June 09, 2006

Air Force Hero To Defend Accused Marines

Honored Veteran Takes Lead Defense Position

by Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien

Aero-News has learned that USAF Col (Retired) George Everett "Bud" Day MOH, one of the most highly decorated veterans of the Vietnam War, or of US history for that matter, has undertaken to defend "up to 20" Marines who have been accused of crimes up to and including murder in connection with an alleged massacre in Haditha, Iraq.

Col. Day is a veteran, peculiarly enough, of World War II as a Marine, and later of the Army, and then of Korea and Vietnam in the United States Air Force. In Vietnam, he started and led the Misty Super FAC program, which includes among its old boys Dick Rutan and several other aviation luminaries. In a tradition begun by Day, each Misty pilot had a unique numbered callsign beginning, of course, with Misty 1 (Day, of course; Rutan was Misty 40).

Day was marked for success in the Air Force early in his flying career, when he made a "no-chute" ejection from a doomed F-84F and survived. "I bailed out of a burning F-84 in 1957 in England," he wrote in response to an enquiry from the Free Fall Research Page. "My parachute did not open, but lucky for me I landed in the Queen's forest, and the riser cords of the chute wove in and out of the pine tree I fell in. I bailed out between 300 and 500 feet and lived."

On August 24, 1967, then-Major Day was breaking in a new pilot on F-100F "Misty" "fast FAC" duty in the southern reaches of North Vietnam. He was instructing pilot Corwin Kippenham on how best to approach the target, a missile site, when their aircraft was hit. At over 500 knots it became a fireball.

Day ejected, followed by Kippenham, and they landed in North Vietnam near the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Vietnam. Day had a broken arm -- broken in three places -- and a dislocated knee, and the North Vietnamese grabbed him only a mile or so from where Kippenham boarded a helicopter to safety. Later Day escaped, only to be wounded by US fire when he slept too near an enemy artillery site, and ultimately recaptured after being wounded yet again.

In almost six years of captivity, Day endured unspeakable tortures, and, his fellow captives recall, drove his captors wild. In one case he responded to them by singing "the Star Spangled Banner," which earned him a particularly violent beating -- as the other prisoners all joined in, and the guards saw it as a loss of face.

There's no official list of most highly decorated veterans, but Day and Army Colonel Bob Howard are more or less tied for the top title. There was a more highly decorated veteran in World War II, though: Douglas Macarthur. In all, Day has a staggering 70 awards and decorations, not to mention such post-service honors as having the Sioux City Airport named after him.

After retiring from the Air Force in 1977, Bud Day put his long-dormant law degree and he has been a lawyer and an activist for veterans ever since. He has not always won, but government attorneys have come to fear him almost as much as the North Vietnamese prison guards did.

These days, the old warrior even sees a rosy side to his bleak years of captivity: "Freedom has a special taste!" His legal record is a formidable as his military record; he has frequently argued appellate cases, and has taken cases to the Supreme Court and argued them there.

While there has been much reaction to probable charges in the Haditha case, no details have been released, charges laid, nor defendants named by officialdom -- yet. But the defendants, whoever they may be -- and we hadn't heard numbers like "20" before -- will not lack effective counsel.

Rank and organization: Colonel (then Major), U.S. Air Force, Forward AirController Pilot of an F-100 aircraft

Place and date: North Vietnam, 26 August 1967

Entered service at: Sioux City, IowaBorn: 24 February 1925, Sioux City, Iowa

On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Col. Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. 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. Col. Day's conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.

This is great news.

I am appalled and disgusted that these Marines are in solitary confinement and shackled when out of their cells. Inmates at Gitmo get better treatment, prayer time, recreation, etc.

I wish that I was a member of the US Congress, there would be all sorts of hell to pay if I had the authority to ask questions about this. The Commandant of the Marine Corps would be standing in front of my desk answering questions the next morning after I found out about it.

Thanks for sharing this email. We will keep a very close watch on what happens.

Senator Douglas John John.Douglas@senate.ga.gov


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