Beverly “Ben” Skardon, a graduate of Clemson in 1938, will be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army. Skardon, a 104-year-old World War II veteran, was notified earlier this week of the approval of the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense following nomination and advocacy by U.S. Representative Jeff Duncan.
“Ben Skardon represents the best of America,” Rep. Jeff Duncan said. “His valiant service in World War II and the Korean War, including three years as a Prisoner of War, followed by decades of continued service of this nation, deserves the recognition of this promotion and the enduring appreciation of a thankful nation.”
“I’m so happy for my dear friend Ben Skardon on this wonderful recognition,” Clemson President Jim Clements said. “There is no one more deserving of this honor, and the entire Clemson family congratulates soon-to-be GENERAL Ben Skardon on the approval of his promotion. Thank you to Representative Duncan and the Secretary of the Army and all others who made this possible.”
Skardon served 23 years in the US Army following his graduation from Clemson in 1938. He served in World War II as the commander of Company A of the 92nd Infantry Regiment PA (Philippine Army), a battalion of Filipino Army recruits on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. He led his troops through some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict, earning two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart during the first four months of the war.
On April 9, 1942, he became a prisoner of war when American troops were forced to surrender to the Japanese. He then endured one of the most notorious war crimes in history: The Bataan Death March.
Skardon survived the march and more than three years as a POW, despite becoming deathly ill. 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. Leitner and Morgan did not survive the war. Their story is now told at every Clemson Ring Ceremony.
As WWII came to an end, Skardon also survived the sinking of two unmarked Japanese transport ships carrying him and other POWs to mainland Japan. Russian units finally freed him in August 1945.
He went on to serve in Korea from 1951-52 and retired from the Army at the rank of colonel in 1962.
In 1964 he returned to his alma mater, joining the Clemson faculty in the Department of English, where he taught for more than 20 years until his retirement in 1985.
In 2006, at the age of 88, Skardon became the only survivor to walk in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. He walked more than eight miles and returned to walk 12 more times.
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