On Sept. 2, 1943 Sanford received an invitation from Uncle Sam “I want you.” He and his wife had been married for three years, they had to put their household furnishings into storage. His wife Bernice went to live with her parents. Sanford was sent to Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, NC for basic army training on half-track drawn artillery 105 howitzers. Six months later he was shipped to England to join the 101st Airborne Division of paratroopers and glidermen preparing to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany.
Sanford was placed in the 81st AA-AT Battalion, glider unit under the command of Col. X. B. Cox Jr. The gliders were called U.S.A. C-G4 Waco. They were towed by a U.S.A. C-47 plane, which when airborne pulled the glider on a nylon rope that was attached from the tail of the plane to the nose of the glider. Gliders had no motors and when released from the plane they floated and glided on air currents with a wind and a prayer that enemy shells (flak) did not hit and that the glider did not crash on landing. Gliders were built by coffin manufacturers.
Glidermen referred to gliders as flying coffins. A gliderman’s version of the construction of a glider was that it was composed of plywood, two by four lumber, canvas, glue, wood-putty, bubble-gum, recycled nails, toilet-tissue to plug the holes in the canvas and spit which held it all together.
Sanford served in the European theater of operations from May 1944 to Dec. 1945. Discharged with honorable service with the rank of corporal, he had served as a member of the famous 101st Airborne Division, known as the fighting “Screaming Eagles.” Their missions were to drop behind the German lines to capture bridges, vital highways, crossroads and important railroad lines to aid the advancing allied armies across Europe.
Sanford saw extensive action in the following campaigns:
France - Normandy
Holland - Southern part of the Netherlands
Belgium - Bastogne - Battle of the Bulge
Central Europe - Germany
Austria - Bavaria
He was the recipient of the U.S.A. Bronze Arrowhead Award as a member of the first wave of parachutist and glidermen to be dropped from the skies behind the German lines on Sept. 1944 in the invasion of Holland to liberate the Southern part of the Netherlands from German occupation. He received the Purple Heart Medal for injuries received in a glider crash, shot down by enemy fire.
He is the recipient of:
- The Glider Badge with Combat Star.
- Four Combat Stars
- Belgium Croix de Guerre for Normandy
- Belgium Fourragere for defense of Bastogne, Belgium
- Militaire Willems Orde - The Orange Lanyard from Holland
- World War II Victory Award Medal
- Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation
- New York State Conspicuous Service Medal
- Certificate of Appreciation from the Netherlands
- U.S. House of Representatives Normandy Medal of Jubilee of Liberty
He is a Life Member and charter of the New York-New Jersey Chapter of the 101st Airborne Division Association. He has a life membership in the 101st Airborne Division Association.