Call Sign Misty

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I don’t believe heroism has ever been in short supply when America has needed her warriors.

Vietnam was no exception.

From the soldier or Marine leading point on a patrol, to the tunnel rats, the A-1 “Sandy” and HH-53 “Jolly Green Giant” pilots who risked their own lives (and sometimes died) rescuing downed pilots…

A fellow who worked at the hardware store I frequent I believe typified the Vietnam Vet. I found out about Ray’s service over knowing him (across the counter) over a few years. He was not given to braggadocio.

Which as an aside, I have learned over the years generally the quieter the person, the deeper the well.

Over some conversations I learned that he was in an elite Marine Recon unit that is mentioned in a book or 2. He recently moved to Arizona, but while he was here I did notice a certain expertise in handling shoplifters.

There are Rays all across the country; quietly going about their daily lives today.

A few years ago I learned about a group of pilots who did an incredible job, which was to look for enemy anti aircraft (AA)  batteries. Once they spotted a battery they encouraged them to shoot at them. During this interval they would “jink” – turn sharply – every 5-7 seconds – which happened to be the typical flight time of the 37mm AA round, the usual ordnance aimed at them. They did face everything from SA-2 missiles to small arms.

Once the battery was located, they would call in Air Force and/or Navy pilots in fighter-bombers to destroy it.

The first pilots in 1967 devised the tactics that the subsequent pilots would use.

They flew the 2 seat version of the F100 (F100F) , a pilot and a spotter. Both were pilots, and would rotate seats with each mission. They’d fly their missions at low level, 350-550 mph, looking for batteries and anything else to disrupt the enemy.

From 1967 through 1970, of the 157 Misty pilots, 34 were shot down. 7 were KIA and 4 POWs.

One  was awarded the Medal of Honor, 2 became Air Force Chiefs of Staff, 6 became general officers, 1 a winner of the Collier Trophy, and 1 became the first man to fly non-stop, un-refuelled around the world.

The Medal of Honor recipient? The first commander, Bud Day (call sign Misty 01) , was directing some F105s against a SAM site 20 miles north of the DMZ in North Vietnam. His plane was hit by 37mm AA fire and in the ejection Day broke his arm in 3 places when he struck the side of the cockpit. His spotter was rescued but Day was unable to contact the helicopter with his survival radio, and was quickly captured by a North Vietnamese militia unit. Despite his serious injuries, on his fifth night of capture, Day escaped his captors, and although stripped of his boots and flight suit, made it south across the DMZ.  He was within 2 miles of a U.S. Marine fire base at Con Thien, when the Viet Cong recaptured him, shooting him in the leg and hand.

He was taken back to the original camp, tortured and starved and eventually ended up at the “Hanoi Hilton”, a cellmate of John McCain. McCain nursed his atrophied arm. He remained there until March 14, 1973.

On March 4, 1976 he was awarded the MOH by President Gerald Ford for his personal bravery.

Quite a group of pilots.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Call Sign Misty

  1. xbradtc

    Excellent post.

  2. Old AF Sarge

    Great story Bill. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Bill Brandt

    Guys – after I wrote this I found that Bud Day was the only POW to ever escape from North Vietnam back to the South – and to be caught 1.5 km from a Marine base….heartbreaking.

  4. Col. Day is one of my personal heroes. Here’s another good story about this fine gentleman.

    • Bill Brandt

      From a friend, retired Air Force who just-as-soon-leave-his-name-out-of-blogs:

      I have several friends that were in the Misty FAC outfit under him. They all speak highly of him. But Bud Day is a hero to the military for another reason. He was/is a lawyer and sued the government for reneging on the guarantee of medical coverage for life for retirees. He lost the law suits but gained enough publicity that congress passed a law that fixed it.

  5. Fantastic story showing the sheer mental strength of this man. Humbling to read.

  6. virgil xenophon

    God it brings back memories! Funny, I didn’t know a single Misty when on active duty and I spent a lot of time on their site and it seems not a single one ever took UPT @Laughlin, either. But it took me to the virtual wall and I began searching for others that I had known who were kia/mia and the memories came flooding back like it was yesterday. The wildly different retirement biographies of those guys after they got out of the flying game was really intyeresting and shows what an amazingly varied life people lead in ways that no one, I’m sure not even them, could have predicted. As the old saying goes, “Life is what happens to you while you’re planning something else.” lol.

  7. Col. Day’s story is told in “American Patriot” by Robert Coram. With this book “Boyd” and “Brute” became my favorite biographer. The description of Day as a guest of honor at a Dining In brought tears to my eyes.

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