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"Today we apologize remorsefully for the tragic events in our past," said Hikaru Kimura from Mitsubishi Materials

Apology welcomed by James Murphy, one of last surviving American prisoners of war

Tokyo CNN  — 

As Japan prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, one of its largest corporations has given a long-awaited apology for wartime atrocities.

At a ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday, a representative for Mitsubishi Materials Corporation apologized for using captured American soldiers as slave laborers.

Mitsubishi Materials is the first private corporation to express such remorse, although the Japanese government has made repeated apologies.

The solemn act of contrition comes far too late for most victims. Mitsubishi says it was only able to locate two living survivors. But former prisoner of war James Murphy warmly accepted the apology, which comes just weeks before the August 15th anniversary of Japan’s 1945 surrender.

Forced labor added to Japan’s arsenal

Murphy, a 94-year-old American, was in his early 20s when he became a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II. He said he was “elated” by the apology, which he had waited to hear in the seven decades since he was freed.

Murphy says he survived horrific conditions as a forced laborer for Mitsubishi Materials’ predecessor Mitsubishi Mining Co., which supplied materials used to manufacture, among other things, Mitsubishi’s feared Zero fighter aircraft used by the Japanese Navy from 1940 to 1945.