Colonel Bud Day: Soldier who was held prisoner by the Vietcong for over five years

 

George "Bud" Day, who died on 27 July aged 88, spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and was John McCain's cellmate. One of the most highly decorated US servicemen since General MacArthur, he was later a tireless advocate for veterans' rights.

Day received the Medal of Honor for escaping his captors for 10 days after his aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. He earned more than 70 medals during service in the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam.

In Vietnam, he was McCain's cellmate at a camp known as the Plantation and later in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where he was often the highest-ranking captive and was hung by his arms for days, tearing them from their sockets. He was freed in 1973, a skeletal shadow of the once dashing fighter pilot. His hands and arms never functioned properly again. "I was just living day to day," he recalled. "One really bad cold and I would have been dead."

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 honour."

Born in 1925, in Sioux City, Iowa, where the airport is named after him, Day joined the Marines in 1942 while in high school. He entered the Iowa National Guard in 1950 and attended flight school. He did two tours as a bomber pilot in the Korean War. He was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967; he bailed out, but the landing broke his knee and arm and left him temporarily blinded in one eye.

After the war Day retired to the Florida Panhandle in 1977 and practiced law, becoming a crusader for veterans' health care benefits. He was active in McCain's failed 2000 and 2008 Republican presidential bids and in 2004 campaigned against his fellow Vietnam veteran John Kerry.

Day retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel, never attaining his general's star. He said he believed he wasn't promoted further because he "told it like it was ... When I returned from prison, there was a huge amount of the Air Force leadership that were not combat-oriented. They were quasi-political managers."

Campaigning for McCain in his 2008 presidential bid, Day drew comparisons between the lessons of Vietnam and the dangers of an early pull-out from Iraq. "They cut off funding to the South Vietnamese Army and we ended up being defeated, and that's really very relevant to what's happening right now," Day said.

Day worked throughout his life, accepting an appointment to head the Okaloosa County Public Defender's Office in 2009 at the age of 83.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links