The second-most decorated American military member in history

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Rob Safley
  • 301st Fighter Wing

George "Bud" Day enlisted in the United States Army Reserve on December 11, 1946. He served with the Iowa National Guard for three years while attending college. On May 17, 1950, Day was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Iowa Air National Guard. Ten months later, Lieutenant Day was placed on active duty and entered pilot training with the U.S. Air Force.


*Fast forward 17 years*

On 26 August 1967, Major Day was flying his 26th combat mission supporting Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers on an attack against an enemy surface-to-air missile battery near Thon Cam Son, North of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. His Super Sabre was hit by 37 millimeter antiaircraft fire, and he was forced to eject. Day was seriously injured--his right arm was broken and his left knee was dislocated. He was immediately captured by the enemy, but escaped five days later.


Over the next 10 days, he made his way, bare-footed, more than 25 miles towards the DMZ. He was eventually recaptured by Viet Cong guerillas and was shot in his left thigh and left hand. He suffered the most brutal conditions while he was held as a Prisoner of War. He was able to withstand the years of torture, isolation, poor nutrition and lack of medical care through a strong faith, love for country, love for his family, and a boat load of resilience. He was imprisoned for 2,028 days, before being released on March 14, 1973. 

Colonel Day retired from the United States Air Force in February 1977. He then practiced law in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He is the author of two books, Return With Honor and Duty, Honor, Country. Colonel Day is the second-most decorated military member in American history (General Douglas MacArthur is first). The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act posthumously promoted him to the rank of Brigadier General.

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