Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas - For Most of Us

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas today and you’re day will be all you wish it to be and more than you deserve.

But no so happy for the Jack Klugman and Charles Durning families.   Both are well know actors and WWII veterans who passed away yesterday, Dec. 24th.

Klugman, who started acting after his discharge from the US Army appared in many movies and stared in several television shows, two of which were The Odd Couple and Quincy MD.

Durning was a true WWII hero.  According to Wikipedia, 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 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.

(There is also a story that he was also captured during the Battle of the Bulge but escaped and was one of the survivors when the Germans halted the convoy of trucks carrying the POW’s in pretense of a rest stop.  They then began to machine gun the POW’s.  Durning was one of the few to escape.  He, along with a small group of men, made it back to US lines and rejoined the fight.)

After being wounded again, this time in the chest, Durning was repatriated 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.

Though he rarely talkd about his service, on Veterans Day and Memorial Day celebrations in Washington, he did talk about them in the 3rd person.  His description of D-Day and the bravery and devastation he witnessed could bring tears to the eyes.  It did his on several occasions.  He was such an amazing actor and an incredibly humble man.

Charles Durning was a true American Hero and, though I don’t know the details of his funeral, I believe he deserves to be buried with full honors in Arlington.

So say a prayer, or whatever you do for people on special occasions, for the families of these two men and don’t forget the guys and gals serving today.  They are sacrificing their family Christmas so that we can enjoy ours.

Eat hardy, My Peeps!


NavyOne said...

Ah, Charles Durning? God bless him. Always liked his acting. . . Merry Christmas!

middle child said...

And Bless you Coffey!