For more than 60 years, Durland Mustain was a fixture in downtown Waynesboro where he repaired and sold all types of watches.
His subtle craftsmanship was refined by his early love of work on watches and clocks. He received form training at a watch repair school in Kansas City, a school he attended on the GI bill. His customers included country singer Ricky Skaggs, who purchased an antique watch.
But it was Mustain’s World War II stint in the Air Force that proved his most daring adventure in life. As a turret gunner on B-26 aircraft, Mustin flew 65 combat missions over Belgium, Germany and France.
“We bombed bridges, highways, railroads and factories,” he recalled at Waynesboro’s Avante Nursing Home where he now lives. “We would do anything to slow the Germans down.”
Mustain said German munition factories were among the factories he helped bomb. Now 93, Mustain was only in his early 20s when serving in World War II.
Fear was something the West Virginia native didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on despite the treacherous nature of his missions. For four hours on each mission, he and others on B-26 two-engine aircraft would find themselves 10,000 to 12,000 feet in the air looking to hit an enemy target below.
“I was just hoping to get back home,” he recalls of his thoughts. “A lot of them (other servicemen) didn’t get back home.” He does remember anti-aircraft hitting the B-26, putting holes in the plane.
Sometimes, Mustain flew two missions in a day.
While serving in World War II, Mustain earned a Distinguished Flying Cross for repairing a hydraulic system on a B-26 while the plane was in air. He also rose to the rank of sergeant.
Two of his brothers also served in World War II. Mustain’s military service came after he attended school in Craigsville, a community where he, his parents and six siblings moved because of his father’s work on the C&O Railroad.
Young Durland spent part of his youth in Craigsville playing shortstop and second base for the school baseball team against teams from R.E. Lee, Churchville and Staunton Military Academy.
This date in history, June 6, marks the 71st anniversary of the Normandy invasion or D-Day as it was called, part of the larger Operation Overlord. It became known as the largest seaborne invasion in history, an event that started the push into the parts of western Europe which had been occupied up until then by German forces.
Eventually, that push led to the liberation of France.
Today, as he enjoys watching baseball and other sporting events at Avante, Mustain reflects on his World War II service. “I think about it, it comes into my mind,” he said, although his military service does not occupy him daily.
He thinks America’s Greatest Generation — a generation he remains a part of — receives the proper recognition for their service protecting and serving the United States.
Story originally published June 6th, 2015 in the News Virginian. Written by Bob Stuart.