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On April 9, 1942, eight Clemson alumni became prisoners of war with tens of thousands of their brothers-in-arms when American troops who had been fighting in the Philippine theater of WWII were ordered to surrender to the Japanese. They were marched north some 70 miles by their ruthless captors in what would come to be known as the Bataan Death March, one of the most notorious war crimes in history.
Already weak and starving from months of intense fighting and illness, the POWs’ were herded with other sick, wounded and starving soldiers through the searing heat of the Philippine jungles. Thousands died. Those who survived the march then had to survive for years in the inhumane and brutal conditions of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, and the sinking by our own Navy of unmarked prison ships trying to steal the POW’s away to the mainland towards the end of the war. It is impossible to know the exact number, but it is estimated at least 57 percent of the captured Americans did not survive the war – more than 11,500 souls — which is considered a very conservative number by most experts.
Col. Skardon, 103, is the last living member of this illustrious group. He is well known as the only survivor of the real Bataan Death March who walks in the annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., one of the toughest and most popular “ultramarathons” in the world. The event has become a pilgrimage for veterans, active-duty military members, supporters, the few remaining survivors, and family members of the men who perished in the march and POW camps.
To date, Skardon has walked in the BMDM 12 times, most often a distance of 8.5 miles, beginning in 2007 when he was 89. In 2019, at 101, he walked more than three miles through the desert to honor his brothers-in-arms who did not return from the war. He considers it his duty. He was on his way to walk again in 2020 when the event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. After registering for the "Clemson 8" race, everyone is encouraged to continue their training and participate in the 2021 virtual edition of the 32nd Annual Bataan Memorial Death March at https://bataanmarch.com/
The "Clemson 8” Bataan Death March Remembrance was created by a team of students, veterans, alumni and friends so that Col. Skardon’s mission — to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country in one of the most brutal wartime events in history — will carry on.
For more information on the five who passed away during incarceration, please visit the Scroll of Honor website: https://soh.alumni.clemson.edu/
Additional race information can be found at https://go-greenevents.com/.
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