Colonel Bud Day, American Hero, Dead at 88

Colonel Bud Day, who earned a Medal of Honor leading Vietnam POWs, had died, aged 88 years.

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Colonel Bud Day, who earned a Medal of Honor leading Vietnam POWs, had died, aged 88 years.

AP (“Col. Bud Day, Medal of Honor Recipient, Dies at 88“):

Retired Col. George “Bud” Day, a Medal of Honor recipient who spent 5½ years as a POW in Vietnam and was Arizona Sen. John McCain’s cellmate, has died at the age of 88, his widow said Sunday.

Day, one of the nation’s most highly decorated servicemen since Gen. Douglas MacArthur and later a tireless advocate for veterans’ rights, died Saturday surrounded by family at his home in Shalimar, after a long illness, Doris Day said.

“He would have died in my arms if I could have picked him up,” she said.

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

He was an enlisted Marine serving in the Pacific during World War II and an Air Force pilot in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

In Vietnam, he was McCain’s cellmate at one camp known as the Plantation and later in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where he was often the highest-ranking captive. During his imprisonment, the once-muscular, 5-foot-9 Day was hung by his arms for days, tearing them from their sockets. He was freed in 1973 — a skeletal figure of the once dashing fighter pilot. His hands and arms never functioned properly again.

“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,” he said in a 2008 interview with The Associated Press. “One really bad cold and I would have been dead.”

In a statement Sunday, McCain called Day a great patriot and said he owed his life to the man. “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 honor,” McCain said.

Because he went into politics, everyone knows the story of John McCain’s heroism during his brutal captivity in Vietnam. Bud Day was John McCain’s hero.

UPDATE: Here’s McCain’s full statement:

Today brings the sad news that my dear friend and comrade, Colonel George E. ‘Bud’ Day, USAF (Ret.) has passed away. I owe my life to Bud, and much of what I know about character and patriotism. 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 honor. I will have much more to say about Bud’s courage, kindness and sense of honor and duty this week. For now, I want to draw Americans’ attention to the passing of this good man and great patriot, and to extend my deepest, most heartfelt condolences to Bud’s wife, Dorie and his children. I will miss him terribly.

Again, McCain knows a lot of brave men.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Obituaries, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    The right stuff…

  2. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san: Yep. I’m sure Chuck Yeagar and John Glenn had heroes, too.

  3. PJ says:

    “I draw a direct comparison to General Benedict Arnold of the Revolutionary War to Lt. John Kerry,” Day said in 2004. “Both went off to war, fought, and then turned against their country.”

    Day called Crist’s primary opponent Marco Rubio “a Hispanic who can run his mouth.” He referred to President Barack Obama as “the black one.”

  4. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @PJ: Col. Day wouldn’t be the only person to voice extreme opinions in their old age, opinions they wouldn’t necessarily have uttered in good health. Happened with my father and uncle also.

  5. rudderpedals says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: Do you think Day was afflicted with dementia and/or delirium?

  6. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @rudderpedals: It’s possible.

  7. Robert Shirley says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: I had a lot of foolish thoughts when I was young, I still have those thoughts only now they seem foolish, could be I just grew up, some people never have the opportunity.

  8. Robert Shirley says:

    @PJ: If john Kerry had a better idea for America I , would listen to him but he doesn’t, some where a long the line he missed his opportunity to grow up.Colonel Day you’r right.