Iowan is Most Decorated Military Officer in Modern U.S. History
He served his country for 35 years, was a veteran of three wars, and a prisoner of war for more than five years. Meet the Iowa native who received the most military decorations since General Douglas McArthur.
George E. "Bud" Day was born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1925. He began his military career with almost three years in the Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II.
Following the war, he returned to Iowa and got his law degree. The degree would help shape his path after his lengthy military career.
In 1950, Day joined the Air National Guard. He was called to active duty in 1951 and flew fighter jets in the Korean War. He was promoted to captain in 1955 and a very lengthy career in the Air Force was just beginning.
August 25, 1967, Major Day was flying F100's in the Vietnam War when his plane was struck by ground fire. Military.com reports he was able to eject from the plane but broke his arm in multiple places when he did. He was captured by the North Vietnamese. Five days later he escaped. The second night of his freedom, he suffered a concussion after a rocket or bomb landed near him. He would survive, alone in the jungle, for more than two weeks before being captured again by the Viet Cong. He would be beaten, starved, and tortured from time to time for years to come.
In February of 1971 Home of the Heroes says Day was among a group of American prisoners holding a religious service, which was forbidden. Enemy guards busted in with rifles pointed at the prisoners. Day stood up and began to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner." The other prisoners joined him as did American POW's throughout the prison camp.
Day was finally released March 14, 1973, after five years and seven months as a prisoner of war. He spent most of that time as a cellmate with future Arizona Senator John McCain. When Day died, McCain made it clear exactly what Day had meant to him.
Colonel George E. "Bud" Day would receive the Medal of Honor in 1976 for his bravery while being held captive in North Vietnam. Day retired from the Air Force in 1977, having flown 8,000 hours and a dozen different U.S. fighter jets, according to the Hawaii Reporter. He would then become an advocate for veterans' health care benefits, taking the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Day died July 27, 2013. He received nearly 70 military decorations, more than 50 for combat. It's the most decorations ever for a member of the U.S. Air Force and more than any U.S. military service member since General Douglas McArthur.
Day's career is recapped in the amazing video below. It includes footage from his time in the prison camps of North Vietnam. This weekend, we salute not only George E. "Bud" Day but all the men and women who have served our country. It's what Memorial Day should be about.