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.”