Lance Peter Sijan

13 April 1942 – 22 January 1968

sijanOn the night of 09 Nov 1967, then LtCol John Armstrong, commander of the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Da Nang, South Vietnam, and Weapons System Officer Capt Lance P. Sijan were tasked with a bombing mission in the Ho Chi Minh Trail area of Laos. The target was Ban Loboy Ford, and a second F-4C was along as wingman.

Shortly before 9 PM, Armstrong rolled in on the target and released his ordnance. Almost immediately, the aircraft was engulfed in a ball of fire and entered a banking climb to about 10,000 feet before rolling into a near vertical plunge into the jungle below. Neither the Forward Air Controller nor Armstrong’s wingman saw parachutes, but initiated SAR at once.

The SAR forces established contact with Sijan, who was badly hurt during his ejection and landing, but were unable to pick him up. SAR efforts continued the next day, but were called off when no further radio contact could be established with Sijan. No contact was made at any time with LtCol John Armstrong. Both men were placed in MIA status.

Although wounded and without food, water, or even his survival kit, Sijan managed to evade the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese forces for 46 days before being captured on Christmas Day 1967. By that time, he was emaciated and in extremely poor shape. Never the less, he managed to cold-cock his guard and escape, but was recaptured within hours. He was transported to a holding compound in Vinh, North Vietnam, where he was put into the care of other American POWs. After further travel to Hanoi, Sijan’s body failed him and he died of wounds and exhaustion on 22 January 1968. His mental determination and physical stamina so impressed his fellow POWs that, upon their return, Sijan was nominated for and received the Medal of Honor.

Then 1stLt Sijan was shot down on 09 Nov 1967; he was captured on 25 Dec 1967 and transported to Hanoi where he died in captivity on 22 January 1968. His remains were repatriated on 13 Mar 1974 and positively identified on 22 Apr 1974. He is buried in Arlington Park Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


The Courage of Lance Sijan