Charles Durning’s War: Heroism, Exaggeration, Fabrication? War records don’t match all Durning’s accolades.


When beloved actor Charles Durning died on Christmas Eve, journalists unanimously praised the actor’s storied war record. “[Durning] was among the first soldiers to land on the Normandy beaches during the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944,” wrote The Washington Post. Other news sources and blogs punctuated their obituaries with stories of hand-to-hand combat and escaping Nazi execution squads at the infamous massacre at Malmady.

The truth, however, is more complicated.

As a frequent contributor to the National Memorial Day Concert, Durning shared war memories of his own with millions. In a 2007 Memorial Day speech about D-Day he recalled “I was the second man off my barge, and the first and third man got killed.” But military records show that Charles Durning did not land at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

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