Tuesday, December 25, 2012

War hero and actor Charles Durning dies on Christmas Eve

World War II Memorial, Washington
Charles Durning, a versatile character actor best know for his role as the embarrassed suitor of Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, died on Christmas Eve. He was 90.

He was also a war hero who survived a Dickensian childhood and years of struggle before finding success as performer.

From Reuters:
Durning grew up in Highland Falls, New York, and was 12 years old when his Irish-born father died of the effects of mustard gas exposure in World War One. He had nine siblings and five of his sisters died of smallpox or scarlet fever - three within a two-week period.

Durning was part of the U.S. force that landed at Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion in June 1944. A few days later he was shot in the hip - he said he carried the bullet in his body thereafter - and after six months of recovery was sent to the Battle of the Bulge.

Durning, who was wounded twice more, was captured and was one of the few survivors of the Malmedy massacre when German troops opened fire on dozens of American prisoners. In addition to three Purple Heart medals for his wounds, Durning was presented the Silver Star for valor.

At an observation of the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Washington, Durning told of the terror he felt and carnage he saw when hitting the beach on D-Day. He said he had to jettison his weapon and gear in order to swim ashore and saw mortally wounded comrades offering themselves as human shields.
Rest in peace.

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