Retired Army colonel, Clemson alum to walk in the Bataan Memoria - FOX Carolina 21

Retired Army colonel, Clemson alum to walk in the Bataan Memorial Death March for the 10th time

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Retired Army Col. Ben Skardon (Source: Clemson University) Retired Army Col. Ben Skardon (Source: Clemson University)
CLEMSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Retired U.S. Army Col. Ben Skardon, a Clemson University alumnus, emeritus professor and survivor of the Bataan Death March during WWII, will walk for the 10th time Sunday in the Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico.

According to Clemson University, Skardon is an alumnus of Clemson University, which he attended as a cadet from 1935 to 1938 when it was an all-male military school. He returned to Clemson after the war and became an English professor. He was named an Alumni Master Teacher in 1977 and taught until his retirement in 1985.

“This is now my pilgrimage,” Skardon said in a news release from the university. “Coming here is like going to Mecca; it’s a shrine. I learned how easy it is to die when you lose the will to live.”

Clemson stated Skardon can still vividly recall what it was like to be in the Bataan Death March. “The Japanese told us we were captives, not prisoners of war, and they’d treat us any way they wanted to,” Skardon said. “So we were treated like animals – worse than animals.”

The captives were forced to march on 1942 approximately 60 miles north to Camp O’Donnell, a prison camp, in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles, between 5,000 and 11,000 captives did not survive.

Skardon survived for more than three years in the camps, despite becoming deathly ill with malaria, beriberi, diarrhea and other ailments. Clemson stated two fellow Clemson alumni, Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan kept him alive by spoon-feeding him and eventually trading his gold Clemson ring – which he had managed to keep hidden – for food.

Clemson said that Skardon also survived the sinking of two unmarked Japanese transport ships carrying him and other POWs to mainland Japan, including the infamous sinking of the Oryoku Maru. They said Morgan was killed during the bombing of that ship and Leitner died in a POW camp in 1945.

Skardon also served in Korea in 1951-52, and retired from the Army with the rank of colonel in 1962.

He will walk in the march on Mar. 19, just four months short of his 100th birthday. He aims to walk eight and a half miles. 

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