At the age 17, George “Bud” Day worked his parents over to permit him to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942. He then went on for the next 31 years through World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War — receiving the Medal of Honor on March 14, 1973. Day died Saturday, July 28. He was one of the nation’s most highly decorated servicemen since Gen. Douglas MacArthur, receiving nearly 70 medals and awards, more than 50 for combat missions.
During World War II, Day served in the South Pacific returning home to go to college for a law degree. He then entered the Iowa National Guard in 1950, where he attended flight school. The Wall Street Journal opined the other day, “After serving as a U.S. Marine in World War II, a normal man might have concluded that he had done more than his share of military service. And anyone still alive after his parachute failed to open upon ejection from an Air Force jet in the 1950s would consider it a military career. But Col. George E. “Bud” Day … kept putting himself in harm’s way.” Day completed two tours in the Korean War as a bomber pilot. By 1955 he was ranked captain and became what is known as “lifer” in the Air Force.
According to the book “Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty: “In 1967, Day now a major, was put in command of a squadron of F-100s in Vietnam involved in a top-secret program. Nicknamed the Misty Super Facs, their mission was to fly over North Vietnam and Laos as ‘forward air controllers.’ On Aug. 26, ground fire hit Day’s plane, destroying its hydraulic controls and forcing it into a steep dive. When he ejected, he smashed against the fuselage and broke his arm in three places. North Vietnamese militiamen below, seeing his parachute open, were waiting for him when he landed.
”Day spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and was John McCain’s cellmate.”
McCain said he owed his life to Day. “He was the bravest man I ever knew, and his fierce resistance and resolute leadership set the example for us in prison of how to return home with honor,” McCain said.
Day was routinely tortured and in 1971 when prisoners met for a religious service that was prohibited, Vietnam solders burst in with rifles to breakup the gathering. Day jumped up staring at the rifles and started singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The rest of the prisoners joined in.
I first met Bud Day and his wife Doris (who always got a reaction from folks because of the actress Doris Day) in September 2008 at the Minneapolis Hilton Hotel. Day, sporting his infamous leather jacket and a big smile, looked sharp as heck. I remember him talking to me about the great young men and women of today who serve this country and how they are as good as they get – this coming from a man who had seen it all. Doris herself was as perky and self-assured as anyone.
Day died in his Florida home and shortly after Doris said, “He would have died in my arms if I could have picked him up.”
Back to the Journal’s remembrance, “What a Hero Looks Like: Bud Day was perhaps the bravest of the brave at the Hanoi Hilton.” Hats off to Colonel Bud Day—Semper Fi.
Quote of the day: “I was put thru a mock execution because I would not respond to the Communist interrogators. Exhausted, they pistol whipped me on the head. A couple of days later, I was hung by my feet all day. I escaped the prison into the jungles with not food and little water and a couple of weeks later, I got shot and recaptured. Being shot was OK … what happened afterwards was not.” — Col. George E. “Bud” Day.
Bart Ward is the chief executive officer of Ward & Co. Ltd., an Anoka-based registered investment adviser – specializing in the management of stock and bond portfolios in companies which are listed on the NYSE.