Bud Breckner was born on May 25, 1933, in Alliance, Ohio. He entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force on March 26, 1954, and was commissioned as a 2d Lt on June 30, 1955, and awarded his pilot wings on August 1, 1955. He flew F-86H Sabres and F-100D Super Sabres with the 417th Tactical Fighter Squadron in France and West Germany from April 1956 to May 1959, before attending weapons controller school and serving as a ground-controlled interception controller with Air Defense Command at Calumet Air Force Station, Michigan, and Truax Field, Wisconsin, from August 1959 to May 1962. His next assignment was flying F-101 Voodoos with the 87th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio, where he served from May 1962 to June 1966. Breckner served as an exchange pilot with the U.S. Navy from June 1966 to January 1969. During this time, he flew 100 combat missions in the A-4 Skyhawk off the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. He then attended Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1969 to October 1970, before returning to the 87th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, this time at Volk Field, Wisconsin, where he flew F-106 Delta Darts and served until May 1972. Breckner returned to Vietnam flying combat in the F-4 Phantom II with the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, in May 1972. His aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile and he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on July 30, 1972. After spending 242 days in captivity, he was released during Operation Homecoming on March 29, 1973. After his release and a brief hospitalization, Breckner commanded the Air Force Interceptor Weapons School at Tyndall AFB, Florida, from June 1973 to 1975. He then attended the National War College before being assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he served as Vice Commandant of Cadets from 1976 to 1979. General Breckner commanded the 82nd Flying Training Wing at Williams AFB, Arizona from July 1979 to March 1980, and then became chief of staff for logistics with Air Training Command, where he served from March 1980 to August 1983. In August 1983, he became chief of staff, Headquarters United States Air Forces in Europe. In August 1984, he became commander of 17th Air Force and he retired from the Air Force in this position on November 1, 1986. Bud Breckner died in an auto accident near his home in Colorado on February 16, 2008, and was buried at the Air Force Academy Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star Medal to William John Breckner, Jr., Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F- 4D Aircraft Commander of the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron Ubon Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, PACIFIC Air Force, in action in Southeast Asia on 30 July 1972. On that date, Colonel Breckner flew as an element of fighter-bombers on a dangrous and sensitive mission deep within hostile territory. Despite heavy defensive reactions consisting of numerous Surface-toAir missile barrages, Colonel Breckner was able to carry out his duty, reflecting a high degree of aeronautical skill. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Colonel Breckner has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.