7:54 pm Press Releases - ABC News

 FOR RELEASE: May 24, 2001


And: Author Anna Quindlen on the Little Book That Could; Also: Macaulay Culkin Gives His Regards to (Off) Broadway and Barbara in an Encore Presentation, on “20/20” FRIDAY, May 25 on ABC

During the first weeks of World War II, some 20,000 American GIs were taken prisoner in the Philippines and forced to endure the infamous Bataan Death March. Many of them died. For those who survived, it got worse: they were put to work as slave laborers for Japanese companies. Now in their 70s and 80s, veterans of Japanese slave labor camps have sued two of the largest companies in the world for reparations. The companies, Mitsubishi and Mitsui, say they are different companies than those that ran the forced labor camps. What is more surprising, though, is information uncovered by ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross: the US government has sided with the Japanese companies against the American veterans in their efforts to obtain compensation from those companies. The report airs FRIDAY, May 25 on “20/20,” 10-11 p.m. ET on the ABC Television Network.

In what the veterans see as a double cross, the peace treaty signed with the Japanese settled all claims against the Japanese companies. Last year, in a hearing before Senator Orrin Hatch, State Department official Ron Bettauer explained why the US supported Jewish victims suing German companies, but not American veterans suing Japanese companies for much the same crimes. “You mean the federal government, our federal government, can just say, ‘To hell with all you Bataan death marchers. We’re just going to waive all your rights?’ ” To which Bettauer replied: “Yes, I think the federal government can do that.” Ross tells the moving stories of several American veterans and asks tough questions of the Japanese companies. Says 79-year-old Frank Bigelow, who lost his leg to a Mitsui mine cave-in: “I love this country, and I love this flag with all my heart and all my soul. But the United States government today is trying to give us, it looks to me like, a real raw deal.”

Also: Fans affectionately refer to it as “the little book.” They gush of its best-selling author, “She just speaks to me.” Of the millions of words Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anna Quindlen has written over the years, few have touched people as much as the ones in her latest book, the 50-page “A Short Guide to a Happy Life.” As ABC News Correspondent Deborah Roberts discovers, this one comes straight from the heart. “This is me talking to myself. And saying, ‘Don’t ever forget for an instant, that life is splendid and there isn’t enough of it to go around. So be here now,’ Quindlen tells Roberts.

And: “Madame Melville,” a play moving from London to Off-Broadway, represents Macaulay Culkin’s first public performance in six years. In a special encore presentation, Barbara Walters interviews the “Home Alone” star, who slipped from sight for six years amid rumors of drug abuse and even suicide. “I was hoping to disappear off the face of the earth,” he says of the years avoiding the limelight. “If I just locked myself in a room for long enough and, you know, grew up, I figured people would just forget about that kid.”

Plus: Does the D.A.R.E. program keep kids off drugs? John Stossel takes a look at the evidence in this week’s “Give Me A Break.”

Barbara Walters is the host of “20/20.” David Sloan is the executive producer.

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Todd Polkes: (212) 456-4586,




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