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AMERICAN PATRIOT by Robert Coram

AMERICAN PATRIOT

The Life and Wars of Colonel Bud Day

By Robert Coram

Pub Date: May 3rd, 2007
ISBN: 0-316-75847-7
Publisher: Little, Brown

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 two decades 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.