With the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II looming, Mitsubishi has finally apologized for using captured American troops as slave labor. At a ceremony at the Museum of Tolerance at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles yesterday, 94-year-old former POW James Murphy shook hands with Mitsubishi exec Hikaru Kimura after he was bowed to and offered a "most remorseful apology" for the firm's wartime conduct, the AP reports. Out of more than 1,000 Americans who toiled in the company's mines and factories, only two survivors could be found and only Murphy was fit enough to travel to the ceremony, the BBC reports.
This was the first apology of its kind from a Japanese company and Murphy accepted it with grace, describing it as sincere and humble, the AP reports. "This is a glorious day," he said. "For 70 years, we wanted this." A Wiesenthal Center spokesman tells CNN that Japanese firms enslaved 12,000 Americans during the war because of labor shortages, and more than 1,100 died. Murphy—who has described his time as a slave in a copper mine as a "complete horror" made worse by knowing that Mitsubishi built planes used against the US—says he has forgiven his captors but that the apology is still a "big deal," reports the BBC, which notes that the company has not offered compensation. (Japanese firms are now exporting weapons again.)