LOS ANGELES – A major Japanese corporation gave an unprecedented apology Sunday to a 94-year-old U.S. prisoner of war for using American POWs for forced labor during World War II, nearly 70 years after the war ended.
At the solemn ceremony hosted by the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, James Murphy, of Santa Maria, accepted the apology from executives of Mitsubishi Materials in front of a projected image of the U.S. and Japanese flags.
Murphy, who was forced to work in Mitsubishi copper mines under harsh conditions, called the apology sincere and remorseful.
"This is a glorious day," Murphy said. "For 70 years we wanted this."
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate dean at the center whose primary focus in the past has been Holocaust education, said he believes the move is unprecedented.
"As far as I know, this is a piece of history," Cooper told The Associated Press recently. "It's the first time a major Japanese company has ever made such a gesture. We hope this will spur other companies to join in and do the same."
Japan's government issued a formal apology to American POWs in 2009 and again in 2010. But the dwindling ranks of POWs used as slaves at mines and industrial plants have so far had little luck in getting apologies from the corporations who used them, sometimes under brutal conditions.
Some 12,000 American prisoners were shipped to Japan and forced to work at more than 50 sites to support imperial Japan's war effort, and about 10 percent died, according to Kinue Tokudome, director of the U.S.-Japan Dialogue on POWs, who has spearheaded the lobbying effort for companies to apologize.