Former POW will travel to Japan, place where he was imprisoned

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PEORIA, Ariz.-- A Valley man who spent years as a prisoner of war is expecting an apology decades in the making. In fact, he's heading to Japan soon to make it formal.

Harold Bergbower was still a teenager when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a plane mechanic before World War II.

While on patrol in the Philippines, he was captured by the Japanese Imperial Army and held in POW camps for the next 39 months. He said the work was grueling.

"Ten to 12 hours a day, very little food," said Bergbower, who worked in the rice fields and steel foundry.

He witnessed brutal beatings and murders against fellow POWs.

Finally, in August 1945, days after Japan surrendered, Bergbower was free.

"The Red Cross entered our camp and told us the war was over," he said.

The Japanese government has apologized for the suffering caused during the war, and just last year a visitation program was set up for those American prisoners who survived. POWs from other countries had been invited to Japan while the invitation was previously closed to U.S. soldiers.

In October, Bergbower and his daughter will go to Japan for a week. Among the activities scheduled, the 91-year-old will visit a camp where he was imprisoned.

He hopes any lingering wounds will be healed with every mile traveled.

"It's hard to really say, you've been beaten, you've seen your friends beheaded, you've seen your friends bayoneted, you've seen them shot," Bergbower said. "I'm willing to go and I got a little mixed feelings about it, but it's time we ended it."