Col. Bud Day, an Air Force fighter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient who was shot down in the Vietnam War and endured more than five years of brutality while imprisoned, died on Saturday at the age of 88.
Among America’s most highly decorated servicemen, Colonel Day received nearly 70 medals and awards in addition to the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, including the Air Force Cross, the highest combat award specifically for airmen.
Colonel Day wrote a foreword for the Glenn Robins book, The Longest Rescue: The Life and Legacy of Vietnam POW William A. Robinson, in which he describes some of his time as a prisoner alongside Senator John McCain and Robinson.
From the foreword:
“I was shot over North Vietnam on August 26, 1967. I was shootdown number 138 of those Americans who actually made it into a prison camp. More than that number had already been shot down and murdered by the North Vietnamese. Little did I expect that I would be held a POW for five years and seven months. Billy [William A. Robinson], one of the earliest POWs, had already been in captivity more than two very hard years before my shoot down.
My history in Hanoi was that I was held briefly at the Hanoi Hilton in the old French jail then the Communists moved me to the Plantation (a few miles southwest of downtown Hanoi) where my multiple broken bones and gunshot wounds began to heal. In December 1967, I got Lieutenant Commander John McCain as a roommate. That was a great break for me. John was all broken up and wounded, but he absolutely refused to die, although I first expected he would.”
While serving as a crew chief aboard a U.S. Air Force Rescue helicopter, Airman First Class William A. Robinson was shot down and captured in Ha Tinh Province, North Vietnam, on September 20, 1965. After a brief stint at the “Hanoi Hilton,” Robinson endured 2,703 days in multiple North Vietnamese prison camps, including the notorious Briarpatch and various compounds at Cu Loc, known by the inmates as the Zoo. No enlisted man in American military history has been held as a prisoner of war longer than Robinson. For seven and a half years, he faced daily privations and endured the full range of North Vietnam’s torture program.