find anything else out please keep us updated as we will also keep you updated. We are traveling to Japan in a few months to follow the trails.
Here is a dumb question…Has anyone considered Coldy Bimore is an acronism for “Could he Buy More”? Soldiers Are prone to these little jokes and perhaps the sword was obtained by an aide of a man gathering up these wartime souvenirs
just food for thought
I think you are assuming very much. War trophies were stolen all the time. What I would suggest is to have some sword lover contact the unit about reunion info (if anyone is still alive) and follow up with everyone that was stationed there during the time of the theft. Speak to their relatives and see if the Hanjo isn’t tucked away in an attic or hung on the wall in central iowa somewhere. Also, I did some research and found out that one of the children of Sgt Moore had a granddaughter living in the area mentioned above who is a drug addict and might provide some answers to things the family doesn’t wish to speak about.
Actually Japan classified this particular sword a treasure of the state by Japanese Law.
Take a photo of it or google sword historians and send or email the photos to them. Even appraisers could help but whatever you do, don’t touch it with your bare hands, wear gloves. The oil from your skin isn’t good for swords or metal in general.
copy the hamon tracing and cut it out. then place it on your sword and see if the lines match up. don’t cut yourself.
lots of people “borrowed” birth certificates of relatives to enlist in the military during WW2. This could be the what happened in this case. He had several siblings.
Hi T! As I’ve written above, I don’t put much trust in the B.D Moore hypothesis, just about as much asi in any other theroy about the swords disappearance.
Your idea about a “renunion of discovery” is interresting, but if my memory serves me right, the US army destroyed a lot of its extensive personell records during a general post-war clean-up somteime in the late 40’s / 50’s. Still, it may be a possible way to discover more for researchers willing and able to search through surviving records, wherever they may be stored.
Yeah, I know. It is an undisputed fact that took place before WWII. The dispute is about what may have happened to it after it was supposedly handed over to the US army.
How hard could it be to try and find a spc/4 named more attached to this unit during the time when the swords were turned in. The soldier had his last name on his shirt so they couldn’t have mistaken that. His unit sent him to retrieve the weapons so they knew to expect him. Maybe this will help.
I meant Moore
I think a desperate somebody must have come up with the name Moore. Let’s turn on the light instead if looking for answers in the dark. The original Japanese name translates to kol – dei bai mo,
There are other translations, but some make no sense.
If you are looking for the sword as a treasure hunt and some fun, go ahead. If you are looking for a payoff, the Tokugawas will not buy the sword. For them to buy would be defeat to them.
If a big thank you is what you want, I don’t see it happening. They are Lords and Dukes, the most of us are dirty peasants. Looking for the lost Masamune is a waste of time.
Has a reward been offered.
Rocky, post to reddit.com/r/pics with the title “I think I might own the Honjo Masamune sword. The collective power of the “front page of the internet” will do all it can to help you identify the sword you own
No way it’s the lost Masamune , Tangs all wrong! Nice to dream .
This is the funniest comment ever posted on the internet. Well done sir. Too bad I only noticed it months after you wrote it.
What if the sword tendered by Iemasu, was a fake, and the real sword hidden from everyone? He knew the value of the sword to Japan and would not have given it freely. I believe he would have hidden it, and I also don’t think anyone will ever discover it, except by total accident.
It was a matter of honor. He was a samurai so I have zero doubt he turned it over.
Occupied Japanese dutifully puts swords in US issue duffel bag (33″ long), closes top. US Soldier carries hundreds, maybe thousands of swords day by day, week by week, walks up platform, dumps content into truck with thousands of others, probably not even looking at where they go.Truck backs up to conveyor feeder, which feeds melt furnace. Routine daily tasks numb the senses, and jobs become mechanical. my belief is the sword followed the bureaucratic procedure into the fire. Post WWII Japan the US undertook massive campaigns to destroy enormous volumes of items. It’s very easy to accept the likelihood that this blade became part of the process.
Rocky, I would love to see the sword, I live in Atlanta and occasionally go to Chattanooga.
Has anyone interviewed families of Cole Moore’s friends. Seems a young Sargent would have exercised bragging rights over his war souvenirs. Also his financials may give a hint. If the sword wasn’t ornate, children may have even been allowed to play with it, which means it could have been left in a forgotten treehouse decades ago.
I’m sure he’s no longer among the living
And the declaration of independence is just another piece of paper. -,..,-
That’s stupid. The US has no reason to want the sword in the first place. Besides, while important, it’s certainly not worth a declaration of war.
hi name is cameron rankin I’m a college student in texas studying asian cultural focus i study for 2 years in kendo and i am absolutely obessed with Japanese culture has anyone considered masamune was hidden in a nearby area to one of the moore family or perhaps even buried with the sgt. b.d moore any way i live far away from the search area and do not are care for its value but instead would like to help search for the chance to hold such a perfectious swprd also in several anime masamune is depicted more like a nodachi has anyone considered that anyway i a pretty good hacker so if anyone has any specific idea on where on the internet iformation on the sword might be withheld pls let me know and i can try see what i can collect so keep me updated email me if necesary
Good information!!, i was know what happened with this legendary sword since long time too… i guess the katana is in the hide place below of some rich guy or power guy or the family Moore…. i guess he dont want reply because something is hiding and he dont want than nobody remember who has the sword… something so important in the history nobody can be pasive without give and answer…
i hope The United States government has not destroyed the sword and 14 other swords because they are UNIQUE…. that is my four conjeture who can would be.. in this stupid hidden world of lies…
Greetings for u Eric and thanks for make this fantastic work for u and us… my best wishes for u this sword…
I Can’t say much. The name your looking for is Gilmore
I found a very old samurai sword here in NY was given to my friends father as a gift. No markings. I heard Masamune did not Mark his swords!
so u might want to wach a video i just found i siriously think the sowrd is in greece concider waching a clip on you tube email me for it the japanese sword was givein to a greek priest some a german in greece its in a icon
I can’t believe nobody has inquired the 7th Cav, about the unit diary for the time period in question. All military units keep a unit diary.
There is a guy on YouTube who calls himself fiddlin4you who has 3 videos where he shows known line drawings of the Honjo Masamune sword and he does a comparison to a sword he has and says it’s the Honjo Masamune.He is also looking for a buyer, I don’t know if any of it’s real but it’s interesting.
I’m not an expert in WWII history, in historic weapons or in Japanese culture either- I’m also merely someone who watches a lot of of shows on the science channels, the History Channel as well as on the Travel Channel, and much like the original poster here, I also like to peruse the worldwide web in my spare time.
It’s not much of a stretch to see how someone whose name was Cole D. B. Moore could easily be misspelled as “Coldy Bimore” in Japanese- or in any other language for that matter, so kudos to Eric Dean for finding Cole D. B. Moore.
That said- there are only two (2) possibilities- either the Japanese police really did hand the Honjo Masamune over to the Americans in 1946, or they gave it to someone in Japan very specifically so that a valued national treasure would not end up in the hands of any Americans. If the latter is the case, the policemen who were involved in hiding the sword simply needed to write somebody’s name on an inventory list, they chose Cole D. B. Moore, and they misspelled his name. It’s entirely possible that Cole D. B. Moore never even saw the sword, and he may have never even heard of it.
In either case, there are still two possibilities- either the sword was melted down for scrap metal at some point over the course of the past 70 years by somebody who had absolutely no idea whatsoever what it was, or it does still exist.
If it does still exist, once again there are only 2 possibilities (I know, I have a notably keen eye for the obvious.)
Either the last person who knew where it was hidden died without telling anybody- in which case the Honjo Masamune is truly lost and it could be absolutely ANYWHERE in the world, or somebody somewhere really does actually know where it is presently hidden. If anybody does know where it is located, it’s in their best interest to say nothing to anybody because that means that they’re in possession of stolen property- which is a pretty serious crime in every country in the world. This is not an item which disappeared centuries ago. 1946 is still recent enough that someone would still be charged with receiving stolen goods.
Does anyone have a description or photos from the moment the sword was declared a national treasure back in Japan? I’m interested in its fittings at the time.
Personally I think the sword should belong in the museum. And it’s very sketchy that that information with very sensible leads being dismissed like that. I highly doubt the family would have a need for it. Is it worth letting a precious historical artefact sit around in some house most likely? One could imagining how valuable it would be to sell it. Keeping it for themselves is idiotic.
Pointless search because even if you did track the sword down its unlikely you or anyone would ever get their hands on it.
I own a ww2 Katana in mint condition it hasn’t been seen in 73 years and I wouldn’t give it up for any reason its never going back to Japan its similar to the link below.
I was thinking the same thing. I would hope our Government would not risk an international incident over this sword! It’s real value is historical & so sad anyone would intentionally withhold it from the Japanese people! I hope it is returned to it’s rightful place!
Id love to see some pictures if you have the time.
Hi All. Has there been any recent clues or evidence on the search for the Honjo.. I watched a documentary quite recently and it showed archived video footage of US Marines/Navy dumping vast piles of swords into the pacific. They said that there was so many swords surrendered that they couldn’t keep up with the incinerator and just dumped them into the ocean. Does anyone know of the location they were dumped into? its very possible that the Honjo and many other legendary swords are just sitting on the bottom of the ocean.. I know the pacific is the deepest ocean on earth but they may not have been that far out when dumping the swords in these vast bundles. Does anyone know any more about this?
From further research these swords were dumped into Tokyo Bay (i though it was further out in the pacific) and it seems that some were used in the foundations of man made islands by the US around 1946 in the bay. There is some articles online stating that some of the swords have been reclaimed from the bay by collectors and restored although not to their original quality since being in the water for so long.. Its very possible that the Honjo could be in the bay all this time. On the other side of the coin it may sadly be one of the ones that were buried in the rubble for these man made islands http://ww2f.com/threads/katanas-dumped-in-tokyo-bay.34781/
@stephen : a TRAVELING sword dealer…
when you have to travel around to sell your shit, you aint making alot of money.
How and why woud this guy pay 1 million US in the early 90’s
if that guy had 1 million to spend 100 years ago, he wouldn’t be traveling with his swords, hed be traveling with pussy!
i need you to message me personally that is if you ever see this
Hey y’all, just curious, anyone found any info? I think I may have found it.
Hi! I am a student looking into Japanese sword regulations in an art law class in Montreal. I stumbled upon the Honjo Masamune and found your post super intriguing!
I was curious to know if you found out any further information or received an answer from David N Rose Moore (they were pretty easy to find… you kind of gave away the clues).
I’m very curious to contact him myself! (although I’m sure I’m not the only one).
Sadly we may never know what happened to it…
Have a great day,
If anything, it sounds like the family might have the sword, and they don’t want to give it up.
1939 is two years into WWI in the far east. Japan indeed China pepper in 1937.
It can be probably be in future.maybe we will be able to create time machine and there is the need of the sword so…. Probably