Japan Apologizes for Bataan Death March

Ambassador speaks to last 73 American survivors of the march.

ByABC News
May 30, 2009, 10:48 PM

SAN ANTONIO, May 30, 2009— -- The Japanese ambassador to the United States apologized in person today to the 73 surviving POWs of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in April 1942 during World War II.

"We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people including prisoners of war, those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan peninsula the Corregidor Island, Philippines and other places," Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki said at the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor POWs of the Japanese during World War II.

Sixty-seven years after the Japanese captured and force-marched 12,000 Americans and 68,000 Philippines from the island of Corregidor to northern Luzon, denying them food and water, and killing the stragglers, the country apologized.

The ambassador said he was speaking for the government of Japan as he apologized.

"I would like to express my deepest condolences to those who have lose their lives to the war and after the war and their family members," he said.

It is estimated that the Japanese killed nearly 1,000 Americans and more than 10,000 Philippine soldiers on the march. When news of the march reached the United States, it enflamed the anger against the Japanese, which was already high because of the attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the country into the war.

Lester Tenney, 88, former staff sergeant of the Army's 192nd Tank Division survived to write a book about the wartime injustice, called "My Hitch in Hell."

As president of the American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor POWs of the Japanese during World War II, he made it his mission to pursue an apology from the Japanese government for the brutal treatment during that 12-day, 86-mile march in which stragglers were bayoneted and their bodies tossed by the roadside.

Last November, while in Washington, D.C., to commemorate Veterans Day, he received a call from the Japanese ambassador, who asked him to visit his residence and relate his request.