Here is how Ben Skardon remembered Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan
Who mirrored God for you?
WWII veteran, Colonel Ben Skardon wants us to remember two names: Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan. They mirrored God for him by saving his life, over and over again.
Ben Skardon, a son of an Episcopalian minister, seemed to never have lost his faith, and perhaps his pastor-father’s teachings, his two friends’ faithfulness, and crediting God, had a lot to do with that.
After surviving the Bataan Death March, which started April 10 1942. Prisoners were forced to march 85 miles in six days, and were brutalized and killed along the way for sport. Be-headings, driving trucks over men, bayoneting men, beatings, all marked the reign of terror during the ordeal.
Henry Leitner and Otis Morgan were the men who kept Ben alive during the starvation and brutality which followed the Death March.During their captivity in brutal Japanese POW camps, where forced labor, brutal treatment, starvation and disease make each day an ordeal, Henry and Otis cared for him. When he was ill, they lifted him when he was weak, and cared form him when he was wracked with malaria fever,doing all this as if he were a child. Many a soldier has been like a loving friend or Dad to fellow fighter in need. They helped him trade his last possession (his Clemson University college ring) for food that saved his life. Just connecting with Henry and Otis in the camp was a miracle. They were all alumni of Clemson, but had not fought together, until they fought to stay alive in the POW camps.
At his “lowest point,” Skardon had Beriberi, malaria, diarrhea and his eyes were sealed shut with discharge from an eye infection. He could barely swallow. Leitner and Morgan spoon fed him, cleansed his eyes, carried him to an open latrine and bathed him before he was returned to their shack in the prison camp.
In the ongoing brutality and starvation which followed, Ben survived. Tragically his saviors, Henry and Otis died from their ordeal. In 1944 when Ben was transported in one of the Japanese “Hell Ships” to a Japanese labor camp, Otis Morgan was killed on a ships which allies bombed. This occurred because the Japanese did not keep any portion of the Geneva convention agreement. So the Japanese never marked either their POW camps or their ships as holding prisoners (only ¼ approximately, survived Hell Ships transports). Henry Leitner died in one of the POW camps in 1945.*
*In 1945 civilian and military deaths in POW and concentration camps in South East Asia increased exponentially. The war’s end in August 1945, saved many who barely clung to life.