Oldest Survivor of the Bataan Death March Col. Ben Skardon dies at 104 years

Col. Ben Skardon Death-passed away – Ben Skardon, 104-year-old, the oldest survivor of the Bataan Death March to walk at annual memorials and a beloved Clemson University icon, passed away on Monday evening, November 15, 2021, around 6 p.m. after a stay in hospice. He was a former Clemson English professor who survived the Bataan Death March during World War II. After so many years Ben Skardon always takes part in long-distance walks in memory of his fellow prisoners of war that died a long time ago

He was born in St. Francisville, La in 1917 and he grew up in Walterboro, SC. He was a 1938 graduate of Clemson College and he joined the US Army a year after graduating. He was stationed in the Philippines, where he commanded a company of Filipino Army recruits. Skardon and tens of thousands of U.S. and Filipino troops fighting the Japanese army on the Bataan peninsula surrendered to the enemy on April 9, 1942. Thousands of prisoners died in forced marches, but he survived the march with three years of disease, starvation, and ill-treatment. He was helped by two Clemson alum, Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan, who did not survive but whose kindness lives on in the stories of his time. He also survived the sinking of two prison ships.

In August 1945, he was rescued from a prison camp in Manchuria by the Soviet army. Instead of leaving the Army, He stayed and served through the Korean War and years beyond. He eventually left the Army in 1962 with the rank of colonel. He was nominated and approved for the honorary rank of brigadier general last week. After his military service, He earned a graduate degree and taught English at Clemson University until 1983. And in 1977, He received the university’s Alumni Master Teacher Award and the school’s Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 2002. In 1947, he got married to Sara “Betsy” Golden after they met at a Georgia ball, and they had four children together. After 71 years of marriage,  Sara passed away in 2019. Each year he travels to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to take part in the Bataan Memorial Death March. This year he walked eight and a half miles through the unforgiving New Mexico desert, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees, and refused to stop until he matched his distance from the previous nine years.

Ben Skardon’s obituary will be organized buy the family.


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