George Everette "Bud" Day, born on February 24, 1925, was a United States Air Force officer, aviator, and veteran of three major wars—World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. His remarkable military career, marked by extraordinary heroics, earned him the distinction of being the only person to receive both the Medal of Honor and Air Force Cross.
Early Life and Struggles: Bud Day's journey began in Sioux City, Iowa, where he dropped out of high school to enlist in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. After the war, he pursued education through the G.I. Bill, earning a law degree and becoming a member of the Florida Bar in 1977. His academic achievements continued with postgraduate degrees, showcasing Day's determination and commitment to personal growth.
Military Enlistment and Heroics: Day's military career spanned several branches, starting with the USMC in 1942 and later transitioning to the Iowa Air National Guard in 1950. During the Korean War, he served as a fighter-bomber pilot, demonstrating exceptional skills and earning promotions. Notably, he survived a harrowing parachute failure, showcasing his resilience and determination.
Defining Moment: The defining moment of Bud Day's military service occurred on August 26, 1967, during the Vietnam War. Flying his 65th mission, his aircraft was hit, forcing him to eject. Despite severe injuries and subsequent capture, Day's escape attempts and resistance in captivity became legendary. His actions saved the lives of fellow aviators and led to his recognition with the Medal of Honor in 1976.
Post-War Life and Career: Despite the physical toll of captivity, Bud Day chose to remain in the Air Force, achieving the rank of colonel and accumulating an impressive flying record across various jet fighters. His post-Air Force years included a successful law career, advocacy for military retirees, and authoring autobiographical accounts of his prisoner-of-war experiences.
Military Awards and Decorations: Bud Day's extensive service earned him over 70 awards, decorations, and medals, making him the most decorated United States military officer since Douglas MacArthur. His notable honors include the Medal of Honor, Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, and Purple Heart, among others.
Conclusion: George Everette "Bud" Day's legacy is one of unparalleled bravery, resilience, and dedication to duty. His heroic actions in the face of adversity, especially during his time as a prisoner of war, exemplify the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force. Bud Day's contributions to the military, his advocacy for fellow veterans, and his unwavering spirit make him a true American hero whose legacy will endure for generations to come.