Sandy Colton in Korea with his Jeep

Striper Spotlight: Sandy Colton In His Own Words

Sandy Colton 
October 5, 1925 – December 25, 2008 

Sandy Colton was a war photographer for the Stars and Stripes during the Korean War, and later its chief photographer for the Pacific edition. He was known for his iconic photographs of the war.

In His Own Words:

The worst ever chow ever? When MacArthur said we’d be home by Christmas the Chinese entered the picture, I was with the 18th FBW at Pyongyang East, a muddy field with a bunch of bombed-out buildings.

We shared our Thanksgiving feast of turkey with a bunch of Army guys, damned near frozen, retreating south. From that point on we moved south, first to Suwon and then down to Chinhae. During that time our mess hall apparently just got out of the supply line and we had Spam for breakfast, lunch and dinner in various forms from imitation sausage to stew. I haven’t been able to look Spam in the face to this day.

In Suwon we had a small tent with one stove in which we were burning aviation gas. The mail caught up with us in Suwon and I received a large box of food, like canned hams and chicken and other goodies from my brother who owned a supermarket back home. In answer to a letter I’d written about the poor children I’d seen I also received boxes of clothing from the hometowners for the children. It was close to Christmas that we took a jeep out to hand out the clothing to likely families we saw but also to swap some of it for fresh eggs, onions and some other fresh vegetables.

One night we PIO types were feasting in our small tent when the Catholic chaplain popped in dressed in a warm fur-collared jacket. “Is the Protestant chaplain about?” he asked. When we said “No,” he opened his jacket and pulled out two bottles of wine. “My contribution to your dinner,” he said. “I swiped them from the Protestant chaplain’s stores!”

After my brother’s packages arrived I don’t believe I ate at all in the mess hall until well after we arrived and settled in Chine. I have to add that the very best food I ate in Korea was at the NCO club in Chine. One of the recalled NCI’s assigned to us had been a food buyer in Tokyo prior to his recall. Once a week our wing C-46 made a trip to Tokyo where he bought steaks and fresh vegetables for the NCO and Officer’s clubs. I rarely ate in the mess hall. Then My transfer finally came thru to the Stripes.

I went to Tokyo first and joined Andy Headland working for Dick Larsh in features. Bored to death with the stuff I had to write about like the International Menu at the PX cafeteria or arrival of the Oklahoma and California divisions, I begged Dick to send me back to Korea. He said he hadn’t wanted me to go back since I already had almost a year there but then gladly shipped me off with orders to write a story about any of the units across the front.

Outfitted with a portable Olivetti and duffle bag I went back and began hitchhiking from unit to unit. When I felt the need for a decent meal, I’d catch a flight back down to Chinhae and the NCO club. I often complained to the guys there of my problems hitchhiking around Korea.

Sandy Colton in Korea with his Jeep
Sandy Colton in Korea with his Jeep

On one of my visits, the boys at the club had a surprise for me, a jeep that came out of a Marine scrap yard in nearby Mason. Marine sergeants often visited the club for its food and somehow the club officers talked them into the jeep. It had no hood, no windshield, one seat for the driver, no headlights, no spare tires, the radiator leaked into the fan spraying water back on the driver, but it was transportation. With the help of the Pusan Stripes slush fund and a few bottles of scotch donated by the NCO club I now was the only Stripes guy in Korea with transportation. And therein lies another story but I’ve already talked too much. Another day I may finish the tale.

Best to all… Sandy

Stars and Stripes Article: Former Stripes chief photographer, war correspondent Sandy Colton dies at 83