Hollywood lost two veteran actors over the Christmas weekend—Jack Klugman
and Charles Durning. Klugman is best known for his characters as Oscar in the Odd Couple and for the TV Show Quincy, ME. Charles Durning was a veteran character actor with a long resume on the screen and TV.
Both Klugman and Durning served in the Army during WW II. Durning, however was a combat veteran and landed in Normandy in a glider.
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, Bronze Star, and three Purple Heart medals. Additional awards include the World War II Victory Medal.
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 S03E09 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, 1946. — Wiki
Although Klugman was in the Army as well, there is no mention of combat experience in the short time I researched his history. Durning earned our respect not only for his experiences in WW II but also for his acting career.
For me, his most memorable performance was his portrayal of a Marine Medal of Honor recipient on the NCIS TV show. Durning arrives at NCIS to confess the murder of a fellow Marine during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
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. — Wiki
We’re now into the second decade of the Twenty-first Century. We’re losing more of our WW II, Korea and Vietnam veterans every day. Let’s honor them while they are still with us.