Ben Skardon ’38 survived the Bataan Death March of WWII thanks to his Clemson ring. After surrendering to the Japanese at the Battle of Bataan in the Philippines, tens of thousands of U.S.-Filipino forces were forced on a 65-mile march from Bataan to Camp O’Donnell. Despite surviving the march, Skardon became deathly ill, suffering severe malnutrition, malaria, beriberi and other ailments. Deprived of food, water and medicine, Skardon was cared for by his friends and fellow Clemson grads, Henry Leitner ’37 and Otis Morgan ’38, who saved Skardon’s life by trading his hidden Clemson ring for food and spoon feeding him to help him regain his strength. Sadly, Leitner and Morgan would not survive.
On March 25, 76 years later, 100-year-old Skardon marched in the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, New Mexico. He is the only survivor of the historical event who still participates. Surrounded by Clemson alumni and other supporters, who dubbed themselves “Ben’s Brigade,” Skardon completed nearly seven miles in the desert in honor of his lost brothers-in-arms. Alumni of the group put up their Clemson rings in solidarity with Skardon, pictured above.
To learn more about Skardon’s ring story, go to alumni.clemson.edu/personal-sacrifice/.