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Former American POWs Visit Japan, Recount Memories

Former American prisoner of war Joseph Demott, 97, center, of Lititz, Pennsylvania, helped by U.S. soldiers, walks to offer flowers at the Commonwealth War Graves in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Oct. 12, 2015.

Nine former American servicemen who were held as prisoners during World War II were in Japan on Monday to revisit some of the places they were held seven decades ago and recount their memories.

The men, all in their 90s, opened their tour with a memorial service for their fellow fallen soldiers at the Commonwealth War Graves near Tokyo.

As they marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, the emphasis was on reconciliation.

George Rogers, of Lynchburg, Virginia, said he had no hard feelings. Now 96, he was taken captive by the Japanese after surviving the infamous Bataan death march in April 1942 and forced to work at the Yawata steel plant in southern Japan, or today's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.

During his nearly 3 1/2 years of captivity, Rogers was given meager food rations and repeatedly beaten up.

He said that he was lucky to survive, but that he harbored “no hard feelings” toward his captors.

A month after Japan's August 15, 1945, surrender, Rogers returned to the U.S. in skin-and-bone state, weighing only 85 pounds (38 kilograms) despite being 6-foot-3. His doctor told him then that he would most likely not live past 45 or 50, keep his teeth or have children.

Rogers still has his teeth, and has five children. One of them, Jeffrey, accompanied him on his trip to Japan.

Historians say some 30,000 allied force members were held as prisoners in Japan during World War II.

During the Bataan march, thousands of prisoners were forced to walk more than 60 miles (97 kilometers) under severe, sweltering conditions while being abused by their captors. Many died.