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The British government presented a letter of appreciation Friday to a man who served as a Japanese military interpreter during World War II for his efforts after the war to reconcile former British prisoners of war with their Japanese captors.

British Ambassador to Japan Stephen Gomersall presented the letter to 84-year-old Takashi Nagase during a ceremony at a hotel in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture.

On the orders of the Imperial Japanese Army, Nagase served as an interpreter during the wartime construction of the infamous “Death Railway” by prisoners of war in Southeast Asia.

Nagase said he witnessed the army torture British POWs, and voiced amazement over what he described as the British spirit of magnanimity. Nagase, a resident of Kurashiki, served along the railroad that linked Thailand and Burma. which is now known as Myanmar. Some 13,000 Allied POWs, as well as tens of thousands of Asian workers, died while working as forced laborers on the route. To this day, Nagase continues to pay tribute to the many POWs who died along the 415-km railway.

In 1976, he organized a reconciliation between former Japanese soldiers and POWs. With a group of about 20 former British and Australian POWs and Japanese veterans, Nagase crossed the railroad bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand.

The construction of the railway was made famous in the 1957 film, “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”

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