Ben Skardon, Oldest Survivor of the Bataan Death March, Dies at 104

by Samantha Whidden

Ben Skardon, who was known as the oldest survivor of the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March, has reportedly passed away at the age of 104.

Clemson University announced on Tuesday (November 16th) that the Bataan Death March survivor, who was part of the University’s class of 1938, passed away after being informed of the approval of his honor promotion to the rank of Brigadier General. 

Clemson University took to its Instagram to pay tribute to the Bataan Death March survivor. “We will miss [Ben Skardon] greatly and always be grateful for the tremendous impact he made on our University and our nation,” the post reads. 

The University stated that following graduation, Skardon joined the military. He served as the commander of Company A of the 92nd Infantry Regiment Philippine Army (PA) during World War II. It was a battalion of Filipino Army recruits of the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. Skardon notably led his troops through some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict. 

Ben Skardon Participates in the Bataan Death March

On April 9, 1942, Skardon was captured. He became a prisoner of war (POW) after American troopers surrender to the Japanese. He endured the Bataan Death March. According to History, approximately 75,000 Filipino and American troops made the 65-mile march to prison camps. The marchers endured intense heat as well as harsh treatment from Japanese military personnel. 

It was noted that some 2,500 Filipinos and 500 Americans may have died during the Bataan Death March. Additional 26,000 Filipinos and 1,500 Americans died at Camp O’Donnell, which was a U.S. Army camp for POW camp for Filipinos and American soldiers captured by Japan. 

Ben Skardon’s Life After World War II & Korean wAr

Clemson reported that Skardon survived the infamous march and more than three years as a POW, despite him becoming deathly ill. He also survived the sinking of two unmarked Japanese transport ships carrying him and other POWs to mainland Japan. Russian military units finally freed him in August of 1945.

Six years after being freed, Skardon served in the Korean War from 1951 to 1952. He eventually retired from the Army in 1962 at the rank of colonel. The army veteran then returned to Clemson and joined the Department of English. He taught for more than 20 years before retiring in 1985. 

However, in 2006, Skardon became the only survivor to walk in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March. This event took place at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. He was 88 years old at the time. He walked more than eight miles and returned to walk 12 more times. The last walk he did was when he was 101.