American Patriot: The Life and Wars of Colonel Bud Day

( 30 )

Overview

During the course of his military career, through World War II, Korean, and then Vietnam, Bud Day received every available combat medal, escaped death on no fewer than seven occasions, and spent sixty-seven months as a POW in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where his roommate was John McCain. Despite incredible torture, Day would not break. He became a hero to POWs everywhere—a man who fought without pause, a prisoner at war.

But Day's story didn't end when he returned home from ...

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Overview

During the course of his military career, through World War II, Korean, and then Vietnam, Bud Day received every available combat medal, escaped death on no fewer than seven occasions, and spent sixty-seven months as a POW in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where his roommate was John McCain. Despite incredible torture, Day would not break. He became a hero to POWs everywhere—a man who fought without pause, a prisoner at war.

But Day's story didn't end when he returned home from Vietnam. In fact, in some ways, it was just beginning. He became a passionate advocate for veterans' rights, a hero to those who served their country so bravely and selflessly. And when theClinton Administration cut veterans' medical benefits, Bud Day knew that—however weary his bones, however aged his comrades—it was time to suit up for a new battle, this time against an opponent he had never expected to face: the United States government.


"Superb....[Coram] has researched thoroughly and written fluently and with sympathy for his subject, an authentic hero worthy of many books."—Booklist

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A modern warrior's achievements and heroics culminate in opposition to a U.S. government viewed as breaking trust with military veterans. Coram (Boyd, 2002, etc.) confesses in the preface to an "unbounded admiration" of Colonel (USAF) George "Bud" Day. His subject goes from a roughshod, undisciplined-even court-martialed-Marine recruit in WWII to the military's most decorated veteran (his awards include the Medal of Honor) as a result of action as both an Air Force flying officer and POW in Vietnam. Indeed, the bulk of the narrative flits frequently into outright homage. It's somewhat understandable when dealing with a military pilot who compiles an exemplary service record, gets a law degree in his spare time, hones legendary flying skills, survives two accidents of a type that killed all others known to be involved in them, leads a crucial combat squadron in Vietnam, then is shot down and not only attempts a nearly successful escape but becomes a notorious (to his captors) "hard resistor" surviving torture in the company of his fellow POW, now Senator, John McCain. Coram's extended take on Day's career pre-Vietnam tracks with steady military-family-man allegiances and no-B.S. character testimonials, and it's certain to be more appreciated by fellow vets. An interesting theme does emerge post-Vietnam: an on-again, off-again association with McCain, who adopts a softer attitude than Day on POWs who did not actively resist and took an early release others declined; they also part on the Swift-boat veterans attack (denounced by McCain) on John Kerry. There are some blunt personal references to McCain in the book, particularly unflattering in the context of presidential ambitions. After twodecades in retirement, Day leads an assault against the Clinton administration's cutback of veterans' promised medical benefits, characterized by Coram in a final, redundant reference, as "the mission God saved him for."The record speaks for itself; alienation and politicization lurk between the lines. Agent: Mel Berger/William Morris Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316067393
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 6/2/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 154,533
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Coram is the author of four nonfiction books and seven novels. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Read an Excerpt

American Patriot


By Robert Coram

Little, Brown and Company

Copyright © 2007 Robert Coram
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-316-75847-5


Chapter One

Siouxland

Out in the clean and sweetly rolling plains of the Midwest, out where Iowa and Nebraska and South Dakota come together, is a region called Siouxland - a place far removed from the swirling trends that wash over the dynamic cities of the East and West Coasts. This is the heartland, the stable and rock-solid core of America, and here the virtues long thought of as uniquely American are as real and ever-present as the wind across the prairie. Sophisticated people say the Midwest is "flyover country," a dull and boring place where exciting things rarely happen. But the people of Siouxland know that the very things America finds amusing about them are, in fact, their greatest strengths.

Sioux City, Iowa, is the best-known town in Siouxland. Only a few generations earlier, Sioux City had been the edge of civilization, the place where people stocked up on provisions before jumping into the wild Dakota Territories. Sioux City was as far up the Missouri as steamboats could travel. The railroad ended here. The first burial of a soldier west of the Mississippi River was that of Sergeant Charles Floyd, a member of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery who sickened and died here on August 20, 1804. The largest monument honoring a member of the Corps of Discovery is the one-hundred-foot-tall sandstone obelisk known as the Floyd Monument in Sioux City. Afterward, Sioux City became a trail-end sort of town where cowboys brought cows and hogs to local meatpacking houses. Brothels and gambling and useless violence were big in Sioux City.

Two prominent geographic features help define Sioux City: the Missouri River and the Loess Hills. The mighty Missouri is one of America's most fabled and historic rivers while the Loess Hills are sharp-crested sand dunes formed centuries ago from windblown silt. Comparable hills are found in China, but the Loess Hills that run along the western border of Iowa and up through Sioux City are the longest in the world. On the edge of Sioux City, the Missouri is joined by the Big Sioux River. On the alluvial plain along the Big Sioux is a jam-packed suburb of small frame houses. This is Riverside, separated from Sioux City by the Loess Hills.

Riverside is a big part of the reason that Iowa and the rest of the Midwest looked down on Sioux City for much of the twentieth century. Riverside was the bad side of town - the home of roughnecks, the uneducated, and those on the windy side of the law. Here, grifters, hustlers, and bootleggers lived alongside railroad workers and those who worked in meatpacking houses. During the 1920s, tunnels under many Riverside homes served as hideouts for bank robbers who terrorized the Midwest; there were even stories that Al Capone visited when things got hot in Chicago. Dozens of illegal rat-hole bars were here, open seven days a week and known far and wide for their bloody fights. People in Riverside were so poor that in the winter they went over to the South Bottoms and waded into the Floyd River, where they scooped up buckets of fat, formed by congealed runoff from the stockyards, to use for cooking or for making soap.

Most people in Riverside accepted their lot in life. They were too busy eking out an existence to do otherwise. Only a few had the desire to get out and get up - to seek a better life. And of those few with the desire, even fewer made it.

George Day was one of those who did.

George Everette Day was born February 24, 1925, the second child and only son of John Edward and Christine Day. He was named George for his father's brother and Everette for one of his mother's brothers. From the beginning he was known only as "Bud."

John Edward Day, called "Ed," was fifty-four when Bud was born, an old man at a time when many men died in their sixties. He was five foot seven and slender, a taciturn fellow with a hard face. When he spoke, more often than not he was crabby. Some thought him mean.

Both Ed and Christine had been married previously. Ed divorced his first wife when he discovered there were other men in her life. He never spoke of his previous family except in dismissive and critical terms, and Bud grew up knowing little about them. Ed's sour disposition could have been caused in part by his first marriage or it could have been caused by what he called his "nervous stomach," for which he frequently took medicine. But more than likely his disposition was born in his poverty and in the knowledge that because he had only a sixth-grade education, his life would never be any better.

For a big part of Bud's childhood, Ed was unemployed, doing little but tending to a vegetable garden planted in the rich soil on the banks of the Big Sioux. The Day family had no car and no telephone. Ed sometimes could not afford to pay his rent, and several times the family was evicted. Bud's childhood was spent in a series of frame houses, none larger than about nine hundred square feet. In one of those houses, Bud's mother and sister slept in the single bedroom while he and his father slept on the porch. The houses were not insulated and the woodstoves strove mightily during the fierce prairie winters. Summers were blazing and there was no air-conditioning. A well provided water. An outhouse was about ten feet from the well.

It was a daily fight for existence, but Bud's father never complained. Like most Midwesterners, Ed was a man of fortitude who assumed he could and would handle whatever life threw at him. He was a stubborn man who simply did not know how to give up. The example he set in dealing with adversity was his greatest gift to his son.

Few parts of America were hit as hard by the Great Depression as was the Midwest. Siouxland became a dust bowl. Prairie grass died, the wells dried up, and the relentless wind blew away the dreams of a generation. For days, sometimes weeks, Bud never saw the sun.

Until the Depression, Siouxland was Republican country. But economics reversed the polarity of local politics. Like many of his neighbors, Ed Day went from being a ho-hum Republican to an evangelical Democrat who conferred almost godlike status upon President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Most afternoons Ed turned on the radio to listen to Fulton Lewis Jr., a Republican commentator, so that every few minutes he could shout, "Lying son of a bitch!" Ed blamed the Republicans for every bad thing in his life. Years later Bud would remember, "If we had a year when there were not many pheasants and hunting was bad, he blamed it on the Republicans."

Ed's passion for politics was another gift he passed to his son. To Ed Day, a man who did not vote was beneath contempt, right down there with men who borrowed money, drank liquor, or ran around on their wives. "If you don't vote, you can't complain," he said. "A no-vote is a vote for the status quo. Change will not come until a man exercises his right to vote."

But the Day household was not a democracy. When Ed told Bud to do something, it was always with a loud voice, and he never issued orders but once. If Bud moved slowly, his father slapped him into compliance. And no detail of Christine's appearance or demeanor escaped Ed's carping. She and her family were Danish immigrants, and Ed was particularly fond of ridiculing her accent and her family. He grumbled that her family did not speak English and said they were "stupid" to teach their children Danish. "If they are going to be real Americans, they've got to speak English," he said. Sioux City had a large Scandinavian population, and Ed referred to them derisively as "Eric" or "Eric the Red." He also had favorite slurs for other ethnic groups.

It is human nature that a man of pride, a man with no education and no job, must have someone to belittle. Perhaps Christine realized this; in any case, she never responded to the criticism. Her first husband had died and left her with four children. Ed put those children to work on Iowa farms in a form of indentured servitude, and they all moved to Chicago as soon as they could get away. Fatalistic about life, Christine did whatever Ed told her to do. She was a drudge, ruling nothing except her kitchen. She baked bread, cooked, and cleaned, and would not dream of taking a job outside the house; only a woman of doubtful virtue worked outside the home.

She was in her late forties when Bud was born. No one knew her age, as she told no one the date of her birth.

Every morning Christine cooked the same meal for her husband: one egg, fried very hard, along with a piece of fat pork and a couple of buckwheat pancakes.

Bud remembers also eating pancakes, as well as oatmeal and Cream of Wheat with raisins and milk and sugar, though during his childhood he never had a salad or a steak. As for his mother's diet, he can't remember; he recalls only that she was always running between the table and the stove and rarely sat down.

Bud's sister, Joyce, was six years older than he. She was so intelligent that twice she was moved ahead a year in school and would have been moved a third time if her mother hadn't forbidden it, saying she should not be in a class with girls who were three years older. Independent and headstrong, Joyce, had she been born a few decades later, could have been a militant feminist.

Ed was as verbally abusive to his daughter as he was to his wife. But Joyce was not intimidated. She and her father had tremendous fights. Bud particularly remembers one disagreement concerning Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous "hoochie koochie" dancer of the time whom Ed thought was a "strumpet." Joyce liked Gypsy Rose Lee and told her father, "Times are changing. A woman can do anything she wants as long as she does not break the law. If she was breaking the law, she would be arrested." And Joyce was so angry about Ed's constant criticism of Christine that many times she said to her mother, "Divorce him. You don't have to take his abuse. You don't have to live like this."

Bud was nine years old when Joyce - at fifteen - graduated from high school and moved to Chicago to live with a half sister. When she announced she was entering college in Oklahoma City, Ed sputtered and spouted and issued edicts, but all to no avail. This was not an issue in which he had a vote.

Joyce blazed through college as quickly as she did high school and, by nineteen, had graduated and was working in southeast Iowa. Then one day, while carrying a load of laundry downstairs, she tripped, tumbled down the stairs, and broke her neck. She died instantly.

Older people in Riverside still shake their heads when they talk of Joyce's death. She was a pretty girl, and they believe there was something mysterious about her death. Agile nineteen-year-olds don't fall down stairs. But there was no investigation, only bitter acceptance.

After the funeral, Ed found he was the beneficiary of Joyce's $500 life-insurance policy. He used the money to invest in a house at 2222 Riverside Boulevard. It was the only house Ed ever owned. The property had no bathroom, only a toilet. Ed wired the house, dug a basement with pick and shovel, braced it up, bricked it, and installed a furnace and a coal chute, then added an enclosed back porch and a toolshed. Ed was not the introspective sort who would have found irony in the fact that the only house he ever owned came through the death of an estranged daughter.

One of the few things Bud did with his father on a regular basis was to get on the streetcar in the early fall and ride down to lower 4th Street to the pawnshop owned by "Little Joe." There his father bought him a pair of shoes and a coat for the coming winter. By then Bud's shoes from the previous year were falling apart. (Time after time his mother took a cereal box and cut out a piece of cardboard in the shape of Bud's feet to fit inside his shoes. The mothers of Bud's friends did the same. It was a matter of pride among Riverside mothers that there were no holes in the socks of their children.)

Ed was convinced that Little Joe gave him great deals. So one day when the pawnbroker offered him an old single-barrel .410-gauge shotgun, Ed bought it and gave it to Bud, figuring that a Riverside boy ought to be able to shoot, to put meat on the table, even if he was only ten years old.

The .410-gauge shotgun was a small, low-powered shotgun with a very tight spread of shot. Hunters consider it something of a toy. But Bud became an excellent wing shot. Every year thousands of ducks covered the surface of sloughs along the Big Sioux, and Bud shot many of them for his mother's table. He also shot pheasants and pigeons. During the winter when he brought home game birds, his mother hung them on a wire in the yard, where they froze, not thawing out until maybe late March. When the family wanted one for the table, Bud's mother pulled it from the line and dressed and cooked it, supplementing domestic chickens and turkeys with pheasant, rabbit, pigeons, ducks, and geese.

Providing for the family meant more than finding food. Bud was expected to work. Though a boy had to be twelve to become a caddy at what then was called the Elmwood Golf Course, Bud somehow got one of the jobs when he was ten. As is sometimes the case with poor children, Bud was particularly observant. One of the first things he noticed at Elmwood, beyond the obvious fact that golfers had the money to indulge in an expensive sport and the leisure time to enjoy it, was that golfers wore expensive clothes and had manners far smoother than those of Riverside men. Their conversation was more worldly. And every man who played golf had been to college.

For a Riverside boy growing up in the Depression, there were no professions higher than being a doctor or lawyer. Bud Day decided he would be a doctor. But he told no one. The idea of a boy from Riverside going to college was outrageous. Only one boy in the neighborhood had ever gone to college: the preacher's son. For a Riverside boy to go to college and then to medical school ... well, to talk of such dreams would evoke only scorn and ridicule.

Bud discovered reading about the same time he discovered golf. Down the street was a police officer who was the father of a classmate. The officer had taken an early retirement because of an injury and spent his days on a recliner or in bed. His friends brought him books and magazines, so many that they stacked up in his small house. One day he invited Bud to look through the piles and take whatever he wanted. It was a revelation for the youngster.

As sometimes happens with children who are not happy with their lives, Bud found a better world between the covers of a book. Subsequently, he began checking books out of the city library. The limit was two volumes, but Bud went through books so fast and returned them so promptly that the librarian - as is the way of good librarians everywhere - increased his limit to four. During the summer he read from seven to nine books each week, many of them while lying on the roof of his house in the shade of an oak tree.

Ed, for all his rigidity in other matters, was lenient in the extreme about Bud's reading, probably because he thought reading would help Bud graduate from high school. A high school diploma was considered as far as a Riverside boy could go. College was not even a dream. Again and again Ed used his most emphatic tone to tell Bud, "You will be a high school graduate."

Bud read with the undisciplined enthusiasm of a boy who has discovered a secret. He quickly burned through books in the children's section, books about Daniel Boone, and books by Nathaniel Hawthorne and James Fenimore Cooper, and moved on to books about Nathan Hale and Thomas Paine and Daniel Webster and Thomas Jefferson. His boyhood hero became Charles Lindbergh. Bud considered Lindbergh almost a local; after all, he flew out of St. Louis, which was not that far away. Bud bought a leather pilot helmet and goggles and daydreamed of duplicating Lindbergh's exploits, of mounting up with wings as eagles. But of course it was only daydreaming. Boys from Riverside did not become officers and pilots; they became enlisted men and infantry soldiers.

By the time Bud was ten, he had several friends with whom he would remain close all his life.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from American Patriot by Robert Coram Copyright © 2007 by Robert Coram . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     vi
Preface     vii
Prologue     3
Siouxland     13
War and Peace     29
Preparation     43
The Wild Blue Yonder     63
Sporty Flying     83
Building Time     101
Hit My Smoke     119
South Toward Freedom     135
North Toward Hell     151
The Bug     177
Another Summer of Love     205
The Years of the Locust     223
The Freedom Bird     241
Three's In ... With Unfinished Business     255
Over the Side     273
Good-bye Yellow Dogs     289
Once More unto the Breach     305
The Fat Lady Never Sings     325
One More Mission     345
Epilogue     363
Sources     378
Bibliography     379
Index     383
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 30 )
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(25)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Heroes in our Time!

    This book should be required reading for all Americans. There is something to be gained by all in reading this story. Mr. Bud Day and his fellow POW's--those who truely endured incredible hardship and human cruelty, yet "Returned with Honor"--are all hero's of the highest order. The unbelieveable torture they were subjected to and their response revealed their love of family, country, and faith. All of these men are special and should never be forgotten. As a retired Air Force member, and an individual who loves his country, I am thankful for the sacrifices made by Mr. Bud Day and all POW's who "Returned with Honor". GBU.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2010

    Courage

    This autobiography should be required reading for all United States high schools. It is the unbelievable courage of men like Bud Day that keep America free.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Clearly a Champion of every HONORABLE individual who has ever served!

    Upon finishing this book it was clearly evident to me why this book is on the Chief of Staff Air Force Read List! Col. Day is the finest example of a hero which any branch of service could base there core qualities. To keep with the Code of Conduct and NOT relent shows the courage and resolve that we all aspire to reach. I, as a veteran of 24 years USAF, wish to thank Col. Day for his efforts in re-establishing our veteran's medical care. Mr. Coram has done an OUTSTANDING job in relaying the life and wars of Col. Day! Mr. Coram stated that "veteran's are weepers." This is true as I truly wept as I finished this book...TRULY INSPIRING! This is a must read simply to remind us of how we can find our way back to center and KEEP to the CODE!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2013

    A Must Read!

    This is one of the best books I have ever read. Bud Day's story should be required reading for all Americans. My father was a POW in Germany during WWII so I have great respect for all of our Veterans, but especially those who suffered at the hands of our enemies. I bought several copies of this book recently and gave them to friends. Anyone who reads the Prologue will be hooked. A great story!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2012

    One of my favorite reads.

    Great book. Couldnt put it down. Have reread it twice and read it to my son. Hats off to Mr. Coram for a wonderfully written book, although COL Day makes it pretty easy for it to stay interesting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A great book on an Air Force hero

    This book describes the life and actions of the most highly decorated Airmen alive today... an Airmen who also served as a Marine and Soldier. His POW goal was to "Return with Honor"--great words for all of us to live by in all endeavors. I was also impressed that he and the other POWs started their own AF Wing, the 4th Allied POW Wing while in Hanoi. The thought provoking part of book for me is that he and the other POW leaders worked to hold those POWs accountable who did not return with honor, actions that I think were right. He also highlighted that they were not Prisoners of War, but Prisoners at War. Anyone reading this book will wonder if they have the fortitude to do what he and the other "hard resisters" were able to do, many for more than five years. I'm saving this book... its a keeper. I pay tribute to the American Air Pirates.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2008

    A Great 'American' Story

    As a former USAF veteran of the Vietnam era, I was honored and humbled to have been in the same organization as Col. Day. His life and unimaginable courage is narrated in a well written, fast paced fashion. The author is to be commended for his able handling of a story that could have become overburdened with superlatives. For only superlatives can describe Col.Day's 'and Mrs Day's'accomplishments, and ability to overcome horrific events. Anyone reading this fine book will always wonder, 'How would I have reacted under similar circumstances.' The thought is almost overwhelming. Thank you, Col. Day, for giving your all for the rest of us, and author Robert Coram for a fine book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2008

    Excellent!

    People need to realize what men and women have gone through to fight for and protect our nation's and other nations' freedom. It is a shame that our troups weren't appreciated in Vietnam and that it wasn't even called a war. Our freedom to protest and hold banners that say 'No More War' has been protected by our service men and women. I read that civilizations progress from bondage to spiritual faith to great courage to liberty to abundance to complacency to apathy to dependence back to bondage. Where is the U.S. now? I thank God for the service men and women that we have today.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    Lorrie

    God bless you and yours. You are a true American

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2011

    A one of a kind HERO

    Even after having met Colonel Day, this book provides so much more insight into his past. In talking with Bud, you would never know half of what he did, because he is such a humble, friendly and unassuming gentleman. If you want to know what "Duty, Honor and Country" means, READ THIS BOOK!

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  • Posted June 14, 2009

    I'm Not Sure Tough Guys Like This Are Being Replaced In The World

    This guy is one tough Monkey. The book is a great read about a great man that served in three wars. I truly enjoyed this book and am in awe of "Bud" Day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2008

    Wow!

    Let us never forget what it means to love America. Bud Day's experiences, expertly recorded by Robert Coram, should be embraced by all Americans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    Thank God we have men like Bud Day and all the other incredible men to are filled with such fire and keep our country safe.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2007

    A must read!

    This is a fantastic book about one of the greatest American patriots ever. I was honored to first meet Col. Day eight years ago and he's one of the most impressive and decent people this country has ever produced. I cannot recommend this book enough.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2007

    Outstanding

    I'm not a Fighter Pilot, but I have been in the Air Guard for 6 years out of Sioux City, IA, Colonel 'Bud' Day home town. I have even had the great chance of meeting the Colonel a few times and this weekend will have the chance to meet Robert Coram. This book from page one grabs you at the heart and makes you want to finish it in one sitting. Its the classic True story of a everyday boy from Midwest with a poor start being told the future without living it because 'Riverside boy going to College was Outrageous'. Everyone should take the time and read this book and get to know the Colonel and his wars.Even if you are told you are too small and may need a 'few' waviers to do something, great things can and will happen if you make them happen. Thanks Colonel for serving this country and thanks Robart Coram for giving the Colonels story life to a new generation of Vet's.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2007

    What I didn't know

    I received the book 'American Patriot' on Monday 4/30/2007. I just finished reading it. I am a retired USAF F100 Fighter Pilot and I felt that I knew a lot about the POW and after effects, but learned that I was a novice. I bailed out of an airplane in South Vietnam in 1965 and spent 36 hours prior to being rescued and thought several times that I was going to be one of the POW's in Hanoi. This book is a must read for anyone who has been or will be subject to such conditions as Col Day and his compatriots endured. Thanks Col Day and the other NAM-POW's. Mel Elliott

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    Posted March 3, 2013

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    Posted November 19, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2011

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