Japanese mega-company Mitsubishi has made an historic apology to American prisoners of war from World War II for forcing them into slave labor after their capture. According to the BBC, it's believed to be the first such apology made by a private Japanese company.
At a ceremony at the Simon Weisenthal Center in Los Angeles, Mitsubishi executive Hikaru Kimura expressed his regret that the company had used POWs as slave labor in several mining operations it ran during WWII. James Murphy, 94, was on hand to accept the apology from the company that manufactured much of Japan's air force, saying "for 70 years we wanted this." Of the 500 American POWs estimated to have been enslaved, only two could be located, and only Mr. Murphy was healthy enough to attend the ceremony in person—though relatives of some of the other POWs were present.
Murphy described his internment in a copper mine in Hanawa as "slavery in every way." Murphy said the apology was "a big deal" and that even though he had long forgiven his captors, he still wanted an apology for what he experienced.
The hope is that with the 70th anniversary of the VJ Day approaching, more Japanese companies will follow suit and help better secure relations between the US and Japan, both in board rooms and in diplomacy. NPR suggests that Japan may be attempting to "put its atrocities behind" as it rebuilds its military might. The country officially apologized to American POWs in 2010 and earlier this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed "deep repentance" for Japan's role in WWII.
For more on what American POWs faced under Japanese guard, watch this video from the Witness to War Project.
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