Escaping death even once is already a stroke of luck, but for a man who can evade it at least seven times—now that’s legendary! A feat one rarely achieves, veteran hero Bud Day had gone through an extraordinary journey throughout his military career. He put his life on the line and fought not only one major war but three, including World War II, Korean War, and the most pivotal one, Vietnam War. This honorable man’s strength and courage amid adversity have earned him decorations, recognition, and respect and fostered inspiration for his fellow prisoners of war.

A Military Man and a Scholar

George Everette Day, born and raised in the northwestern part of Iowa on February 24, 1925, dropped out of high school at age 17 to enlist in the US Marine Corps months after the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. Bud, as everyone calls him, was among the thousands of men shipped and served in the Pacific theater as part of a 5-inch gun battery. He, however, didn’t see combat and was honorably discharged over two months after the war’s end.

Upon returning to the States, Bud attended college and earned his bachelor’s degree before proceeding to law school at the University of South Dakota, where he received a Juris Doctor. Besides his eventual thriving military career, Day had built himself quite an impressive educational background. By late 1946, he joined the US Army Reserve until 1949, when he subsequently passed his bar exam and entered the bar in South Dakota. Bud would go on to earn his Master of Arts degree, a doctor of humane letters, and a doctor of laws, as well as being admitted to the Florida Bar, but that would all happen later after his retirement.

In May 1950, Bud received a direct commission as a second lieutenant and joined the Iowa Air National Guard. A year later, he took active duty in the US Air Force and attended pilot training, and by September 1952, he earned his wings.

USAF F-100F (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

When the Korean War broke out in early 1953, Bud served two tours as an F-84 Thunderjet pilot with the 559th Strategic Fighter Squadron until August 1955. Discovering a newfound calling and his eventual promotion to Captain, he decided to make the Air Force a career. He flew more fighter aircraft, including the F-100 Super Sabre, throughout his stay at Royal Air Force Wethersfield in the United Kingdom. Moreover, during this period, Bud escaped what could have been a freak accident and ended his thriving career. He was on a routine flight when his jet fighter caught fire, forcing the airman to bail out. Unfortunately, his parachute canopy failed, and Bud plunged to what he might have thought to his death. He was lucky enough that a 30-foot pine tree cushioned his fall, making him the first person to survive such an accident. Little did he know that this event would be the precursor of the extreme near-death experience he’s yet to go through.

Vietnam War

After surviving his fall, Day became an assistant professor of aerospace science at the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) between 1959 and 1963. Then, as his retirement drew near in 1968, now-Major Bud Day placed his life on the line for one last time as he volunteered for deployment in Southeast Asia at the height of the Vietnam War. There, he served as an F-100 Assistant Operations Officer before taking the role as the first commander of the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, or the Misty Super FACs, at Phu Cat Air Base in South Vietnam.

There, he braved the intense and grueling aerial assault efforts against the North Vietnamese for days on end until that fateful day in August 1967.

Bud Day was directing a flight of F-105 fighter-bomber aircraft over Northern Vietnam when his supersonic fighter F-100F got hit by a surface-to-missile that forced him to eject and bail out. Upon reaching the ground, he sustained severe injuries and had no choice but to surrender when hostile forces spotted his location. Even if we wanted to, he couldn’t run.