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Mitsubishi Apologizes To U.S. World War II Veterans For Forced Labor

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It was a somber moment here in Los Angeles when Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation apologized for using American prisoners of war as forced labor during World War II. NPR's Sam Sanders has the story.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Ninety-four-year-old James Murphy was forced to work in a copper mine for Mitsubishi during the war for a year after he was captured. He called it slavery. He was the only POW who worked in Mitsubishi's mines who could make yesterday's trip to Los Angeles's Museum of Tolerance. Rabbi Abraham Cooper helped organize the event. He says Murphy represents thousands.

ABRAHAM COOPER: There were about 12,000 American POWs who were forced into what many would call slave labor.

SANDERS: And not all of Murphy's fellow soldiers who were captured made it out alive.

COOPER: Over 1,100 of them died during those months and years.

SANDERS: After a private meeting, Mitsubishi executive Hikaru Kimura and Murphy stepped into the museum's Simon Wiesenthal Center. Through an interpreter, Kimura addressed the gathered crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HIKARU KIMURA: (Through interpreter) Today, we apologize remorsefully for a tragic event in our past and express our profound determination to work toward a better future.

SANDERS: After his statement, Kimura bowed, and then James Murphy spoke.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAMES MURPHY: I listened very carefully to Mr. Kimura's statement of apology and found it very, very sincere.

SANDERS: The Japanese government has previously apologized to prisoners of war, but Mitsubishi's statement is the first time a Japanese company has done so. Murphy welcomed it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MURPHY: So it's my high honor to accept the apology from the Japanese delegation.

SANDERS: Words, Murphy said, he's waited 70 years to hear. Sam Sanders, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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