Today in History – August 26, 1967 – George “Bud” Day is Shot Down and Taken Prisoner Twice

26 August 1967 – Major George “Bud” Day was Misty 3 serving with the 416TFS/3TFW out of Phan Rang AB in Vietnam. On his 26th Fast FAC sortie, directing a flight of F-105 Thunderchiefs in an airstrike against a surface-to-air missile (SAM) site north of Thon Cam Son[8] and west of Đồng Hới, 20 mi (32 km) north of the DMZ in North Vietnam.

Day was on his 65th mission into North Vietnam and acting as check pilot for Captain Corwin M. “Kipp” Kippenhan, who was upgrading to aircraft commander. 37 mm antiaircraft fire crippled the aircraft, forcing the crew to eject. In the ejection, Day’s right arm was broken in three places when he struck the side of the cockpit, and he also received eye and back injuries.

Kippenhan was rescued by a USAF HH-3E, but Day was unable to contact the rescue helicopter by survival radio and was quickly captured by North Vietnamese local militia. On his fifth night, when he was still within 20 miles (32 kilometers) of the DMZ, Day escaped from his initial captors despite his serious injuries. Although stripped of both his boots and flight suit, Day crossed the DMZ back into South Vietnam. Within 2 miles (3 kilometers) of the U.S. Marine firebase at Con Thien and after 12 to 15 days of evading, he was captured again, this time by a Viet Cong patrol that wounded him in the leg and hand with gunfire.

Taken back to his original camp, Day was tortured for escaping, breaking his right arm again. He then was moved to several prison camps near Hanoi, where he was periodically beaten, starved, and tortured. In December 1967, Day shared a cell with Navy Lt. Cdr. and future senator and presidential candidate John McCain. Air Force major Norris Overly nursed both back to health, and McCain later devised a makeshift splint of bamboo and rags that helped heal Day’s seriously atrophied arm.[9][10]

On 14 March 1973, Day was released after five years and seven months as a North Vietnamese prisoner. Within three days Day was reunited with his wife, Doris Sorensen Day, and four children at March Air Force Base, California. On 4 March 1976, President Gerald Ford awarded Day the Medal of Honor for his personal bravery while a captive in North Vietnam.

Day had been promoted to colonel while a prisoner, and he decided to remain in the Air Force in hopes of being promoted to brigadier general. Although initially too weak to resume operational flying, he spent a year in physical rehabilitation and with 13 separate medical waivers, he was returned to active flying status. He underwent conversion training to the F-4 Phantom II and was appointed vice commander of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Day, in 2008, said of his imprisonment, “As awful as it sounds, no one could say we did not do well. …[Being a POW] was a major issue in my life and one that I am extremely proud of. I was just living day-to-day. One bad cold and I would have been dead.”[11]

Prior to his August 1967 ejection, Day had bailed from his F-100 while stationed at Royal Air Force Wethersfield in the United Kingdom through June 1959. It was during this time that he had to bail out of a jet fighter without a parachute, becoming the first person ever to live through such a feat.[3] According to Day, a 30-foot (9.1 m) pine tree cushioned his fall.[4]

Day’s actions from 26 August 1967 through 14 March 1973 were the last to earn the Medal of Honor prior to the end of U.S. involvement in the war on 30 April 1975, though some honorees (e.g. Leslie H. Sabo Jr., honored on 16 May 2012) were cited for their medals after Day’s recognition on 4 March 1976. Having earned over 70 awards, decorations, and medals, Day is considered to be the most decorated United States military officer since Douglas MacArthur.[1][2]

George “Bud” Day was a United States Air Force officer, aviator, and veteran of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War. He was also a prisoner of war, and recipient of the Medal of Honor and Air Force Cross. As of 2016, he was the only person to be awarded both the Medal of Honor and Air Force Cross. He was posthumously advanced to the rank of brigadier general effective March 27, 2018, as directed by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Bud Day served in the

  • United States Marine Corps (1942–45)
  • United States Army (1946–49)
  • Iowa Air National Guard (1950–55)
  • United States Air Force (1955–77)

Source: Dewey’s List and Wikipedia

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