Korean War Legacy Project

Sanford Epstein


Sanford “Sandy” Epstein was born on July 14, 1933, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of ten children, he dropped out of high school at sixteen-years-old to join the US Army on the day the Korean War began. He recalls attending basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and heavy weapons training at Fort Stewart, Georgia, before deploying to Korea in October, 1951. He details his arrival in Incheon and his assignment to the 2nd Armored Division where he was in charge of an anti-tank weapon in support of infantry units. He comments on the cold weather he endured while serving and shares a few memories from the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge where received the Purple Heart for his commitments. He remembers there being many Korean orphans and details how several men in his unit helped one of the orphans attend school through donations. He recalls taking advantage of a trip to Seoul and of how he was saluted along the route as soldiers thought he was an officer. He is proud of his service and shares that he revisited Korea in September 2013 where he was received with kindness.

Video Clips

Army Basic Training

Sanford Epstein, from the perspective of growing up in poverty, describes his Army basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He shares how excited he was to receive seconds during meals, an option he was never given at home due to his family's lack of resources. He recounts going to classes, receiving new clothes and shoes, participating in exercises, and he details a drill he thoroughly enjoyed.

Tags: Basic training,Food,Living conditions,Poverty

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Heartbreak Ridge Memories

Sanford Epstein describes the living conditions he experienced during his first winter in Korea. He recounts how cold it was and comments on the food available. He recalls a fellow soldier's death during the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.

Tags: 1951 Battle of Heartbreak Ridge, 9/13-10/15/,Cold winters,Food,Front lines,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions

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Korean Orphans

Sanford Epstein recalls sending half of his monthly wages home to his family and shares that he gave quite a bit of his money away as there were many orphans. He shares how orphaned children would follow them around and offer to do odd jobs. He recounts fellow soldiers adopting Korean orphans and elaborates on how one of the orphans, with monthly support from the men in his unit, graduated from college in Buffalo, New York, and became a CPA.

Tags: Home front,Impressions of Korea,Orphanage,Poverty,Pride,South Koreans

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"Captain" Sanford Epstein

Sanford Epstein, an Army Staff Sergeant during his time in Korea, shares a story of when he took advantage of a trip to Seoul. He recounts being the only soldier from his outfit who wanted to participate in the Passover service held in Seoul and remembers traveling alone in a jeep with a driver which is generally only reserved for officers. He recalls being saluted along the route as soldiers thought he was an officer.

Tags: Incheon,Seoul,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions,Rest and Relaxation (R&R)

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