By Kenneth Scar
Photography by Kenneth Scar and Chris Waldrop

We’re running out of accolades to give Ben Skardon ’38. The list includes the Clemson Medallion, the University’s highest honor; the Alumni Distinguished Service Award, the Clemson Alumni Association’s highest honor; and the Alumni Master Teacher Award. Two endowments at Clemson have been established in his name, and in 2016, the flagpole in Memorial Stadium was dedicated to him. The governor of South Carolina honored him with the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest honor. In 2019, he received a Congressional Gold Medal.

The 103-year-old would rather not receive so much attention, but he also understands he is a conduit to the past. It’s a responsibility he takes very seriously.

So, he humbly accepts each award with the enthusiasm and aw-shucks wonderment of a boy at his first college football game. He believes it is his duty to acknowledge and enjoy the recognition because there are shadows watching over his shoulder who would be sorely disappointed if he didn’t. Ghosts of men who were not so blessed with time.

Beverly N. “Ben” Skardon was born on July 14, 1917. He grew up in Walterboro, South Carolina, “the son of a traveling country preacher,” and attended the all-male military Clemson College from 1934 to 1938. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army shortly after graduation, which might be the most significant event of his life.

Today, Skardon is sharp and spry, with white whisps of hair combed neatly around his forehead and hazel eyes that are clear and focused. He stands on a frame only slightly bent and speaks in a low Southern drawl. It takes him some effort to rise from a chair to shake hands, but he will insist on standing, and then clasp with a steely grip.

If ever you’re invited to his home, which is not five minutes from the Clemson campus, you will be greeted with a heartfelt “Well, hello!” and offered an adult drink of your choice, preferably one of his special “mar-tin-eyes” — meaning strong enough to knock out an ox. Step down the short hallway that leads from his kitchen to his office, and you’ll see framed citations for two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart hanging above the desk where he pores over his stamp collection (he is a passionate philatelist).

But the award Skardon holds most dear doesn’t hang on a wall. That would be his Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB), a 3-inch-wide rectangular bar with a light blue background and superimposed Springfield Arsenal Musket, model 1795, that is only authorized to be displayed on the upper left chest of the Army dress uniform.

To earn the right to display the CIB, the U.S. Department of Defense requires that a soldier must have “fought in active ground combat while assigned as members of either an infantry or special forces unit of brigade size or smaller at any time after 6 December 1941.”

Skardon earned his CIB in a hot, tangled jungle far from home, under terrible conditions.

Death March

At the beginning of 1941, as World War II enveloped the world, Skardon was called to duty overseas. The young captain was assigned commander of Company A of the 92nd Infantry Regiment Philippine Army, a battalion of Filipino Army recruits on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. He volunteered for the duty, as the Philippines had a reputation before the war as a cushy assignment in a tropical island paradise. And it was that — until December 8, 1941, when Japan invaded the islands 10 hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor.

The American and Filipino troops faced an uphill battle from the start. Japan had an enormous geographic and strategic advantage. The islands were immediately cut off from the outside world. Despite a complete lack of naval or air support, Allied soldiers fought for four bloody months, surviving on quarter rations.

Skardon led his troops through some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of that theater, earning his two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star for valor in combat, as well as the Purple Heart, during that short time.

On April 9, 1942, everything changed. Skardon, along with approximately 10,000 American and 66,000 Filipino soldiers, crippled by starvation and disease, were finally ordered to surrender.

They were herded 80 miles north through the searing heat of the Philippine jungles in what came to be known as the Bataan Death March. The exact figures are unknown, but it is believed that thousands of troops died at the hands of their captors, who starved and beat the marchers and bayoneted those too weak to walk.

It was Skardon’s gold Clemson Ring — which he had managed to keep hidden — that saved his life.

Prisoners of War

The marchers who survived then had to endure more than three years of inhumane conditions and sadistic treatment in Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Skardon was imprisoned at Cabanatuan, a military training camp that had been converted to an internment camp, housing 8,000 American and Filipino prisoners. An estimated 2,656 died, mostly from disease and malnourishment but also from summary executions and lethal beatings.

“The Japanese told us we were captives, not prisoners of war, and they’d treat us any way they wanted to,” Skardon recalls. “So, we were treated like animals — worse than animals.”

At Cabanatuan, Skardon fell deathly ill with malaria, beriberi and diarrhea. Two fellow Clemson alumni, Henry Leitner ’37 and Otis Morgan ’38, kept him alive by spoon-feeding him, massaging his feet, and carrying him in their arms to and from the latrine. But it was Skardon’s gold Clemson Ring — which he had managed to keep hidden — that saved his life.

“Otis learned a little bit of Japanese, and he became what you call an ‘in-charge,’” Skardon says. “Otis was able to let it be known that he knew of a gold ring to trade for food.”

Morgan traded the ring for a small chicken, some rice and a can of potted ham. The nourishment was as good as medicine: “My appetite was restored, my eyes cleared up, my feet cleared up, and I was whole again, so to speak.”

That story of Leitner and Morgan saving Skardon’s life is now repeated at every Clemson Ring Ceremony.

Eight Clemson alumni survived the Bataan Death March. Together with Ben Skardon, Harry Leitner and Otis Morgan were:

•  Army Air Force Maj. Theodore C. Bigger ’34
•  Army Capt. William R. English ’37
•  Army Lt. Martin Crook Jr. ’39
•  Army Air Force Capt. Francis H. Scarborough ’39
•  Army Capt. Marion “Manny” R. Lawton ’40

Only three of the eight — Skardon, Bigger and Lawton — lived to come home.

In 1984, Lawton wrote the book Some Survived, a powerful and unflinching look at the horrors they experienced. In it, he tells how a fellow inmate smuggled a radio into the barracks, piece-by-piece, which became the one fragile link to the outside world. News reports would be passed prisoner-to-prisoner as the tide of the war — a universe away from the camp — slowly turned against their captors:

“On October 20, 1944, we heard that there had been a big landing on the island of Leyte, not more than 300 miles to the south. There was joy and gratitude in the camp. … We felt that even before the battle for the Philippines was over, MacArthur would send in troops to rescue all prisoners of war.”

Eight Clemson survived the Bataan Death March.

The Hell Ships

As the inevitability of defeat became apparent, Japan felt it had two choices of what to do with the thousands of prisoners: execute them or ship them to the mainland to be used as slave laborers and, ultimately, bargaining chips. The decision was made to load as many prisoners as possible into unmarked transport ships and send them to Japan.

On December 14, 1944, seven of the “Clemson 8,” including Skardon, were among 1,619 sick and emaciated prisoners marched to Manila Bay and loaded into the windowless cargo holds of a passenger ship called the Ōryoku Maru. (Crook had been kept in a different part of the country and was put on a different ship.) Above, Japanese officers and important families were quartered in the first- and second-class spaces. Below, prisoners were crammed into the dark hold like cattle. Lawton describes the scene in Some Survived:

“In the semidarkness, it was hard to estimate how much space there was. My guess was … a total of 4,000 square feet. … Into it 800 gasping, sweltering prisoners were jammed. Rank and authority lost their meaning as tempers grew short and men became desperate for space to stand and even for air to breathe.”

As the Ōryoku Maru left the harbor, prisoners began to yell and beg for water. The guards threatened to open fire into the hold if they didn’t shut up. Darkness covered them as the sun set, erasing the few dim rays of light and any hope of escape.

Fifty died on the first night.

The next day, a flight of U.S. Navy planes from the USS Hornet discovered the Ōryoku Maru slowly steaming its way north into Subic Bay. The ship had no markings to show there were Americans on board, so they bombed it, unwittingly killing more than 200 of their own countrymen.

As the ship sank, surviving prisoners jumped into the sea and swam 300 yards to shore, where they were summarily rounded up. Two weeks later, they were loaded into identical holds on another ship, a rusty old freighter named the Enoura Maru. The seven Clemson men were still alive at this point.

Next came 13 excruciating days in the hold of the Enoura Maru. Each night brought dozens of deaths. The bodies were piled up in an open area near the stairs. There had to be at least five in a pile before they were allowed to drag them up onto the deck for brief, unceremonious burials at sea.

On January 9, 1945, the Enoura Maru was also bombed by U.S. Navy planes as it was docked in the port of Takao, on the southwest coast of Formosa. The cargo hold containing the prisoners took a direct hit, killing 295 more men including Otis Morgan.

The 930 surviving prisoners were transferred to yet another ship, the Brazil Maru. The Brazil Maru managed to stay afloat for three miserable weeks, during which the POWs pushed an average of 25 dead comrades into the sea every day. The bodies of Scarborough and English were among them.

The Brazil Maru docked in Moji, Japan, in the dead of winter on January 29, 1945. Just 497 of the original 1,619 men forced onto the Oryoku Maru stepped onto Japanese soil, many lingering close to death. One hundred and sixty-one more would die in the next 30 days, leaving just 264 with a chance of returning home.

Miraculously, Skardon, Leitner, Lawton and George were among them. Lawton and Leitner, who had become very close, were shipped to “Camp 3,” somewhere in the interior of Japan. It was bitterly cold, with 8 inches of snow on the ground. Leitner contracted pneumonia and died on a cold night in mid-February.

The two Clemson men who had saved Skardon’s life in Cabanatuan were now gone. Lawton had witnessed both deaths. The news of their demise dealt Skardon the most devasting blow of his entire ordeal.

But Skardon did not give up. He eventually ended up in a prison camp in Mukden, Manchuria, where Russian units freed him in August of 1945. He was 28 years old and weighed 90 pounds.

“The war was over. Everything that I was terrorized by disappeared, and I never felt so exhilarated in my whole life.”

Betsy

When Skardon returned to the U.S., he spent six months in the Oliver General Hospital in Augusta, Georgia, before being assigned to Fort Benning. POWs only had to report in on Tuesday mornings to have their vital signs taken, and the rest of their time was free.

“The war was over,” Skardon says. “Everything that I was terrorized by disappeared, and I never felt so exhilarated in my whole life.”

Skardon and a group of fellow POWs, who came to be known as the “Fort Benning Boys,” accepted every invitation to parties and balls that came their way, driving all over South Carolina in a “big Chrysler automobile” with changes of clothes in the trunk.

 “We had no duties, so I dated pretty heavily,” Skardon remembers with a tilted grin. “Girls at that time were simply amazing to me. I never left the dance floor, except to drop by the bar and show them my CIB.”

One December night in 1946, a beautiful, dark-haired Southern belle named Sara “Betsy” Golden ’69 caught his eye at a debutante ball in Columbus, Georgia. Her dress was covered in orchids.

“It was called a ‘break-off’ dance,” Skardon explains. “If a guy was dancing with a lady, you could go touch him on the elbow. He would stop and bow, and you could step in. The girl I came with was very popular, so I was standing against the wall all night. That’s when I saw Betsy. She had her hair back and was just gorgeous. We started dancing, and I pulled out all my moves. But she knew every one of them. I thought, ‘Well, this is most fascinating.’

“I never danced with another lady after that.”

Ben and Betsy were married less than a year later and had four children: Sara, Beverly, John and Charlotte.

“She was my debutante bride,” he likes to say.

While Skardon brushes off suggestions that he must have suffered great psychological trauma after what he’d been through as a POW, there are hints that he didn’t come out of it completely unscathed. He speaks of vivid nightmares that would leave him flailing and sweating in the sheets, even after he and Betsy were married. But her steady presence enabled him to move forward.

Youngest daughter Charlotte offers the perfect metaphor for the calming influence her mother had on her father: “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen my dad dance, but it’s pretty bad,” she laughs. “He always does some kind of modified jitterbug thing. But when my mom danced with him, she would make him glide around, and it would always look perfect.”

Their union lasted 71 years, until Betsy passed at age 92 in 2019.

Teacher

Despite his harrowing experience in WWII, Skardon’s military career did not end there. He went on to serve in Korea (1951-52) and Germany (1956-59).

After retiring from the Army at the rank of colonel in 1962, Skardon earned a master’s degree in English from the University of Georgia and then returned to his alma mater in 1964, the same year that Clemson College became Clemson University, as an instructor in the Department of English.

“I took at least three English classes taught by Col. Skardon,” says David Stalnaker ’84. “I gave him the name ‘Bloody Ben’ because he used excessive red ink when he critiqued his papers. I submitted my first paper to him; he hands it back, and all I can see is red ink. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to flunk this class!’ Then I looked at the back page, and it said, ‘A good effort — you can do better. Come see me during office hours.’ I did, and that’s when things started shifting from fear and terror to love and respect. He wanted to know what my career goals were and what he could do to help me to become a better student and a better person. We’ve been friends ever since.”

Skardon taught at Clemson for more than 19 years. He was named the Alumni Master Teacher in 1977, an honor presented to a faculty member nominated by the student body and selected by the Student Alumni Council.

But Skardon never spoke of what he endured in WWII. His students had no idea what he’d been through.

“At that time, I was not aware of his military service history, but I did know that he was a special man,” says former student Mary Beth Hill ’77, who earned a degree in psychology. “I first heard him tell of his Bataan experience on the night of my son’s Ring Ceremony in 2007. I know I embarrassed my husband and younger son with my tears, but they just would not stop.”

Hill’s testimony is typical of his former students, many of whom kept in touch with him as they, too, grew old.

“That’s what’s so amazing,” says Skardon. “I still have my grade books. I look at them and realize six or seven thousand are in those books!”

He retired as an associate professor in 1985.

Pilgrimage

More than 20 years after retiring from Clemson, Skardon caught wind of something happening in the high mountain desert of New Mexico.

Word had it that thousands of people, mostly veterans and active-duty service members, had been gathering there once a year to honor Bataan Death March victims by running a grueling marathon over the roughest terrain they could find with 35-pound packs on their backs. A son of one of his fellow POWs who lived near the event site convinced him to come check it out.

Skardon made the journey to White Sands Missile Range to attend his first Bataan Memorial Death March in 2007, when he was 89. He joined about a dozen fellow Bataan Death March survivors as an honored guest. At that event, he spontaneously decided he didn’t want to just sit and watch with the other survivors — he wanted to walk. So, he waited until the last participant was off and running and started walking, just to see how far he could go. He went 8 and a half miles. The next year, he came back and did it again.

To date, Skardon has walked in the Bataan Memorial Death March 12 times. It is the continuation of a journey that began more than seven decades ago in the dank jungles of the Philippines.

“This is now my pilgrimage,” he said during his walk in 2017. “Coming here is like going to Mecca — it’s a shrine.”

When he walks in the memorial march, Skardon is accompanied by members of “Ben’s Brigade,” a group of his former students, admirers and supporters, as well as family members of men he served with who come from around the country to walk behind him. In 2019, they were more than 90 strong.

“The colonel has told me that he marches to honor fallen comrades,” says Stalnaker, a founding member of Ben’s Brigade who has made all but one of the memorial marches with him. “He says the march inspires him, but I have found it is the colonel who is inspiring.”

At White Sands, Skardon and the few remaining survivors who can attend are treated like rock stars. Cameras and autograph-seekers follow their every move. In 2017, the CBS news program 60 Minutes produced a feature story about Skardon that has aired twice on national television, resulting in fan mail from all over the world piling up in his mailbox. For Skardon, all that matters is the walk.

“My debt to Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan is heavy,” Skardon says. “It cannot be repaid. People ask me, ‘How can you account for being alive when your best friends are dead?’ I say, ‘I can’t.’”

He last marched at White Sands in 2019, at age 101. He walked more than 3 miles that year. He was on his way to the airport in 2020 when the event was canceled at the last minute due to the coronavirus pandemic. He lamented when it was canceled again in 2021.

To keep his tradition alive, a group of Ben’s Brigade members organized a virtual memorial march to replace the 2021 march at White Sands, the “Clemson 8” Challenge. Skardon was the first one to sign up and walked a mile a day for eight days during the event, which took place March 21–28. He trained for it on clear days, briskly striding behind his walker up and down the quiet streets of his neighborhood, where he still walks when the weather is nice.

Every so often, tree-framed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains open behind him in the distance. He hums and sings gently to himself as he goes, and it sounds like a prayer. 

“My debt to Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan is heavy. It cannot be repaid. People ask me, ‘How can you account for being alive when your best friends are dead?’ I say, ‘I can’t.’”

CORRECTION: In the printed version of this article, Albert George ’36 was listed as a survivor of the Bataan Death March. After further research by contributors, it was found that George was captured on Mindanao in May of 1942, a month after the Bataan Death March occurred. However, George did suffer as a POW in various Japanese camps until he was placed on the Hell Ship Oryoku Maru in December 1944 for transport to Japan. As stated in this article, the Oryoku Maru was sunk by American Navy bombers just days later. George survived the sinking of the Oryoku Maru as well as the sinking of  Enoura Maru and arrived in Moji, Japan, in January 1945. He was later liberated.

Fond Memories

An alumnus from the class of 1950 remembers his time at Clemson

Eighteen years old. Charles Shain ’50 was drafted in World War II before he had a real chance to think about college, let alone the rest of his life.

The year was 1945 when he packed his bags for basic training at Camp Blanding, Florida, and after a short stint of advanced infantry training at Fort Rutger, he was boarding the Marine Tiger, the ship that would take him to the South Pacific.

“We went on to the Philippines,” Shain remembers. “In 1945, war was ending, and I was in Manilla. The people who had been overseas the longest period were able to return to the United States. My turn came, and I came back.”

On the return journey, Shain says he had a duffel bag full of summer uniforms. “Each time one got dirty, I’d throw it overboard.”

When Shain returned to the United States, to his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey, he started taking night courses at Upsala College and worked for his father and uncle, who owned a textile plant in Paterson, during the day. His desire to advance his career coupled with the financial aid of the GI Bill prompted him to transfer his community college credits and apply to about six other schools for textile manufacturing, including Clemson College.

Clemson answered first. “I threw my gear into my car, and off I went to Clemson.”

The first thing Shain did when he settled into his room in the temporary barracks was tear out his course pages from his student handbook and tape them to the wall. As he completed each course, he crossed them off. “I just watched it and worked on it,” he says.

Shain and a few of his friends who shared the Jewish faith managed to turn their small group into a social club that they dubbed Nu Epsilon, which stood for New England, the area they were all from. “The professor who helped us was Lehotsky, I believe. It was a Jewish group, but he was not Jewish,” Shain laughs. “That made it a little interesting, too.”

In those days, Frank Howard was the head football coach, and Shain says that football was “the game that everyone went to.” Something else Shain remembers is the food. Being from New Jersey, he found a few Southern dishes in the mess hall that he’d never had before, though not all of them stuck.

“Grits and gravy. I still remember it. I won’t say that I ordered it at a restaurant,” he laughs. “But like anything else, when you first come upon it, you kind of hold your nose and dive in. After a while, you get used to it.”

According to Shain, the place to escape the mess hall was a steakhouse down the road in Walhalla. There was also the “hamburger place” on the corner near the post office. Every month, Shain and other veterans would linger on the post office steps, waiting for their checks to come in from the government. Shain put his checks to good use: a car.

“It was a blue Pontiac convertible. I always had a car full of guys.”

But what Shain remembers most about Clemson were his friends: Jerry, who would play poker nonstop from Friday afternoon to Monday morning; Al, who tutored Shain in engineering; Fred, a lab partner and fullback on the football team; and Sid, who married a girl from Anderson, South Carolina.

“There ain’t too many left,” Shain says softly. “I think I have the command to turn the lights out when it’s all over.”

After college, Shain returned to New Jersey and worked for several years at the family business. He eventually settled in Teaneck, where he still works — at 94 years old — selling insurance. Though he hasn’t returned to Clemson in many years, the small college town in the hills of the South Carolina Upstate is never far from his mind.

“I have Clemson hats for all seasons,” he says. “I wear them religiously. People stop me and ask me to talk about Clemson. That’s a thrill in and of itself. My time at school and the people that I met were very, very pleasant.

“Fond memories.”

16 replies
  1. Russell Brown says:

    Col. Skardon is the very best of all of us. I’m so very humbled to have met him, attended the same university and served in the same military as he did. I can only hope I am 1% as good of a person as Col. Ben…that will be a life well lived. And though I endured none of the hell that Col. Ben did while serving, this quote hit me very hard and I understand his remarkable determination. Losing your brothers is a terrible weight that never leaves you.

    “My debt to Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan is heavy,” Skardon says. “It cannot be repaid. People ask me, ‘How can you account for being alive when your best friends are dead?’ I say, ‘I can’t.’”

    Reply
    • Ken Scar says:

      You and me both, Mr. Brown. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am also a U.S. Army combat veteran who came out of war pretty much unscathed, so I am humbled every time I’m in Ben’s presence.

      Reply
  2. Bill Walker says:

    As I returned to Clemson after my stint in the Army the Degree(Forest Management) I wanted was going to be an uphill battle. You see that journey started in 1970. It was a great fun my first attempt that my father knew full well I was not ready for. My stay didn’t last long and off to the service I went! Upon my return to academics English was a feared subject. After our first exam I got my paper back … and to my surprise not a mark on it except the words see me after class. The instructor asked if I was free next period and I said yes so off to his small office we went! First he said, it is obvious you have read and know the subjects well BUT came that dreaded word.
    Please read your first answer as I read it became abundantly clear that it was a bundle of half thoughts run on sentences and for lack of a better word trash!
    Prof Skardon , what is your major? I told him and said any troubles with your science and math courses! I proudly said No sir! Mr Walker the problem here seems to be your mind is going faster than your hand can write! From this time forward you will recti to headings for each paper Mastery of the answers requested and basic grammar! Now sit and rewrite your paper for me. And so started my re-education into the English he so loved! I’ll never forget him for the time he spent re-teaching me what I should have already known! I actually passed the course with great pride!
    Thank you Col Skardon for your care and compassion
    I’ll never forget it!
    Bill Walker ‘79

    Reply
    • Ken Scar says:

      Your experience with Ben as a teacher is right in step with his other former students who I interviewed for this story! He impacted so many lives as a professor at Clemson, and I tried hard to convey that fact in this story. Thank you for sharing this!

      Reply
  3. Amanda Guyton Drosieko says:

    Dr Skardon was a classmate of my father (Eugene Daniel Guyton ’38) as well as my English professor at Clemson. When he gave me a B instead of my expected A, he said, “I expect more of a child of Gene Guyton’s”! My father also served in WWII, landing in Normandy on D-Day. He and Dr. Skardon are truly part of our greatest generation. Thank you, Dr. Skardon for your service to our country and to Clemson University.- Amanda Guyton Drosieko, ’82

    Reply
    • Ken Scar says:

      It’s amazing how a college professor can make such an impact on generations of one family. I think that’s pretty rare – but Ben’s a rare man. Thank you for sharing this!

      Reply
  4. Jim Ridge says:

    I am humbled beyond words and deeply honored to say Col. Scardon taught my Public Speaking course during my junior year at Clemson, 1977. I was also in Army ROTC at that time with a nephew of his who knew of his war service and suggested that the class ask him about his experience as a POW. He deferred until the last class meeting of the semester and then only briefly described some of what he endured. I never heard about the class ring saving his life until watching the video on Clemson Universities web site. I have gone on in my adult life to do a great deal of public speaking and each time trying to remember what Professor Skardon taught me during his class. I hope I have done justice to the time he invested. Colonel, I hope someday, we can meet just long enough for me to shake your hand and thank you for all you’ve done for me personally and my generation as a whole! God bless you, Sir!

    Reply
    • Ken Scar says:

      Thank you for sharing this! And if you were an ROTC cadet I assume you were commissioned upon graduation – so thank you for your service. Sounds like you were one of his few students who got a hint of the hell he went through for all of us. I wish I could have been there when you asked him about it!

      Reply
      • Jim Ridge says:

        Mr. Scar – Proffessor Scardon was very reluctant to share any of his “experiences” with our class and only briefly touched on his capture, camp life, and transportation to Manchuria. Never knew of the Ring story until I read it on the University web site. If there is any way possible, please pass on my initial post to Col. Ben, he should get full credit for any positives that have come through 30 years of public speaking. Someday, I’d love to thank him personally!

        Reply
  5. Cynthia Kopkowski McCabe ‘99 says:

    Incredible story about an American and Clemson hero. Thank you for your service, Col. Skardon.

    Reply
  6. Judien Cooper says:

    Thank you for your service to the United States of America. Still United because of selfless people like you. You have your priorities right. God bless you Colonel and God bless America! We love you forever!

    Reply
  7. Tommy J. Lattimore says:

    I wanted to mention my Wife’s Father Theodore Cuyler Bigger, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel, class of 1934, who was on the Death March and knew all of the men well, mentioned in the wonderful article on Professor Skardon. He was transported form one island in the Philippines to another twice on Hell ships. HIs story of avoiding being transported on the Hell Ships to Japan is amazing. He avoided being shipped to Japan, thanks to the help of a Filipino Doctor. He suffered greatly at the hands of the Japanese and he would not mind his name not being mentioned in the article but he would want us all to remember their trials and sacrifices. He too became a College Professor with a PHD. in Soil Science and ended his career teaching at Middle Tennessee State University, where he had been the Agriculture Department Head.

    Reply
  8. Tommy J. Lattimore says:

    One other comment. If one wants to really delve into what these men went through, read the book Death March by Donald Knox. Parts of their stories are told by some of the Survivor’s in their own words.

    Reply
  9. Ken Scar says:

    Mr. Lattimore: Thank you for sending us this information. Records of service from WWII are often hard to track down, due in no small part to the tragic fire at the National Archives in 1973. I did my best with this story, but it pains me if I fell short of accurately recognizing all the Clemson men who served in the Philippines. Your father-in-law absolutely needs to be recognized and remembered for what he endured for all of us in WWII, and everyone here at Clemson wants to ensure that happens. Please contact me at my email kscar@clemson.edu

    Reply
  10. Clifford D Cannon Jr says:

    Colonel Skardon was my favorite professor during my years at Clemson (1972 – 1976). He embodies the character of a true “Clemson Man”, and the valuable lessons I learned from him in and out of the classroom have remained with me throughout my career in business as well as my personal life. Men like Ben Skardon are a dying breed…..Clemson needs more professors like him!

    Reply

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