Medal of Honor recipient Col. George “Bud” Day was posthumously advanced to the rank of brigadier general during a Heritage to Horizons summer concert series at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., June 8, 2018.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein presided over the concert and opened the series by thanking Day and those who served alongside him during the Vietnam War.
“I’d like to recognize all our Vietnam era veterans and thank them for their service,” said Goldfein. “Tonight we gather to remember those who gave the last measure of devotion, those missing in action, those who endured the harsh and tyrannical treatment at places like the Hanoi Hilton and their families.”
Day, an Air Force fighter pilot who was shot down in the Vietnam War, is considered to be one of America’s most decorated service members. During his military service, he served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Day earned 70 decorations, to include the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross.
The events of August 26, 1967, would indelibly change his life. While flying a mission over North Vietnam, Day was shot down and immediately captured by the North Vietnamese. Nursing a dislocated knee and an arm broken in three places, he managed to escape captivity and evade the enemy for two weeks. He made his way back into South Vietnam, earning the distinction of being the only prisoner to actually escape from North Vietnam. Unfortunately, Day was just two miles from the safety of a U.S. Marine Corps base when he was shot and recaptured by a Viet Cong patrol.
Thereafter, he defiantly and resolutely endured a brutal, 67-month imprisonment that finally ended in repatriation on March 14, 1973. Three days later, Day was reunited with his wife and four children at March Air Force Base, California.
Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., a comrade in arms and cellmate of Day, delivered the following on the Senate floor after Day’s passing:
“Those who knew Bud after the war could see how tough he was. But, my God, to have known him in prison — confronting our enemies day-in and day-out; never, ever yielding — defying men who had the power of life and death over us; to witness him sing the national anthem in response to having a rifle pointed at his face – well, that was something to behold. Unforgettable. No one had more guts than Bud or greater determination to do his duty and then some — to keep faith with his country and his comrades whatever the cost. Bud was my commanding officer; but, more, he was my inspiration — as he was for all the men who were privileged to serve under him.”
The posthumous advancement of Day was introduced by McCain and directed by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and was effective March 27, 2018.