Albert J. Bland, a World War II prisoner of war, died on the 58th anniversary of the day he was liberated. Cause of death was cancer. He was 87.
Bland was a formidable 240-pound tackle when he played football for Washington College. In 1937, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps to work as a mechanic at Nichols Field in the Philippines. He was defending the Bataan Peninsula in 1942 when American and Filipino troops were overrun by the Japanese.
Bland and 75,000 other soldiers were then marched 65 miles, in brutal heat without food or water, to a railhead for dispersal to prison camps. Thousands died en route; those who survived suffered through years of malnutrition and torture. Until they were liberated by Allied forces in 1945, the prisoners were forced to work as slave laborers in coal mines, factories and shipyards.
He survived imprisonment in the Philippines, Formosa, Japan, Korea and Manchuria, by existing solely on a daily ration of rice and pumpkin soup. When freed, he weighed only 98 lbs. and was blind from malnutrition.
Despite his experiences during World War II, Bland recuperated and served in the Air Force until 1957. He retired as a master sergeant and remained active in POW issues for the rest of his life. Bland received the Prisoner of War Medal in 1988.