There are days when you are not sure what is going to cross your path…but then there are days when think you are prepared for a good story. Today was a combination of both…one of anticipation yet one of amazement.
I just finished a project telling the story of one Clemson’s most precious graduates, one who has experienced so much, and one that has so much to share. Col. Ben Skardon is that man, class of 1938 and served in World War II. Not only did he serve, but he was a prisoner of war where he did something that seemed so insignificant but has left a tremendous legacy.
As a prisoner of war, he took part in the Bataan Death March:
“Which began on April 9, 1942, was the forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of 60-80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II. All told, approximately 2,500–10,000 Filipino and 100-650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach Camp O’Donnell.”
“The 80 mi march was characterized by wide-ranging physical abuse and murder, and resulted in very high fatalities inflicted upon prisoners and civilians alike by the Japanese Army, and was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.”
But what makes this story so fascinating is that his Clemson Ring was the one thing that helped saved his life. He used that ring while a prisoner of war to “buy” food in order to survive. He traded it for rice, the nourishment necessary to stay alive.
The only thing he has left from that experience was the spoon he used to scrape food together, his dog tags, what was called a “chop” that was used as currency, and the identification card that was made after he was released.
I am have embarked on a project to tell his story and finally I can share…one that I will remember for a lifetime. A few years ago, I sat down with him to capture the first part of his story, here is the completed project…in his own words.
*Reference information from Wikipedia.