George Everette "Bud" Day And The Tap Code

Monday, November 22, 2010
By: Rich Bergeron

Retired US Air Force Colonel George Everette "Bud" Day was the only serviceman in Vietnam to be held prisoner in both North and South Vietnam camps. His multiple years in captivity forced him to rely on a sophisticated tap code he told my entire freshman class about once in a presentation at Michell Hall (A.K.A. The Mess Hall). I was a freshman cadet in the class of 1999, eating lunch under duress and listening to a legend on the podium describe years of painful and trying mental and physical torture. I felt rude chewing food in front of this guy, but his eyes lit up when he spoke of the tap code that connected him with every other prisoner who ever had to communicate this way. Messages were banged out in a necessity-driven, adapted Morse Code language of successive taps or knocks. The exchange had its own special meaning to the captive soldiers who resorted to using it, because it symbolized an unspoken victory in their fight to maintain their honor and camaraderie.

Day's incredible saga of truly honorable and courageous service in the face of the worst conditions possible is the stuff of legend. It is no wonder his efforts earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

According to Day's Wikipedia Page, his Medal of Honor Citation Reads:

"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."

Day's sacrifices and soldiering on through the most intolerable conditions afforded him a reputation as one of the most decorated United States Military men since General Douglas MacArthur. He endured so much pain and suffering to protect his fellow pilots, and Colonel Day should be forever saluted as a hero for his selfless service.

Lance Peter Sijan: Courage Under Fire

By: Rich Bergeron

As a freshman "doolie" at the United States Air Force Academy, I learned that Lance Peter Sijan was the Academy's only medal of honor winner. His legend loomed large as a beacon to greatness, though his stint as a cadet was not particularly spectacular. He blended into the crowd on campus, but when Vietnam came he jumped into an F-4 Phantom and stood out with his skills and his bravery.

The Medal of Honor Citation for Captain Sijan says it all:

"While on a flight over North Vietnam, Capt. Sijan ejected from his disabled aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than 6 weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food. After being captured by North Vietnamese soldiers, Capt. Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a prisoner of war camp. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered one of his guards and crawled into the jungle, only to be recaptured after several hours. He was then transferred to another prison camp where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length. During interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors. Capt. Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner. During his intermittent periods of consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Capt. Sijan's extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the cost of his life 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."

 .   At the Air Force Academy we memorized the code of conduct and several other passages and quotes meant to ingrain in us a method of surviving any capture and/or interrogation without divulging anything more than name rank and serial number. None of these codes and credos were as significant as knowing Lance Sijan's true tale of survival, bravery, and stalwart support of his country, though. We all knew that despite vicious torture techniques employed on him while in North Vietnamese captivity, Sijan never displayed a weak moment under questioning. He was the toughest of the tough, crawling over harsh terrain on his back with such severe fractures to evade capture for so long. I can never forget his true story of amazing endurance and human spirit. His will to survive without compromising his integrity or his devotion to duty was remarkable.

Find out More about Lance Peter Sijan, United States Air Force Academy Class of 1965, at his Wikipedia Page.

Click Hereo To Learn How to Nominate A Hero


Friday, November 19, 2010
By: Rich Bergeron

Heroism is much more than an important value. It's a way of life for some people, and they react to injustice or tragic circumstances without a second thought. They throw themselves into the fire again and again if it saves the lives of others. If they die on duty, then so be it. That's what they signed up for.

Heroism is unfortunately all to often a rare commodity in today's society. Not everyone feels like they can really be a hero, whether it is because they don't feel strong enough or because they can't afford it, or maybe they don't have the spine for it. We've become a society of cogs, thinking we're specialized pieces and better leave the heroism to the military and the civil service folks. Yet, everyone could be a hero if they really wanted to and the moment ahead of them required heroism. You don't need a phone booth or a Superman costume. It's only a matter of confidence and a willingness to step up and help.

Whatever the reason so many people don't step up and do great things as much as they should, it also seems people who are heroic often get overlooked, or they fade away. We need to make the stories of heroes historic. Something we don't just hear about on Veteran's Day or Memorial Day. We need to make those lives matter and share their stories with the world, so that others will want to follow their example of bravery and fortitude in their own lives. Role models like the men and women who have earned the hero label throughout history should be celebrated and thanked.

To promote the Thanksgiving For Heroes concept I would like to print stories of heroic people that are personalized and nominated by real people out there. I'd like to keep this up through the holidays, straight through to the new year, and beyond. It should be a central theme of this site to salute everyday heroes from all walks of life, so we will keep the thanks coming. Please email Memorials For Heroes Founder Rich Bergeron at to nominate a hero from your community or family. Please be creative and include pictures. I will write a personal account of their heroism working with your material and approval, and I will post a blog here on the site telling your hero's story.