Living prisoners of war from WWII, Korea and Vietnam to share Clemson stage


Three photos stacked on top of each other showing each man with an American flag behind them.
(From top) Col. Ben Skardon, 1st Lt. Bill Funchess, and Col. Bill Austin.

CLEMSON — For what is believed to be the first time, and possibly the only time, three living veterans who survived years of captivity in three of the modern world’s defining wars – World War II, Korea, and Vietnam – will share a stage and microphone in Clemson University’s Tillman Hall auditorium from 3:30–5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4.

The three men – all Clemson alums who returned to Clemson to work as faculty or staff after the wars – are:

Col. Ben Skardon, 101, who endured 1,255 days in Japanese POW camps after surviving the Bataan Death March in WWII.

1st Lt. Bill Funchess, 90, who lived through 1,038 days as a prisoner of the North Korean Army after his entire platoon was killed or captured.

Col. Bill Austin, 80, an F-4 Phantom pilot who was shot down on his 81st combat flight over North Vietnam and survived 1,986 days of internment by the North Vietnamese Army.

The event is sponsored by Clemson’s Air Force ROTC as its annual POW/MIA recognition ceremony. After introductions by Col. Keith Balts, commander of Clemson’s AFROTC, and former U.S. Military Journalist of the Year Ken Scar, three short videos about each guest of honor will be played. After the videos the floor will be turned over to the three POW’s to speak, and then take questions from the audience if time allows.

Media are encouraged to arrive between 3-3:15 p.m. The event will begin promptly at 3:30 p.m.

Three black-and-white archival photos next to each other, of each man in uniform.
Archival photos of Col. Ben Skardon, 1st Lt. Bill Funchess, and Col. Bill Austin during their days in uniform.
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