Retired U.S. Army Col. Beverly “Ben” Skardon is America’s national treasure. At the age of 103, the survivor of the infamous Bataan Death March is still going strong.
Skardon, suffering from malaria, survived the brutal 65-mile march in 95-degree heat while fellow soldiers around him were being bayoneted by the Japanese. He would go on to survive being transported in hellish conditions in the cargo hulls of two Japanese ships, where only 25% of the prisoners survived.
Skardon would also endure inhumane treatment for over three years in Japanese prisoner of war camps.
At the end of the war, the 28-year-old Army captain and recipient of two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars for valor, and a Purple Heart, weighed only 90 pounds when liberated by the Russian Army.
Following World War II, Skardon would continue to lead and inspire. After serving in the Korean War and in Germany, he eventually retired from the Army as a colonel in 1962.
He went on to teach English at his beloved Clemson University for almost 20 years. At Clemson, he touched the lives of countless students when, during Clemson’s Annual Ring Ceremony, he would tell the story of how his alumni ring saved his life during imprisonment.
Skardon managed to keep his gold ring hidden from the Japanese. Eventually his buddies, fellow Clemson alumni and POWs, traded it in exchange for food, helping him to survive the Japanese camps after being deprived of food, water and medicine.
His continued participation in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range has inspired many and even led to his story being featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Even this year, when the event was a “Virtual Memorial March,” he walked one mile a day for eight days in his neighborhood.