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Charles Durning, Actor And War Hero, Dies On Christmas Eve At 89!

David Klein, Getty Images

Actor Charles Durning, a two-time Oscar nominee, has died at age 89.

He was most famous for his roles in “Tootsie,” “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “The Sting,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” and for his Tony-Award winning performance on Broadway as Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and on television for his co-starring role with Burt Reynolds in “Evening Shade.”

Durning, one of the most prolific character actors of the last thirty years, was also a bona fide World War II hero. He was awarded a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.

He participated in the Battle of the Bulge.  Just one week before Christmas, 1944, Durning’s Army battalion was captured by a German Panzer division near Malmedy, Belgium.  The Germans herded the American troops into trucks and transported them to a famer’s frozen field.  They they were machine gunned in what is now known as the Malmedy Massacre.  It was the largest such massacre inflicted on the U.S. military in the war.  80 U.S. troops were slaughtered.

Durning was in this battlaion and just before the machine-guns opened up, several in the battalion took off for the nearby woods.  Durning was one of them and he escaped the massacre, found his fellow soldiers and brought them to the scene where the frozen bodies of his comrades were found.  Durning was one of 43 survivors of the massacre..

Durning was born in the Catskill Mountain village of Highland Falls, N.Y.

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