THE EPSTEIN BROTHERS: A VETERANS DAY TRIBUTE

The Epstein brothers, consisting of my dad Morris (“Moishe” to family and friends) and his two older brothers, Hank and Dave, emigrated from Poland in the late 1930s just in time to avoid the Nazis and the Warsaw Ghetto. All three of them proudly served in the U.S. military during WWII, hence this Veterans Day tribute to all of them.

My father (cute little guy in the front), his older brother Hank (right), his oldest brother Dave (behind my dad), their mother Lillian (right) and unidentified relative (left) pictured a few years before emigrating to America.

Probably seems odd at the very least, or out of the place at the worst in a blog devoted mostly to Lee Marvin Point Blank, but since I’ve posted so much about the Marvins and their service to their country in previous posts, I though it only fair to dedicate this post to the Epstein brothers for this Veterans Day.

My uncle Dave’s passport photo.

My uncle Hank’s passport photo.

Not quite Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, but all three Epstein brothers did their part as Polish Jews fighting back the Nazi threat. I heard fascinating stories from all of them growing up but my cousin Alan, my uncle Dave’s son, recently gave me permission to recount what I consider the most interesting details of his father’s service, as well as mentioning my uncle Hank and my father:

My uncle Dave shortly after being inducted just before the start of WWII, hence the WWI surplus uniform.

“He was one of the first batch to get drafted, they all were issued WW1 uniforms and equipment. He was stateside for awhile and then shipped out to Iceland to relieve the US Marines (for duty in the South Pacific) and English soldiers who went back to England expecting an invasion. Eventually he was sent to England for the buildup of troops and supplies for the Invasion of France. He was in the 3rd armored division (assigned to a Half-Track), this was attached the 1st army under General Hodges.
He landed at Omaha beach, Normandy in June 1944 and went on past the secured beach and into the area up from the beach called “Hedgerow” country, very heavy undergrowth, French called it “the Bocage region”, the greenery dates from Roman times. The bushes and trees were impenetrable and filled with Germans after they were pushed off the beach…. snipers, tanks and any weapon available. … After they broke out of this fighting they continued through France …the 1st army was then ordered to Bastogne, Belgium immediately by Patton, to rescue the trapped 101st airborne division.
This was the so called “Battle of the Bulge”, they were counterattacked by the Germans who pushed through. On a map it looked like a bulge. The Germans were beaten back but the fighting in The Ardennes Forest around Bastogne was awful, also the coldest European winter in 50 years and the largest ground battle in American history. When the German Panzer tanks rolled in early in the morning, they ran over the the tents with sleeping GI’s, as told by my dad.
Sorry about all the words but it HAS BEEN OVER SEVENTY YEARS and I wanted to do at least this!”

My Uncle Hank (wearing a cap and kneeling bottom left) with other members of the flight crew of his plane, Shoo-Shoo Baby.

My father’s brothers were involved too. Hank was a gunner on a B24 Liberator based in Foggia, Italy. Cerignola was a nearby city which housed another bomber squadron, one of the pilots was George McGovern, they sometimes did missions together and always requested the “Homestead Grays,” the all-black Mustang fighter escort, “Tuskegee airmen.”

My father, pfc. Morris Epstein of the U.S. Constabulary Force on his way home from Europe.

(L-R): Hank Epstein, Goldie Epstein (my uncle Dave’s wife) and Dave Epstein, pose on the roof of their Brooklyn apt. as they were both on leave during the war.

His kid brother Moishe [my dad] was a tank driver and MP, one of the white helmeted MPs at the Nuremburg trials. My mom’s brother Sid was part of the occupation army in Japan.

My cousin Alan, following in his father’s footsteps in the early 1970s. His skill as a medical sketch artist kept him from being shipped overseas to Vietnam just before his unit shipped out. Talk about timing!

I thank my cousin Alan for permission to use what he wrote and most of all, I thank my father and his brothers for their service to their country on this Veterans Day. I’m sure most families have similar tales and are equally proud, so I’m just sharing a little of the Epstein brothers’ dedication and patriotism on this important day. Not much but I think worth sharing. To one and all I just want to add happy Veterans Day!
– Dwayne Epstein

The male legacy of my dad and his brothers:
(L-R) Me, my uncle Hank’s son Steve, and my uncle Dave’s son, Alan, reunited at Tribeca 92nd St Y for a Lee Marvin Point Blank book signing about six years ago. Or, as Alan said of this photo, “look at the three old farts in glasses.”

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LEE MARVIN, VETERANS DAY & LEATHERNECK MAGAZINE

Veterans Day is yet another time to honor the memory of Lee Marvin, and the honor is provided courtesy of Leatherneck Magazine. I was quite surprised to find out how long the magazine has actually been in existence. This month marks Leatherneck Magazine’s 100th anniversary. Not surprising since November 10th marks the 242nd anniversary of the Marine Corp itself, so there’s some symmetry there.
Equally surprising is the the date in which Veteran’s Day is observed. November 11th was chosen due to the Armistice being signed on that date in WWI, which by the way, it remains Armistice Day in other countries for that reason. Oh, and in case you ever wondered why such organizations as the American Legion sell paper red poppies to raise money, there’s an interesting reason for that, as well. Red poppies were seen blooming on the hills of the Western Front amid the carnage following the armistice of WWI. For some reason I take comfort in that symbolism of life among the dead, instead of selling toy guns or something.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Lee Marvin was interviewed by Leatherneck Magazine about a year before his death making it one of the last ones he ever gave to a periodical. I cam across it during my early research for Lee Marvin Point Blank and found it both insightful and humorous. Unfortunately, upon further research, I discovered some of the facts to be incorrect (Monte Marvin came out of WWII with a Sergeant’s rank, not a captain), making it hard to use anything in it other than Lee Marvin’s quotes. In the long run, that worked out best as it helped me decide to write the chapter on Lee’s time in the USMC strictly in his own words from letters he wrote home during the war. It became one of my favorite exclusives to the book, if you haven’t read it.
So, without further adieu, I give you Lee Marvin speaking freely to Leatherneck. Enjoy and have a good Veteran’s Day!
– Dwayne Epstein

Page 1 of Leatherneck Magazine’s July 1986 interview with Lee Marvin.

Page 2 of Leatherneck Magazine’s Lee Marvin interview.

Page 3 of Leatherneck Magazine’s Lee Marvin interview.

Page 4 of Leatherneck Magazine’s Lee Marvin interview.

Page 5 of Leatherneck Magazine’s Lee Marvin interview.

Page 6 of Leatherneck Magazine’s Lee Marvin interview.

 

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VETERANS DAY: LEE MARVIN’S POSTWAR YEARS

With Veterans Day upon us, it’s a perfect time to write about Lee Marvin’s understandably complex emotions regarding his time in the service after his harrowing time in the war. That harrowing experience is detailed in his own words in Lee Marvin Point Blank as never before, but what of his thoughts after the war?
Well, for starters, as the war was winding down in the summer of 1945, there’s this copy of a letter Lee’s father Monte Marvin typed to Robert Marvin, Lee’s brother, who was still overseas…..

Monte Marvin's letter to son Robert on how Lee Marvin is surviving civilian life.

Monte Marvin’s letter to son Robert on how Lee Marvin is surviving civilian life.

Reading Monte’s letter to Robert, it doesn’t take much see how bitter Lee Marvin really was after the war. He grappled with those feelings the rest of his life and channeled much of what he was feeling into his acting. Fortunately for him, he was not alone as the postwar years meant many projects and people dealing with the same feelings…..

A purposely double-xposed photo of Lee Marvin and another actor onstage at the Maverick Theater in the play HOME OF THE BRAVE.

A purposely double-exposed photo of Lee Marvin and another actor onstage at the Maverick Theater in the play HOME OF THE BRAVE.

Once he decided to become an actor, Lee Marvin spent more time in uniform in theatrical productions on stage and on film than probably any other actor and clearly, that was no accident. He felt an obvious obligation to honestly portray what he went through despite the toll it had taken on him both physically and psychologically. His undiagnosed PTSD (also explored at length in the book) raged on through years of Veterans Days, Memorial Days, and more.
When Johnny Carson once asked him if he went to any USMC reunions, Marvin joked that he only went to a few and stopped after hearing the same boring lies and war stories.  The truth is he stayed in contact with other soldiers from his outfit and when the opportunity presented itself, he did whatever he could to help the cause of his fellow Marines. Besides donations to appropriate charities, one example combined both charity and heightened awareness. At the height of his cinema popularity, he took time to host and narrate a TV special entitled “Our Time in Hell”…..

The Hollywood Reporter (left) and the L.A. Times (right) both did write-ups on Lee Marvin's appearance and donation for a TV documentary of rare WWII footage of the USMC in action.

The Hollywood Reporter (left) and the L.A. Times (right) both did write-ups on Lee Marvin’s appearance and donation for a TV documentary of rare WWII footage of the USMC in action.

The title of the show may seem obvious but it also came from an often stated short poem whose author is unknown but who’s sentiment is not:
“And when he gets to heaven,
to Saint Peter he will tell:
‘Another Marine reporting, sir,
I’ve served my time in hell.’ ”

Publicity photo for OUR TIME IN HELL.

Publicity photo for OUR TIME IN HELL.

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say Lee Mavin did much to help us understand what veterans have done for us and what they went through at a very high cost both during and after their service. So, in honor of that tremendous sacrifice, thank you veterans and may you always be treated with the dignity and respect you deserve. Happy Veterans Day!

 

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