One former Prisoner of War (PoW) said of his Hanoi Hilton experience, “We watched John McCain work through torture. He tormented his communist captors. We knew he had great character and he’d be O.K……
Meet Fellow POW Bud Day
By John E. Carey
George E. “Bud” Day served the United States through three wars. After quitting High School he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps for World War II. He served 30 months in the South Pacific. After the war, he used his GI Bill benefits to become a lawyer and a pilot.
During the Korean War Bud Day served two tours flying F-84 fighters.
During the Vietnam War he was shot down, captured by the Communists, escaped, and lived for two weeks off the land and in the jungle before he was captured again.
Bud’s Medal of Honor Citation reads:“On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Col. Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy. Col. Day’s conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.”
Col. Day in dress uniform.
Bud Day is one of my American heroes. He is among a special class of people some Americans can never understand. To me, Bud Day is one of those Americans we can never thank enough.
We honor every single man and woman who ever wore the uniform of the United States on Veterans’ Day. We honor those now gone and those still living. But in one way, I think of Veterans’ Day as “Bud Day Day!”
But Bud is humble and would never hear of it. In fact, he may be a tad embarrassed by this essay.
But Bud teaches us never to give up. This is a most precious gift to many in life. By telling ones self to “Always Persevere,” the largest challenges in life can be overcome.
Bud is the most highly decorated U.S. serviceman since Douglas MacArthur. Because he always persevered.
I interviewed Bud and his wife of fifty-seven years, Doris, for this Veteran’s Day tribute.
When George Day strapped himself into his F-100 on 26 August 1967 for a mission over Vietnam, he had no idea he was about to start a six year odyssey of a prisoner of war.
F-100A with the original short tail fin.
He was a 41 year old veteran of combat in World War II and Korea.
He was in the Vietnam War by choice: at his age and with his experience he could have retired or taken a desk job.
“I went because it was my duty,” Bud told me. “That’s where I needed to be. I had more flying hours than anyone in Southeast Asia. I needed to be there.”
Doris still recalls that day, the day a chaplain, a U.S. Air Force notification officer and a woman from the base Family Services organization notified her that Bud had been shot down. “They were very nice, very professional.”
Among veterans and military people there are so many Bud Day stories, all of them true, that there isn’t room to publish all of them here. One of my favorites is this.
In February, 1971 Bud and several other prisoners at the Hoa Loa camp gathered for a religious service, which was forbidden. The guards burst into the group, carbines at the ready. Bud Day stood calmly and began to sing “The Star Spangled Banner”, our National Anthem. Commander James Bond Stockdale, the highest ranking prisoner, joined in. The entire camp erupted to the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Later Stockdale would write, “Our minds were now free and we knew it.”
Fittingly, five years later, the President of the United States presented the Medal of Honor to Bud Day and his friend James Stockdale in one ceremony.
Mr. Carey is a retired military officer and the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
This was first published in:
The Washington Times
Veterans’ Day November 11, 2006
Rank and organization: Rear Admiral (then Captain), U.S. Navy. Place and date: Hoa Lo prison, Hanoi, North Vietnam, 4 September 1969. Entered service at: Abingdon, Ill. Born: 23 December 1923, Abingdon, Ill..
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners’ of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Adm. Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt. Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Adm. Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm. Stockdale’s valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.