Medal of Honor recipient Col. George “Bud” Day (shown in photo), who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for over five years, sharing a cell with future U.S. Senator John McCain at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” died July 27 at the age of 88.
Day, who was one of America's most highly decorated U.S. servicemen, garnering over 70 medals and honors during service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, received the Medal of Honor for escaping his North Vietnamese captors after the aircraft he was piloting was shot down August 26, 1967, and evading them for 10 days though severely injured. After his re-capture he continued to aggressively resist, giving false information during torture and interrogation. “His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy,” reads Day's Medal of Honor citation.
The New York Times noted that “Colonel Day’s life was defined by the defiance he showed in North Vietnamese prison camps, where, besides McCain, the future senator from Arizona and Republican presidential candidate, whose Navy fighter had been downed, his cellmates included James B. Stockdale, also a Navy pilot, who became Ross Perot’s running mate in his 1992 presidential campaign.”
Stockdale also received a Medal of Honor for his role as a main leader of the POW resistance.
In February 1971, in one memorable episode during their imprisonment, Day and Stockdale joined other American POWs in boldly singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” with rifles pointed at them after North Vietnamese guards discovered them holding a forbidden worship service.
Day was promoted to the rank of colonel during his captivity, and was released in March 1973. At a March 4, 1976 White House ceremony, President Gerald Ford presented both Day and Stockdale with their Medals of Honor.
In a 2008 interview, Day recalled that 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. One really bad cold and I would have been dead.”
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Photo of Col. George "Bud" Day in 2008: AP Images