Day’s wife, Doris, told the Associated Press that her husband died after a long illness and that he “would have died in my arms if I could have picked him up.”
USA Today reports that McCain, now a US Senator from Arizona, released a statement about his friend’s death, saying:
“I owe my life to Bud, and much of what I know about character and patriotism. He was the bravest man I ever knew and his fierce resistance and resolute leadership set the example for us in prison of how to return home with honor.”
Bud Day received the Medal of Honor from President Gerald Ford in 1976 and was one of the United States’ most decorated servicemen. He received more than 70 medals for his service during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.
The New York Times notes that Colonel Bud Day was remembered for the defiance he showed while imprisoned in a North Vietnamese prison camp. He signed up for duty in Vietnam and was assigned to a fighter wing in April of 1967.
Day was shot down on August 26, 1967 while over North Vietnam. He suffered a broken right arm, eye and back injuries, and was quickly captured by the enemy.
He initially escaped after five days, but was recaptured by members of a Communist patrol who spotted him as he neared a Marine outpost. After that, Bud Day was shuttled between several prison camps, including the notorious Hanoi Hilton. He was often beaten, starved, and threatened with execution.
However, he never gave in. Despite numerous interrogations, Bud only gave his captors false information. He was released on March 14, 1973. McCain recalled of his friend and cellmate in his memoir Faith of My Fathers, “[Colonel Day] was a tough man, a fierce resister, whose example was an inspiration to every man who served with him.”
After he returned from Vietnam, Bud Day retired to Florida and practiced law. He also took up the cause of veterans’ rights. Funeral arrangements for the former POW were not immediately available.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]