Bud Day was born on February 24, 1925. He dropped out of high school in 1942 to join the Marine Corps where he spent thirty months overseas in the Pacific Theatre, leaving active service in 1945. He joined the Army Reserve, acquired a Juris Doctor from the University of South Dakota in 1949, and a BS and Doctor of Humane Letters from Morningside College, Sioux City, Iowa.
The “smartest move of my life”, says Bud was his marrying Doris Marlene Sorensen in 1949. Bud was recalled by the USAF as a Second Lieutenant in 1951 and he attended jet pilot training followed by two tours in Korea and four years flying fighters in England (He made Air Force history with the first no-chute bailout from an F-84-F in 1957!)
The Days adopted their first son, Steven, and were soon reassigned as Commandant of Cadets, St. Louis University, Missouri. Bud acquired a Master of Arts in political science. They adopted a second son, George E. Jr., in 1963 and the family spent three years in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where Colonel Day flew fighters. The family was increased by twin adopted girls, Sandra M., and Sonja M., just before Bud was assigned to fly an F-100 fighter bomber in South Vietnam. After seventy-two missions, he was reassigned as Commander of MISTY, the first jet FAC unit flying in North Vietnam. He was shot down on the sixty-seventh mission while striking a missile site. During ejection, he had three breaks in his right arm and a dislocated left knee.
Colonel Day was the Commander of several Vietnamese prisons, the Zoo, Heartbreak Hotel, Skidrow, and Misty and Eagle Squadrons. He was incarcerated for sixty-seven months and executed the only successful escape from North Vietnam into the South. He was recaptured near Quang Tri City, South Vietnam, after about two weeks of freedom. He was shot in the left leg and hand and had shrapnel wounds in his right leg. For this, he was heavily tortured, since he was labeled as having a “bad attitude.” He was “hung”, his arms were broken and paralyzed.
As Commander of the Barn in the Zoo, he was the last of the “Old Heads” tortured – a four-month stretch in irons, solo, and massive beatings with the fan belt and “rope”. Of six, he was one of three who survived from Heartbreak Hotel in 1970.
Asked many times what sustained Americans in this environment, Colonel Day answers: “I am, and have been all my life, a loyal American. I have faith in my country and am secure in the knowledge that my country is a good nation, responsible to the people of the United States and responsible to the world community of nations. I believed in my wife and children and rested secure in the knowledge that they backed both me and my country. I believe in God and that he will guide me and my country in paths of honorable conduct. I believe in the Code of Conduct of the U.S. fighting man. I believe the most important thing in my life was to return from North Vietnam with honor, not just to return. If I could not return with my honor, I did not care to return at all. I believe that in being loyal to my country that my country will be loyal to me. My support of our noble objectives will make the world a better place in which to live.”
Note: Colonel Day has written a book telling of his experiences in more detail. It is entitled, “Return with Honor.”
Colonel Day’s decorations include our nation’s highest – the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Purple Heart, POW Medal, and other Vietnam service awards and medals. He has numerous awards and medals from his service prior to Vietnam.
His family resides in Glendale, Arizona. His wife was intensely active in POW/MIA affairs and was chosen TAC wife of the year as well as receiving other honors for service to the POW-MIA cause.