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


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.


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.


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.


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.

Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.
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