NO. 17388 • 30 May 1928 - 26 Jan 2002
Died in La Jolla, CA
Cremated and inurned in West Point Columbarium, West Point, NY
JAY BERNARD DURST was born in Garrett, PA, and grew up in Windber, PA, the home town of his father, Floyd, and his mother, Edith Virginia Durst.
He attended Pennsylvania Military Academy before West Point. As a cadet, Jay was an outstanding student, ranking 42nd among 670. The Howitzer says that "Jay delighted in giving valuable instructions to his classmates. He enjoyed weekends, sports, good books, and music. His cheerfulness, timely humor, and likeable personality all combine to make him the warm friend he is to everyone." He was the athletic representative for his company, participated on the debate forum, became a chapel usher and, during First Class year, was selected as a cadet lieutenant.
Jay chose the Infantry and, after graduation, his first assignment was with the 351st Infantry Regiment in the Free Territory of Trieste. While that area was not a war zone as was Korea, the regiment was kept on a constant state of readiness, prepared to counter any initiative by the Yugoslav Communists on a portion of Trieste's border and by the Italian Communists within the city itself.
Bill Mastoris, a classmate who served with Jay at that time, said that Jay aggressively trained his troops in soldier skills and was a no-nonsense, tough leader who impressed both his troops and his superiors.
Jay's battalion commander selected him for a special training course with the U.S. Marine battalion afloat in the Mediterranean, including participation in live-fire amphibious landings on Sardinia. "This inter-service training provided Jay with invaluable experiences that stood him in good stead in many future assignments."
Jay later attended Harvard University and earned a master's degree in public administration in 1955. A three-year assignment at West Point in the Social Sciences Department followed. The next sequence of assignments included Ft. Benning, Korea, Ft. Lewis, and back to West Point to teach in the same department. During 1965-66, he served with the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Viet Nam, where he distinguished himself in combat, receiving the purple Heart, Bronze Star for valor, the Legion of Merit, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, Viet Nam Gallantry Cross with Silver Star, and the Viet Nam Honor Medal.
He later served on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon as the special assistant for counter intelligence, attended the Army War College in 1969, and was the director of concepts and doctrine group, Office of the Army Chief of Staff. He then commanded the 5th Special Forces Group at Ft. Bragg, where he worked for LTG Hank Emerson '47, the commanding general of the JFK Center.
LTG Emerson remembers Jay as a highly skilled soldier and leader who produced the best-trained and best-led Special Force soldiers in the world. LTG Emerson selected Jay as the chief of staff of the center, from which position he retired in 1973. LTG Emerson commented that Jay's early retirement denied the Army of many more years of faithful and valuable service, and that Jay's flexible range of creative ideas and concepts certainly would have led him to general officer rank.
Following his retirement, Jay joined the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC. In 1983, he moved to La Jolla, CA, where he became the director of security for the Southern California Edison Company. Jay is survived by his wife, Patricia, and his four children from an earlier marriage: Gretchen, Evangeline, Mark, and David. Jay served his country with great distinction and lived by the West Point code of "Duty, Honor, Country." He will be missed by all who knew him.
- His wife, Patricia and classmates Jordy Seitz and Bill Mastoris