Leland Chandler was born on January 3, 1923 in Table Grove, Illinois. He grew up in a rural area, working the family farm and attending the local schools, swimming at the local river and playing ball when he was able. Leland grew up in the tough times of the 1930s, but he remembers the people in the community helping one another – they were all in the same boat afterall. Leland opted to join the military when he saw a friend of his wearing an army great coat: he did get that uniform and the coat, but he soon shipped to California and then the Philippines, where the winter uniform was not needed! He arrived in April 1941, and it was at the end of that year – December 7, 1941 – that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, plunging the U.S. into the war. Leland was stationed at Corregidor when that happened and he and his fellow American and Filipino soldiers managed to hold off the Japanese for a few months, but they were outnumbered and ultimately forced to surrender, at which time Leland became a prisoner of the Japanese. He was held in the Philippines at first, and was later put on one of the infamous “hell ships” and sent to Formosa and ultimately onto Osaka, where he became a forced laborer at the Yodogawa Steel Works. The treatment was brutal, and Leland was reduced to a number – 385. He struggled to survive there for the next 31/2 years; Leland made it, but most of his fellow prisoners did not. Liberation finally came, and Leland returned to the U.S. via Hawaii. Six months of recovery in the hospital would follow, and the readjustment and nightmares continued after that. Leland married and started his family with his wife Ruth, and he became a firefighter and served his community, even managing to find forgiveness in his heart as he fell into the rhythms of postwar American life. Leland Chandler was interviewed via zoom in April 2022 by Mr. Masters’ Grade 12 History class.
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