Political Apologies

AHDA Political Apology

How does the act of apologizing enable societies to come to terms with their past?

Political apologies can be a powerful tool in the re-examination of a nation's history, and the significance this history has on democratic processes. The project includes a working list of political apologies throughout history that political scientist Graham Dodds has researched and compiled.

This is a working list of major political apologies and related events. The selection criteria for compiling the list are somewhat loose, but the intent is to include any and all apologies that involve states, nations, or major political groups and actors, generally for significant public wrongs. Thus, apologies by individual politicians for more narrow matters (e.g., alleged personal or criminal failings) are generally excluded.

Should you wish to add to the list, please e-mail ahda@columbia.edu.

Displaying 26 - 50 of 755
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
18 September 1933 Persia apologizes to Britain

 Persia apologizes to Britain after Persian sailors take down the Union Jack flag.

“Persia: Apology to Britain for Naval Incident.” The Canbera Times. September 18, 1933
1 September 1937 The Chinese government apologies to the U.S. for bombing the American ship

 The Chinese government apologies to the U.S. for bombing the American ship President Hoover and offers to pay reparations.  The next day, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek adds his personal apologies to the formal apology of the Chinese government.

“Regrets Ship Raid.” New York Times. September 1, 1937; “Chiang Deplores Attack.” New York Times. September 2, 1937.
24 December 1937 Japan-USA Japan to pay reparations for attacking the U.S.

Japan apologizes and agrees to pay reparations for attacking the U.S. gunboat Panay.

McJimsey, George. The Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Kansas, 2000. p191.
November 1947 USA-Haiti US Embassy in Haiti apologizes

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti apologizes for an incident in Mississippi, in which the Haitian secretary of agriculture was not allowed to stay at a hotel hosting a conference to which he had been invited to because he was black.

Dudziak, Mary. Cold War Civil Rights. Princeton, 2000. P40-1.
19 July 1948 USA- Czechoslovakia allegations of spying

 The U.S. demands an apology from Czechoslovakia over allegations of spying.

“U.S. Note Demands Apology of Czechs.” New York Times. July 20, 1948.
26 October 1948 USA-Mexico Mexican farm labourers

Mexico accepts an apology from the U.S. State Department for recently allowing several thousand Mexican farm laborers to cross the Texas border, in violation of an agreement between the two countries.

Labor Trek Apology.” New York Times. October 26, 1948
26 May 1950 Israel- United Nations murder of mediator

Israel agrees to apologize to the United Nations for the murder of mediator Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden in Jerusalem in 1948.

Israel To Apologize In Bernadotte Death.” New York Times. May 26, 1950
27 September 1951 West Germany-Israel compensation for Israel

West German Chancellor Konrad Andenauer declares that West Germany will compensate Israel for material losses and will negotiate other reparations.  (Israel and West Germany sign the Luxembourg Agreement in 1952 to crate the reparations program.)

Eddy, Melissa. “For 60th Year, Germany Honors Duty to pay Holocaust Victims.” New York Times. November 17, 2012.
7 August 1952 Argentina-USA bombing of US information Service Office

Argentina apologizes to the U.S. after the bombing of a U.S. Information Service Office.

“Argentina Sends Apology.” New York Times. August 7, 1952.
22 December 1952 The USA-Israel unauthorized flight over Jerusalem

The U.S. apologizes to Israel over an unauthorized flight by U.S. aircraft over the Israeli portion of Jerusalem.

“U.S. Apology Made to Israel.” New York Times. December 22, 1952.
December 1953 Israel-Netherlands Spinoza excommunication

Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion calls for overturning the excommunication of Spinoza by the Amsterdam Jewish community in 1656.

1955 USA-Japan U.S. pays $2 million in restitution for a 1954 nuclear test

The U.S. pays $2 million in restitution for a 1954 nuclear test that accidentally exposed the Japanese fishing vessel the Lucky Dragon to radiation some 80 miles away from the test site on the Bikini Atoll.

6 January 1955 The commander of a U.S. Naval base- Trinidad Cabinet Ministers

 The commander of a U.S. Naval base apologizes to Trinidad for an incident involving two cabinet ministers.

“Trinidad Gets Apology.” New York Times. January 7, 1955.
14 February 1955 The Mayor of Miami apologizes to a group of African Americans

The Mayor of Miami apologizes after a group of African Americans are ejected from a Republican dinner.

“Negroes’ Ouster Draws Apology.” New York Times. February 15, 1955.
18 August 1955 Indian-Foreign Missions and Consulates Attacks by demonstrators

Indian Prime Minister Nehru apologizes and expresses deep regret to foreign missions and consulates in New Delhi that were attacked by Indian demonstrators and offers to pay full compensation for damage.

“Nehru Offers Compensation.” New York Times. August 18, 1955.
11 May 1956 Britain - Soviet Union

Great Britain apologizes to the Soviet Union for the Royal navy spying on Soviet warships.

“Soviet Receives British Apology in Frogman Case.” New York Times. May 12, 1956.
4 October 1960 Soviet Union-USA Demand for U.S. apology for spying

 At the United Nations, Soviet Premier Khrushchev demands that the U.S. apologize for recent spying activity, which he termed “unprecedented treacherous acts,” before there can be any improvement in Soviet-U.S. relations.

Welles, Benjamin. “Premier Insists on U.S. Apology.” New York Times. October 4, 1960.
1963 USA -African Americans compensation for the exploitation and humiliation of the Negro in American down through the centuries

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writes, “No amount of gold could provide adequate compensation for the exploitation and humiliation of the Negro in American down through the centuries.”  Yet he calls for compensation for unpaid wages.

King, M. L. Why We Can’t Wait. 1963. p150-2.
9 May 1964 South Vietnam-Cambodia straying into Cambodian territory

South Vietnam apologizes for its troops “unintentionally straying” into Cambodian territory yesterday during military action against the Communist forces.

“Saigon Sends an Apology.” New York Times. May 9, 1964.
1965 Japan-South Korea issue apology” for Japan’s 36-year colonial rule.

A joint statement issued by the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea includes “twenty vague words of apology” for Japan’s 36-year colonial rule.

hriver, Donald W., Jr. An Ethic for Enemies. Oxford, 1995. p135.
17 February 1965 Japan-South Korea Relations

 In South Korea, Japanese Foreign Minister Shinna Etsusaburo expresses “sincere regret” and “deep remorse” over the “unfortunate period” in relations between the two countries.

Nobles, Melissa. The Politics of Official Apologies. Cambridge, 2008. p155.
18 March 1965 USA Alabama apologizes to Civil Rights Demonstrators

The sheriff of Montgomery County, Alabama apologizes for routing 600 civil rights demonstrators with horses and clubs yesterday.

Reed, Roy. “Accord Reached In Montgomery.” New York Times. March 18, 1965.
28 October 1965 Catholic church Jewish condemnation

In a declaration entitled “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council reverses the traditional condemnation of Jews as the murderers of Jesus

Wiesel, Elie. “Nostra Aetate: An Observer’s Perspective.” Thought. December, 1992; Banki, Judith H. “The Church and the Jews.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies. Summer, 1997.
31 August 1966 Arkansas Governor- 25 Africans refused service at a cafe

Arkansas Governor Orval E. Faubus apologizes after 25 Africans are refused service at a cafe.

“Africans, Rebuffed in Cafe, Get Apology From Faubus.” New York Times. September 1, 1966.
10 June 1967 Israel-U.S. Attack on the spy ship the U.S.S. Liberty

Israel apologizes to the U.S. for attacking the spy ship the U.S.S. Liberty in the eastern Mediterranean two days earlier.  Thirty-four people were killed and 171 were wounded in the attack, which was apparently a case of mistaken identity during the Six Days War.  Israel later agrees to pay $12.7 in damages.

Crewdson, John. “New revelations in attack on American spy ship.” Chicago Tribune. October 2, 2007; Jacobson, Walter L. “A Juridical Examination of the Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty.” Naval Law Review. Vol. 36. Winter, 1986.