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Go, Doc Hopper!

April 22nd, 2008 by Mike Nelson · 18 Comments


I’ve always known that actor Charles Durning was a veteran, but now that he is being honored by France, and I see some of the details, I stand in awe:

Actor Charles Durning landed on Normandy’s Omaha Beach as a 17-year-old Army Ranger in June 1944. Before leaving Europe, he was wounded three times and awarded three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star.

The details:

Durning was the only man to survive a machine gun ambush on Omaha Beach – and he had to rise above serious wounds and kill seven German gunners to do it.

Months later in Belgium, he was stabbed eight times by a German teenage soldier wielding a bayonet; Durning eventually bludgeoned him to death with a rock. He was released from the hospital in time to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was taken prisoner. After escaping a subsequent massacre of the other prisoners, he was obliged by American forces to return to the scene and help identify bodies. Finally, a bullet in the chest a few months later ended his relentless tour of duty – and began four years of repeated hospitalizations for his physical and psychological injuries.

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18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tom on Apr 22, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    DAMN! Now that’s hardcore.

  • 2 Amanda on Apr 22, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Whoa. Take that Audie Murphy!

  • 3 Digits on Apr 22, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    And here I though 16 hours of natural childbirth made me tough…

  • 4 Dan Noutko-Kennedy on Apr 22, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Let us all sing the praises of such an unsung hero as Mr. Durning. God bless all those young men who fought, and so many who died, to preserve the freedom of others. Great is the man who sacrifices for another.

  • 5 Fran in the Pan on Apr 22, 2008 at 5:05 pm


  • 6 Roper on Apr 22, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    John 15:13

  • 7 Bill Corbett on Apr 22, 2008 at 7:36 pm


    I got this from Roper’s comment below, but thought I’d embed it. It’s worth seeing.

  • 8 SarahCanuck on Apr 22, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Wow. That is incredible.
    Lord, how close the world came to being overtaken by such hideous evil.
    Wow. What an incredible man. And it’s so awful that so many young, young men were forced to be incredible.
    Lest we forget.

  • 9 andrew on Apr 23, 2008 at 4:23 am

    Dang – I have newfound respect for Pappy O’Daniel.

  • 10 Tim D on Apr 23, 2008 at 6:06 am

    Freedom certainly isn’t free. Godspeed, Mr. Durning, and to all who fight and have fought for us.

  • 11 Queen Bee on Apr 23, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Truly a real-life hero. Mike, thanks so much for highlighting this.

    I foresee a new Chuck Norris-like Internet phenomenon for Mr. Durning– only instead of his tears curing cancer, he’ll bludgeon Nazis to death with rocks. For real. America is so fortunate to have had (and still have!) men like him.

  • 12 Krunchy on Apr 23, 2008 at 9:10 am

    What a wonderful story, one that yuo’d thikn by now would’ve been a made for TV special, starring ummm, Charles Durning, and hopefully Burt Reynolds as Hitler.

    The only thing I can think of is, in the Chuck Norris movies, I don’t wanna serve with THAT guy. It’s just gonna end up getting me killed, and then Chuck Norris will have to avenge my death, All well and good that my death will be avenged, but still, I’m dead! It’s like the military version of the red shirt.

  • 13 R.A. Roth on Apr 23, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Screw Steven Segal. This man was the original Hard to Kill!


  • 14 dave on Apr 23, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Charles Durning is a bad man. I have nothing but respect after reading that.

  • 15 Lord-z on Apr 23, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Move over, Chuck Norris. There is a new badass in town!

  • 16 Teaser on Apr 24, 2008 at 3:17 am

    Stabbed 8 times with a bayonet,then bludgeoned him to death with a rock…..Good lord……it would take me 50 years just to get over that alone……..A true Hero Mr.Durning is…Oh and he was great in The Sting

  • 17 Kip on Apr 24, 2008 at 10:44 am

    I in no way would want to steal Rufus T. Crisp’s (Harry and Walter go to New York) thunder, but Eddie Albert, another fine actor who wasn’t about to take any crap from the Axis powers.

  • 18 jewishcarpenter on Apr 25, 2008 at 9:04 am

    That’s pretty incredible although he was born in 1923 which would have made him 21 when he stepped foot on Normandy, not 17. Strange that PBS would get that wrong. There’s also other sources saying he was part of the 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) rather than a Ranger. It’s kinda hard to to glean accurate info on Mr. Durning, stupid internets. At any rate the only thing that no one has messed up are the injuries and medals he received for his service.