Published May 31, 2009
SAN ANTONIO – Japan's ambassador to the United States apologized Saturday on behalf of his country for the 65-mile forced walk of U.S. troops and allies during World War II that left some 11,000 prisoners of war dead.
"As former prime ministers of Japan have repeatedly stated: The Japanese people should bear in mind that we must look into the past and to learn from the lessons of history," Ichiro Fujisaki said at the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
He said his country was extending a heartfelt apology for "having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people, including prisoners of war, those who have undergone tragic experiences."
Although Fujisaki received a standing ovation from about half of the 400 to 500 attendees, others said the apology was overdue and didn't seem sincere.
Former POW Hershel C. Boushey told the ambassador that he did not accept "your apology," and that the atrocities and mistreatment many suffered was severe.
In 1942, Japanese captors marched about 78,000 prisoners of war — 12,000 Americans and 66,000 Filipinos — for six days on the Philippine island of Luzon to a prisoner-of-war camp in what became known as the Bataan Death March. Many prisoners were denied food, water or medical care, and some were stabbed or beheaded.
As many as 11,000 prisoners died, according to the U.S. Air Force.
Survivor Tony Montoya, of Woodland, California, also questioned Fujisaki's sincerity.
"This young man knows very little of the atrocities," Montoya said. "They probably rehearsed him on it."
Abie Abraham, of Renfrew, Pennsylvania, said it was time to move on.
"I was never one of those guys that worried about whether we got an apology or not," said Abraham, a 95-year-old vet.
"The way I look at it is — Japan is now our ally," Abraham said. "Why should we get an apology from them?"
Retired Tech Sgt. Joe Alexander, of San Antonio, said he was satisfied because "we finally got the apology that we wanted."
About 73 surviving Bataan Death March veterans of the Army and former Army Air Corps members attended the convention Saturday, which served as the march survivors' final reunion.