Col. George “Bud” Day, a veteran of three wars and a recipient for the highest award for military gallantry, passed away over the weekend, his wife confirmed to CBS News. He was 88 years of age.
Day dropped out of school and enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War II and served in the Pacific Islands.
After the war, he became a pilot and joined the Air National Guard and eventually the Air Force.
He served in the Korean War, but his most legendary moment came when he was shot down and badly injured in Vietnam in 1967.
He was captured by the Vietcong and spent time in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where he was a cellmate of Sen. John McCain.
Every Medal of honour citation is a bit crazy, but Day’s chronicles an injured and daring escape from his prison camp. It’s absolutely worth the read.
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.
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