b. 24/02/1925 Sioux City, Iowa. d. 27/07/2013 Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 26/08/1967 North Vietnam.
Day was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on 24 February 1925. In 1942 he dropped out of Central High School and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps (USMC).
After the war, Day attended Morningside College on the G.I. Bill, earning a bachelor of science degree, followed by law school at the University of South Dakota, receiving a Juris Doctor. Day passed the bar exam in 1949 and was admitted to the bar in South Dakota. In later life, Day was also awarded a Master of Arts degree from Saint Louis University, a doctor of humane letters from Morningside, and a doctor of laws from Troy State University. Day was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1977.
Enlisting in the USMC on 10 December 1942, Day served 30 months in the North Pacific during World War II as a member of a 5-inch gun battery with the 3rd Defense Battalion on Johnston Island, but he never saw combat. He was discharged (the first time) on 24 November 1945.
On 11 December 1946, Day joined the Army Reserve, serving until 10 December 1949. On 17 May 1950, Day received a direct commission as a second lieutenant in the Iowa Air National Guard. He was called to active duty on 15 March 1951 for undergraduate pilot training in the U.S. Air Force. He was awarded his pilot wings at Webb Air Force Base, Texas, in September 1952, continuing through December 1952 in All-Weather Interceptor School and Gunnery School.
From February 1953 to August 1955 during the Korean War, Day served two tours as a fighter-bomber pilot, flying the Republic F-84 Thunderjet in the 559th Strategic Fighter Squadron. Promoted to captain, he decided to make the Air Force a career and was augmented into the Regular Air Force. He was assigned to the 55th Fighter Bomber Squadron. He then trained to fly the F-100 Super Sabre in 1957 while stationed at Royal Air Force Wethersfield in the United Kingdom through June 1959. It was during this time that he had to bail out of a jet fighter without a parachute, becoming the first person ever to live through such a feat.
Day was assistant professor of aerospace science at the Air Force ROTC detachment at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, from June 1959 to August 1963.
Anticipating retirement in 1968 and now a major, Day volunteered for a tour in Vietnam and was assigned to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tuy Hoa Air Base in April 1967. At that time, he had more than 5,000 flying hours, with 4,500 of them in fighters. On 25 June 1967, with extensive previous service flying two tours in F-100s, Major Day was made the first commander of Detachment 1, 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 37th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Phu Cat Air Base. Under the project name Commando Sabre, twin-seat USAF F-100Fs were evaluated as a Fast Forward Air Control (Fast FAC) aircraft in high threat areas, given that F-4 Phantom II aircraft were in high demand for strike and Combat Air Patrol (CAP) roles. Using the call sign Misty, the name of Day's favorite song, his detachment of four two-seat F-100Fs and 16 pilots became pioneer "Fast FACs" (Forward Air Controllers) over Laos and North Vietnam. All Misty FAC crews were volunteers with at least 100 combat missions in Vietnam and 1,000 minimum flight hours. Tours in Commando Sabre were temporary and normally limited to four months or about 60 missions.
On 26 August 1967, Colonel 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 Bn Hi 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.