This is guaranteed to be the extra-credit question on your next history exam!
Lucky Chicagoans are already familiar with the name Portillo. Portillo’s is a purveyor of some of the tastiest hot dogs you can get your hands on. Indeed, a stop at a Portillo’s restaurant is practically a requirement for any Midwesterner visiting Chicago.
▼ The Portillo’s official logo
Until a few days ago, though, Portillo’s founder Dick Portillo was likely one of only a handful of Chicagoans familiar with the name Isoroku Yamamoto. Isoroku Yamamoto was a Japanese Marshal Admiral who was responsible for planning the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. And Dick Portillo thinks he’s found something valuable that might have belonged to the notorious admiral – a gold tooth.
How did Portillo come to find this tooth and why does he believe it to be one of Admiral Yamamoto’s?
On a trip to the island of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea in July 2015, the site where Yamamoto died in a plane crash after a skirmish with American aircraft on April 18, 1943, Portillo, an avid WWII buff and former Marine took a crew on an expedition to view the plane wreckage from that crash, and as they were surveying the area, someone caught sight of the tooth in the mud nearby. The person who happened to lay his eyes upon it was a retired professor; as luck would have it, Professor Anderson Giles also has a particular fascination with WWII history and reportedly remembered that Yamamoto was shot in the jaw during the air attack.
Portillo purchased the tooth for $14,000 from the local clan who owns the area where the crash site is located. Although some feel the chances that it actually is Yamamoto’s tooth are slim to none, Dick Portillo is still hopeful that perhaps some DNA left in the tooth could be extracted for verification. He says his goal with the tooth is to make a documentary regarding his adventure in finding it and then eventually turn it over to the Japanese government.
It may be some time before we know whether or not the tooth did indeed belong to Admiral Yamamoto, but thankfully we can still entertain ourselves with stories about “ninja hot dogs” and other unexpected discoveries while we wait.