Actor Charles Durning talks about D Day

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by the_boy_syrup, Jun 4, 2008.

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  1. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    Found this on Youtube which I thought some members might find interesting
    Many will know Charles Durning from films such as the Sting and Choir Boys also there was an episode of NCIS repeated on C5 a few monthes back which he was in

    Durning served as a soldier in World War II, during which he was awarded a Silver Star, three Purple Heart medals, and a Good Conduct Medal

    On Omaha Beach itself, Pvt. Charles Durning was among the first troops to land

    Durning has said that he still suffers from nightmares about his war experiences

    Durning was wounded by an “S” Mine on June 15, 1944, at Les Mare des Mares. He was transported by the 499th Medical Collection Company 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 thigh, right hand, the frontal region of the head and the interior left chest wall, Durning recovered quickly and was determined to be “fit for duty” on December 6, 1944. Durning was present for the Battle of the Bulge, the German counter-offensive in December 1944.
    He was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge, and was one of the few survivors of the infamous Malmedy massacre of American POWs, perpetrated by a battlegroup under Joachim Peiper of the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler. "He escaped with two others, and returned to find the remainder murdered

    After being wounded in the chest, Durning was repatriated to the United States where he remained in army hospitals, receiving treatment for both physical and psychological wounds

    He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his extraordinary portrayal of a Marine veteran in "Call of Silence", an unusual episode of the television series NCIS, first broadcast November 23, 2004. Clearly 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.[2] 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.
  2. Could not place the name till you mentioned the NCIS programme. Always sticks in my mind when two marines in the programme see he is wearing C M O come to attention and salute.
    • Like Like x 2
  3. Interesting story.

    We take a lot of people to Normandy and its nice to find out about famous people who fought there. Richard Todd of 7 Para and Pegasus Bridge & James Doohan of 13 Field Regiment RCA on Juno beach.

    I have seen the story about Charles Durning at Omaha beach and surviving the Malmedy massacre posted a couple of time before. It would be fascinating to find someone who had been at two iconic incidents.

    However, I'd hesitate to quote this as fact without some additional information.

    What unit was Durning in on Omaha Beach? When he was "One of the first to land on Omaha Beach"; Does this mean he assaulted on D Day at Omaha or did he pass through the beach on D+2?

    What unit was he in at Malmedy? Was this THE massacre at Baugnez Cross roads or some other incident?

    The wikipedia entry says that he served in 386th Anti-aircraft Artillery Battalion which doesn’t seem to have been directly involved on D day or in the Malemedy Massacre.

    I am sure Charles Durning did his bit in the Second World War, but I would like to check exactly what it was.
  4. A close reading shows he was in an infantry unit, was seriously wounded then sent back to the front lines. Unlike the USMC, the US Army did not have a policy of returning wounded to their own units so it's entirely possible he went from an infantry to an Anti-aircraft unit.

    An exceptionally stupid policy that only the rear echelon in DC could come up with.
  5. He would have been extremely lucky indeed to have survived the Baugnez crossroads massacre. The soldiers of SS-Panzerregiment 1 who did the shooting took great care to ensure no witnesses remained, but as at Wormhoudt (also LSSAH), Le Paradis (SS-Totenkopf-Division) & L'Abbe Ardenne (SS-Pz.Gren.Regt.-25) there were always some who lived to testify against the perpetrators.
    Point of interest - does anyone know if Durning was called as a witness in the Malmedy trial?
  6. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    This good enough:
  7. Apparently no-one from the 398th Infantry Regt at Malmedy, it wasn't at the Bulge. He must have escaped one of the other shootings of prisoners and joined the 398th afterward- unless he was in one of the other units represented.

    By about 1400, 113 Americans had been assembled in the field by the Café. They included 90 members of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion (all except three from Battery B), 10 men from the five ambulances, the military policeman who had been on traffic duty at Five Points, the 86th Battalion engineer and 11 men who had been captured by KGr. Peiper before reaching Baugnez–eight from the 32nd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, two from the 200th Field Artillery Battalion and a sergeant from the 23rd Infantry Regiment.
  8. Perhaps whoever briefed M. Larrieu "mis-spoke" about Malmedy? There is a lot of it going around in the USA??
  9. Sorry to go off topic a bit but weren't the Canadians notorious for not taking prisoners after discovering a massacre of their own troops by the Germans?
  10. It's possible. But on the other hand if he was awarded a Silver Star and 3 Purple Hearts (for wounds) as the bio's all say then he was certainly 'in the thick of it'.

    Unlike a lot of medals that the US Army hands out like candy, Silver Stars aren't one of them.
  11. With your FOIA and your Stolen Valour legislation, I am sure Mr Durning is as well decorated as he says - or mad as a badger to think he would get away with it. However once the publicists and the mass media get involved, well all bets are off. "Malmedy" may have been used by some chump of a copy-writer as a proword for "PW massacre at Grid12345678 but which means nothing to Joe Q Public".

    Personally I am fascinated and full of awe of Mr D but would like to see the historical facts clarifed or validated.
  12. The incident you're referring to is L'Abbe Ardenne in Normandy, where Canadian POWs were shot by soldiers of SS-Pz.Gren.Regt-25 (12.SS-Pz.Div. "Hitlerjugend"). The Abbey had a tall tower, which was used by HJ as an OP for their artillery, & the POWs were killed in its grounds. SS-Brigadefuhrer Kurt "Panzer" Meyer was tried by the Canadians after the war for the massacre (he commanded Regt.25 at the time of the massacre) & served about 12 years' imprisonment for it. He was released in 1955, & died not long afterwards. For a detailed account of the Normandy battle, the massacre & Meyer's subsequent trial, read "Meeting of Generals" by Tony Foster - his father commanded 4th Canadian Armd.Div. in Normandy & was the presiding officer at Meyer's trial.
  13. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

    I was impressed with Mr. Durning's military history. I wondered which of the two Ranger BNs he had served with during the Normandy Invasion.

    I checked with various sources of the 2nd and 5th WW II Ranger BN's, as well as other Ranger sources. It seems none could find any record on Mr. Durning having been a member of either Ranger BN., at the Normandy beaches or in any Ranger BN or having served as a Ranger during WW II.

    Part of the 2nd Ranger BN landed along side the 1st ID., the others at Pont Du Hoc.

    As for the rest of his story, I have no reason to doubt it.

    Interesting WW II Ranger website:

    Roster of all WWII Rangers:

    Attached Files:

  14. I have tried finding more about Charles Durning's military service on the Web but all I find are even more preposterous stories.

    So which parts of this are true and which are false?

    It doesn't sound as if he was in one of the Ranger units at Omaha beach on D Day.

    What evidence exists to put Charles Durning at the Malemedy massacre. This is a well documented incident but I can't find any proper sources that show that he was there. This French document is a pretty thorough study of the incident. It lists the names of the occupants of al;most every vehicle in the ambushed convoy. It lists the names of the survivors who made statements about the massacre and the people the corresponded with to write the paper.
    I can't find Charles Duerning's name there. If such a high profile person was a survivor how come hie wasn't contacted? If he returned toi identoify bodies how come there is no statement ?

    There are Wikipedia entires that appear to have "sources" but these are lionks to this document (which doesnlt contain the word Durning in it) or Hollywood fan sites

    The Malmedy massacre wikipedia entry lists Charles Durning as beiung there - but quotes as a source the same sort of Hollywood hero websites that say he was a Ranger on D Day!

    What unit was he serving in when he survived a bayonet attack to bludgeon someone to death with a rock?

    What did he win the silver star for?

    The man obviuously had a tough time that left mental scars. Is some of his wartime story part of the post war reflection rather than fact? In the nicest possible way - did he exaggerate his wartime exploits?

    Can anyone identify precisely what unit Charles Dunring served in and support it with s source?