Charles Durning born 1923 died 12/24/2012 A great actor who starred in over 100 films including “O Brother
Where Art Thou”; And a great hero of WWII.
Durning served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Drafted 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. For his valor and the wounds he received during the war, Durning was awarded the Silver
Star and three Purple Heart medals.
Durning participated in the Normandy Invasion of France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and was among the first troops
to land at Omaha Beach. In Episode of the program Dinner for Five, which also included Burt Reynolds, Dom
DeLuise and Charles Nelson Reilly, Reynolds spoke about Durning's service career for him, as Durning did not like
to talk about it much. Reynolds revealed that Durning was in a group of gliders who overshot their landing zone and
that he had to fight alone all the way back to the beach. Reynolds also stated that his own father was there fighting
about 15 yards away and that Durning was probably the most decorated veteran (then) still alive from World War II.
Some sources state that he was with the 1st Infantry Division at the time, but it is unclear if he served as a rifleman
or as a member of one of the division's artillery battalions.
Durning was wounded by a German “S” Mine on June 15, 1944 at Les Mare des Mares, France. He was
transported to the 24th Evacuation Hospital. By June 17 he was back in England at the 217th General Hospital.
Although severely wounded by shrapnel in the left and right thighs, the right hand, the frontal region of the head,
and the anterior left chest wall, Durning recovered quickly and was determined to be fit for duty on December 6,
1944. He arrived back at the front in time to take part in the Battle of the Bulge the German counter-offensive
through the Ardennes Forest of Belgium and Luxembourg in December 1944.
After being wounded again, this time in the chest, Durning was returned to the United States. He remained in Army
hospitals to receive treatment for wounds until being discharged with the rank of Private First Class on January 30,
He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of a Marine veteran in "Call of Silence," an episode of the
television series NCIS first broadcast November 23, 2004. Drawing on his first-hand knowledge of the lingering
effects of battle-induced stress Durning's character turns himself in to authorities, insisting that he must be
prosecuted for having murdered his buddy during ferocious combat on Iwo Jima six decades earlier. The real truth
of the incident only becomes known for certain when the guilt-stricken veteran goes through a cathartic reliving of
the battlefield events.
Durning was known for participating in various functions to honor American veterans. He was the chairman one
year of the U.S. National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans. He was an honored guest speaker at the National
Memorial Day Concert for many years, televised by PBS every year on the Sunday evening of Memorial Day
In April 2008 Durning received the National Order of the Legion of Honor from the French consul in Los Angeles,
awarded to those who served with distinction in France. During the ceremony, Durning spoke about his wartime