Charles Durning WWII Veteran.

Charles Durning

Anyone who knows movies will know the name Charles Durning. He has starred in so many classic movies in a variety of genres, comedies, thrillers, musicals/ Movies like “Dog day afternoon”, “The Choirboys” ot “The best little whorehouse in Texas” the list is endless. Additionally he has also starred in a great number of TV shows.

But his illustrious career as an actor nearly didn’t happen. Charles was one of the many brave men who landed in Normandy on the 6th of June, 1944-D-Day, at age 21.

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Even though he survived the initial assault reasonably  unscathed, he was injured by a German mine a few days later which earned him  a Purple Heart. After a recovery period of  six months, he was put back on the front lines to combat the German Ardennes offensive. In the battle of the Bulge.

During a German attack, Charles recalled that a particularly young soldier charged him, however  Charles couldn’t bring himself to fire. The two engaged in battle by using  their bayonets, and Charles got wounded again during the fight. Charles did manage to kill the German infantryman, with a rock .. After the offensive, He received his second Purple Heart.

He was discharged in January 1946 as a private first class.

He died on December 24, 2012, Christmas Eve, which is ironic because he played Santa Claus 6 times(Once as Kris Kringle)

A truly remarkable actor and human being. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Charles

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Sources

IMDB

Military.com

 

Blood in the snow-Continuing evil in the Ardennes.

++++CONTAINS SHOCKING IMAGES+++++++++

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Although the German army had one last offence left in them,it must have become quite clear to them that despite the early success during the Battle of the Bulge, the war was coming to an end and they would be at the losing side of it.

Rather then accepting the inevitable in dignity, some of the German troops continued in an evil and brutal way.

The pictures below contain graphic images.

A war correspondent looks down at the dead body of a young Belgian boy, murdered by Nazi soldiers.

Stavelot, Belgium. December, 1945.

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The bodies of Belgian civilians litter the streets.
Belgium. Dec. 15, 1944.

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The blasted ruins of Bastogne after a raid by German bombers.
Bastogne, Belgium. Dec. 26, 1944.

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American soldiers, stripped of their equipment and one robbed of his boots, lie dead at the crossroads. Honsfeld, Belgium. Dec. 17, 1944.

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The scene of the Malmedy Massacre.
About 70 soldiers are stripped of their weapons, sent out into a field, and gunned down unarmed by Nazis soldiers after surrendering. Malmedy, Belgium. Dec. 17, 1944

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Another picture from the site of the Malmedy Massacre, where American prisoners-of-war were gunned down, defenseless and unarmed, by their Nazi captors.

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At a Belgian crossroads in the early hours of the battle of the Bulge, German soldiers strip boots and other equipment from three dead GIs. After U.S. troops captured this film, an Army censor redacted the road sign to Büllingen and other landmarks.

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Christmas in Belgium- ‘White’ Christmas at the Battle of the Bulge

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Bing Crosby sang “I am dreaming of a white Christmas” and made it sound like a magical event.

However for the men stuck in the Belgian Ardennes, a white Christmas was probably the last thing they wanted.But they did get the snow, in fact it was one the coldest and harshest winters on record.

Following are some impressions of Christmas during the Battle of the Bulge.

Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe and his staff celebrate Christmas in the barracks, surrounded by Nazi soldiers. Bastogne, Belgium. Dec. 25, 1944.

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On the road to liberate Bastogne, the 5th Armored Regiment gathers around a tank and opens their Christmas presents. Eupen, Belgium. Dec. 25, 1944.

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Three GI’s proudly display the unit’s Christmas tree. December 1944

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Sergeant John Opanowski of the 10th Armoured Division, emerges from a dug-out built under snow in the Bastogne area.

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Battle of the Bulge

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On December 16 1944, the Germans launched the last major offensive of the war, Operation Mist, also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Battle of the Bulge, an attempt to push the Allied front line west from northern France to northwestern Belgium. The Battle of the Bulge, so-called because the Germans created a “bulge” around the area of the Ardennes forest in pushing through the American defensive line, was the largest fought on the Western front.

The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armored forces, and they were largely unable to replace them.

Rather then going into too much details about the battle it is better to show it in pictures.

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American engineers emerge from the woods and move out of defensive positions after fighting in the  vicinity of Bastogne.

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Three members, of an American patrol, Sgt. James Storey, of Newman, Ga., Pvt. Frank A. Fox, of Wilmington, Del., and Cpl. Dennis Lavanoha, of Harrisville, N.Y., cross a snow-covered Luxembourg field on a scouting mission in Lellig, Luxembourg, Dec. 30, 1944. White bedsheets camouflage them in the snow.

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German troops advancing past abandoned American equipment

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American soldiers of the 3rd Battalion 119th Infantry Regiment are taken prisoner by members of Kampfgruppe Peiper in Stoumont, Belgium on 19 December 1944.

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An American soldier escorts a German crewman from his wrecked Panther tank during the Battle of Elsenborn Ridge

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British Sherman “Firefly” tank in Namur on the Meuse River, December 1944

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Belgian civilians killed by German units during the offensive

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U.S. POWs on 22 December 1944

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German field commanders plan the advance.

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An American artilleryman shaves in frigid cold, using a helmet for a shaving bowl,

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nfantrymen fire at German troops in the advance to relieve the surrounded paratroopers in Bastogne

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GIs of the 413th Infantry Regiment, 104th Infantry

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General Anthony Clement “Nuts” McAuliffe

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General Anthony Clement “Nuts” McAuliffe (July 2, 1898 – August 11, 1975) was a senior United States Army officer, who earned fame as the acting commander of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge towards the end of World War II.

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On December 22, 1944, at about 11:30 in the morning, a group of four German soldiers, waving two white flags, approached the American lines using the Arlon Road from the direction of Remoifosse, south of Bastogne.

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The group consisted of two officers and two enlisted men. The senior officer was a Major Wagner of the 47th Panzer Corps. The junior officer, Lt. Hellmuth Henke of the Panzer Lehr Operations Section, was carrying a briefcase under his arm. The two enlisted men had been selected from the 901st Panzer Grenadier Regiment.

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The Americans defending in that location were members of F Company of the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The Germans walked past a bazooka team in a foxhole in front of the Kessler farm and stopped in front of the foxhole of PFC Leo Palma, a B.A.R. gunner. Palma described the officers as wearing long overcoats and shiny black boots. Lieutenant Henke, who spoke English said, “I want to see the commanding officer of this section.” Palma was at a loss for words, but Staff Sergeant Carl E. Dickinson who had been manning a position nearby walked out to the road and called the group over to him. The Germans explained that they had a written message to be presented to the American Commander in Bastogne.

Henke said they would consent to being blindfolded and taken to the American Commanding Officer. In fact, they had brought blindfolds with them. Henke blindfolded Wagner and Dickinson blindfolded Henke. As the blindfolds were being applied, Dickinson was joined by PFC Ernest Premetz, a German-speaking medic of his platoon who offered to serve as an interpreter. However no interpreter was needed.

General von Lüttwitzgeneral-heinrich-freiherr-von-luttwitz dispatched the  party, to deliver an ultimatum. Entering the American lines southeast of Bastogne (occupied by Company F, 2nd Battalion, 327th Glider Infantry), the German party delivered the following to Gen. McAuliffe

The German surrender demand was typewritten on two sheets. One was in English, the other in German. They had been typed on an English typewriter as indicated by the fact that the diacritical marks required on the German copy had been entered by hand.

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According to those present when McAuliffe received the German message, he read it, crumpled it into a ball, threw it in a wastepaper basket, and muttered, “Aw, nuts”. The officers in McAuliffe’s command post were trying to find suitable language for an official reply when Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard suggested that McAuliffe’s first response summed up the situation pretty well, and the others agreed.

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The official reply was typed and delivered by Colonel Joseph Harper, commanding the 327th Glider Infantry, to the German delegation.

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It was as follows:

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The German major appeared confused and asked Harper what the message meant. Harper said, “In plain English? Go to hell.” The choice of “Nuts!” rather than something earthier was typical for McAuliffe. Vincent Vicari, his personal aide at the time, recalled that “General Mac was the only general I ever knew who did not use profane language. ‘Nuts’ was part of his normal vocabulary.”

(Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe and his staff gathered inside Bastogne’s Heintz Barracks for Christmas dinner Dec. 25th, 1944. This military barracks served as the Division Main Command Post during the siege of Bastogne, Belgium during WWII. The facility is now a museum known as the “Nuts Cave”.)

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The artillery fire did not materialize, although several infantry and tank assaults were directed at the positions of the 327th Glider Infantry. In addition, the German Luftwaffe attacked the town, bombing it nightly. The 101st held off the Germans until the 4th Armored Division arrived on December 26 to provide reinforcement.

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For his actions at Bastogne, McAuliffe was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by General Patton on December 30, 1944, followed later by the Distinguished Service Medal.

Immediately after Bastogne, McAuliffe was promoted to Major General and given command of the 103rd Infantry Division on January 15, 1945, his first divisional command assignment, which he retained until July 1945. Under McAuliffe, the 103rd reached the Rhine Valley, March 23, and engaged in mopping up operations in the plain west of the Rhine River. In April 1945, the division was assigned to occupational duties until April 20, when it resumed the offensive. Pursuing a fleeing enemy through Stuttgart and taking Münsingen on April 24. On April 27, elements of the division entered Landsberg, where Kaufering concentration camp, a subcamp of Dachau, was liberated. The 103rd crossed the Danube River near Ulm on April 26. On May 3, 1945, the 103rd captured Innsbruck, Austria, with little to no fighting. It then seized the Brenner Pass and met the 88th Infantry Division of the U.S. Fifth Army at Vipiteno, Italy, thereby joining the Italian and Western European fronts.

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One of the soldiers whom McAuliffe awarded the Silver Star to was the baseball player, Sidney Kohlsachs. However, Kohlsachs would become known for not accepting the medal because, as he put it, “My fallen brothers are much more deserving than I.”

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The Wereth Massacre

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On December 16, 1944, the Germans launched their last great offensive against the Western Allies through the Ardennes Forest of eastern Belgium. It would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. Three German Armies attacked a long a 50-mile front. American troops manning the line were thrown into confusion. Even the high command was stunned. Stabilizing the line was first priority and many of the units available were African American. One of them was the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion.

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From the battle emerged a multitude of heroes and villains. The brutality rivaled that of the Eastern Front; no quarter was given. Incidents like the Malmedy Massacre became well-known. On the afternoon of December 17, 1944, over 80 GIs who had been taken prisoner were gunned down by men of the 1st SS Panzer Division.

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Some escaped to spread the story, which led to a steely resolve on the part of American troops. But later that night another massacre occurred that received little attention during or after the war.

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Eleven men from the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion were taken prisoner after taking refuge in a Belgian village. They surrendered peacefully to a squad from the 1stSS panzer division, and marched out of the village. Upon arriving in a large field along the main road, the men were beaten and finally executed.

The remains of the 11 troops were found by Allied soldiers six weeks later, in mid-February, after the Allies re-captured the area. The Germans had battered the soldiers’ faces, cut their fingers off, broken their legs, used bayonettes to stab them in the eye, and shot at least one soldier while he was bandaging a comrade’s wounds.

The troops killed were:

  • Staff Sergeant Thomas J. Forte, service #34036992. Buried Henri-Chapelle plot C, row 11, grave 55. Awards: Purple Heart
  • T/4 William Edward Pritchett of Alabama
  • T/4 James A. Stewart of West Virginia, Service number 35744547. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot C, row 11, grave 2. Awards: Purple Heart
  • Cpl Mager Bradley of Mississippi
  • PFC George Davis of Alabama, service #34553436. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot D, row 10, grave 61. Awards: Purple Heart
  • PFC James L. Leatherwood of Pontotoc, Mississippi
  • PFC George W. Moten of Texas, service #38304695. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot E, row 10, grave 29. Awards: Purple Heart
  • PFC Due W. Turner of Arkansas, service #38383369. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot F, row 5, grave 9. Awards: Purple Heart
  • Pvt Curtis Adams of South Carolina, service #34511454. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot C, row 11, grave 41. Awards: Purple Heart
  • Pvt Robert Green
  • Pvt Nathanial Moss of Texas, service #38040062. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot F, row 10, grave 8. Awards: Purple Heart

Curtis Adams was a medic. Thomas J. Forte was a mess sergeant.

 

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