RIP Charles Durning

| December 25, 2012


Ex-PH2 and Tman sent us links to the news that one of the most prolific actors of the last 50 years has passed. If you haven’t seen Charles Durning act, you haven’t been paying attention. He was a soldier before he was an actor, according to Fox News;

The younger Durning himself would barely survive World War II.

He was among the first wave of U.S. soldiers to land at Normandy during the D-Day invasion and the only member of his Army unit to survive. He killed several Germans and was wounded in the leg. Later he was bayoneted by a young German soldier whom he killed with a rock. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and survived a massacre of prisoners.

In later years, he refused to discuss the military service for which he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.

“Too many bad memories,” he told an interviewer in 1997. “I don’t want you to see me crying.”

ADDED: ROS sends a link that says Durning was also a Malmedy Massacre survivor.

Jacob Joachim “Jack” Klugman, also a World War II veteran of the US Army died last night at the age of 90, but I can’t find much about his service.

Category: Blue Skies

Comments (27)

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  1. 68W58 says:

    “We’re not one’n and two’n it, you dumb sumbitch, we’re mass communicatin’.” RIP Pappy O’Daniel.

  2. Tman says:

    R.I.P., a fine actor from the Greatest Generation.

    That he did not want to talk about his wartime past is a sharp contrast to the epidemic of military phonies today, who want to brag to everyone within earshot and online about their super heroic deeds in combat.

  3. Ex-PH2 says:

    …and he was busy right up to the last minute as Corporal Ernie Yost on NCIS.


  4. ohio says:

    Stack his awards and actions against those of the POS John F’kin Kerry.

  5. NHSparky says:

    God speed, Mr. Durning.

  6. OWB says:

    Another class act who will be missed. RIP, sir.

    (Yes, count me among those who are grateful for the memory of his portrayal of Corporal Yost on NCIS. That one got to me more than a little.)

  7. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    He was the most incredibly humble man. And he was a grateful man. Funny, if ever there was someone who could have overused the personal pronoun I and expected the world to thank him, it was Durning. But he would have none of it. He spoke of his brothers in arms with a great reverence and love. He will be missed greatly.

  8. 3C3P says:

    He also provided a narrative about the D-day landings several years ago….you could hear his memories through his voice.

  9. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    There were many actors who served in WWII, some of them a real surprise. Here’s a link to them.

  10. MAJMike says:

    I, too, treasure the memory of his role in that NCIS episode. His was a talent that too few fully appreciated.

  11. Anonymous says:

    If you ever get a chance to tour the USS North Carolina, Mr. Durning also narrates the movie about her WWII battle history-I see it once a year or so when I go on vacation in the area.

    Vaya con Dios Mssrs. Durning and Klugman-and thank you!

  12. Loach says:

    I seem to recall some controversy about him escaping a massacre. But I never heard the claim from him. His well deserved awards speak for themselves.

  13. JP says:


    Definitely worth reading more on.

  14. UpNorth says:

    Rest in Peace, gentlemen.

  15. Green Thumb says:

    Charles During aka: Deke Yablonski “Tough Guys”

    Great movie.

    Rest in Peace, sir.

  16. Smaj says:

    Rest In Peace. One of the great character actors and a brave soldier. His buddies are lining them up for him in Fiddler’s Green.

  17. streetsweeper says:

    AND he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

  18. streetsweeper says:

    This is Charles Durnings service info as listed on the link provided by Air Cav:

    Charles Durning (1923- ) [Dog Day Afternoon (1975); The Choirboys (1977)]. Served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Drafted early in the war at age 21, he was first assigned as a rifleman with the 398th Infantry Regiment, and later served overseas with the 3rd Army Support troops and the 386th Anti-aircraft Artillery (AAA) Battalion. He participated in the Normandy Invasion of France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and was among the first troops to land at Omaha Beach. For his valor and the wounds he received during the war, Durning was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Heart medals.

  19. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    @18. That’s a pretty sparse profile, both for Durning’s screen (and Broadway) credits, as well as his service record. The link only gives a thumbnail sketch of each WWII serviceman turned actor (and some actors turned servicemen).

  20. ROS says:

    Godspeed, Ranger Durning.

  21. Ex-PH2 says:

    This link provides a longer list of Mr. Durning’s credits and a good reference to his wartime service.

  22. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    @21. Yes, that’s a lot better. The reference to his surviving a massacre of prisoners was a veiled reference to Malmedy which he has been repeatedly and erroneously reported as having survived. He himself never claimed that and, unfortunately, it is now treated as fact by many a site on the web. However, this was not his doing–the truth was enough for him–and no list of Malmedy survisivors includes his name. He suffered physically and psychologically from his war experience until his death and now enjoys a well-derserved peace. In his later years, he did involve himself with WW II memorials and documentaries. I believe that as he grew older, he realized that the number who could recount their experiences was dwindling and he–despite not wanting to revisit those difficult times–did so for posterity. I have admired him greatly for decades.

  23. B Woodman says:

    God rest and God speed.

  24. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    @22. I know ROS meant well but, as I point out in comment 22, the Malmedy survivor story is false and should be struck. Durning never claimed this. The falsehood is, I believe, a byproduct of the fact that Durning was a POW and was in the fight known collectively as the Battle of the Bulge. He was NOT, however among the US troops who were machine-gunned at Malmedy.

  25. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    John M. Bauserman’s “The Malmedy Massacre” is the authoritative work on the massacre. Bauserman states that in the 10 years he spent researching Malmedy, he never found Durning’s name in military records or heard mention of it from Malmedy survivors whom he interviewed.

  26. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    The Added Link takes one to the esteemed “Military Money Matters Take Command of Your Finances!” website and provides this statement, in part: “Charles Durning was one of only three men to survive the infamous massacre of American POWs at Malmedy, Belgium. He and two others escaped, and the rest were murdered. Durning was obliged to return with American troops to identify the bodies of his fellow prisoners.”

    Three survivors? That would have come as a shock to the other approximately 40 survivors. Hell, if “Military Money Matters…” were correct, Durning’s testimony would have been essential in 1946 when the trial of the 75 Waffen SS was held. It wasn’t because, dammit, he wasn’t at Malmedy.

  27. Just an Old Dog says:

    Its sounds like some of his agents, the Hollywood crowd or just some hack reporter took it on themselves to tie in Durning’s actual record with the Massacre.