ARMSTRONG, JOHN WILLIAM
Name: John William Armstrong Rank/Branch: O5/USAF Unit: Date of Birth: 05 December 1926 Home City of Record: Dallas TX Date of Loss: 09 November 1967 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 171500N 1060800E Status (In 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C Refno: 0832 Other Personnel In Incident: Lance P. Sijan (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK.
Subject: John W Armstrong Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2000 20:50:45 -0800 From: "tka99" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Just searching the web and found it amazing that my father is listed on so many sites. Thank you for the listing. However, the error that I have found in all sites so far read, is:
John Armstrong was the pilot/squadron commander and Lance Sijan was the back-seater (WSO). All the sites I have seen tonight have it the other way around.
Thomas K Armstrong email@example.com
=============================== SYNOPSIS: 1Lt. Lance P. Sijan was the pilot and LtCol. John W. Armstrong the bombardier/navigator of an F4C Phantom fighter/bomber sent on a mission over Laos on November 9, 1967.
Sijan and Armstrong were flying low over the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" when, at approximately 9 p.m., the aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) and crashed.
---------------------------- At 10/31/2001 09:59 PM -0500,
Dear Sirs: I would like to make a correction on the information on the crash of Lt.Col. Armstrong/Lt. Sijan's F-4.
The aircraft was brought down by defective fuses on the bombs that they was carring on Nov. 9, 1967.
This information is noted in the book "Into the Mouth of the Cat:The Story of Lance Sijan, Hero of Vietnam by Malcolm McConnell.
I would like to see corrections made on your info page on Sijan/Armstrong.
Thank you Harold Lowery --------------------------------
The two went down near the famed Mu Gia Pass, a pass in the mountainous border region of Laos and Vietnam. It was not until nearly six years later that it was learned what happened to Sijan and Armstrong. They were classified Missing in Action.
Sijan evaded capture for nearly 6 weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food. The extremely rugged terrain was sometimes almost impassable, but Sijan continued to try to reach friendly forces.
After being captured by North Vietnamese forces, Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a POW 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 the interrogation he was severely tortured, yet did not reveal information to his captors.
Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another American POW. During intermittent periods of consciousness, he never complained of his physical condition, and kept talking about escaping. He was barely alive, yet continued to fight.
During the period he was cared for, he also told the story of his shootdown and evasion to other Americans. After their release, his incredible story was told in "Into the Mouth of the Cat," an account written by Malcolm McConnell from stories brought back by returning American POWs.
Sijan related to fellow POWs that the aircraft had climbed to approximately 10,000 feet after being struck. Sijan bailed out, but was unable to see what happened to LTC Armstrong because of the darkness.
In 1977, a Pathet Lao defector, who claimed to have been a prison camp guard, stated he had been guarding several Americans. According to his report, one was named "Armstrong." There are only two Armstrongs listed as MIA. There is little question that the other Armstrong died at the time of his crash. The Defense Intelligence Agency places no validity in this report.
Sijan was finally removed from the care of other POWs and they were told he was being taken to a hospital. They never saw him again. His remains were returned on March 13, 1974.
In the early 1980's, LtCol. James "Bo" Gritz conducted a number of missions into Laos attempting to obtain positive proof of live POWs there, or better, to secure the release of at least one POW. Although Gritz failed to free any POWs, he returned with a wealth of information on Americans. One thing Gritz recovered was a U.S. Air Force Academy for the class of 1965, inscribed with the name "Lance Peter Sijan." The ring was returned to Sijan's family in Wisconsin.
Lance Sijan was captured by the North Vietnamese. It is theorized that since the Pathet Lao also operated throughout Laos, it is possible that Armstrong, if he was captured, was captured by the Pathet Lao.
Although the Pathet Lao stated publicly they held "tens of tens" of American POWs, the U.S. never negotiated their release because the U.S. did not officially recognize the Pathet Lao as a governmental entity. Consequently, nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos disappeared. Not one American held by the Lao was ever released.
Lance P. Sijan graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1965. He was promoted to the rank of Captain during his captivity, and was awarded the Congressional Medal for his extraordinary heroism during his evasion and captivity. Sijan became legendary in his escape attempts and endurance, even to his Vietnamese captors.
John W. Armstrong graduated from Westpoint in 1949. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he was maintained Missing in Action. The U.S. believes that the Lao or the Vietnamese can account for him, alive or dead.
John W. Armstrong and Lance P. Sijan went down carrying FMU-35 Fuzes, which were suspected of detonating early and blowing up Armstrongs and Sijan's aircraft. The series of losses attributed to defective FMU-35 Fuzes is documented in two books: "Check Six, A Fighter Pilot Looks Back" By Major General Frederick C. Blesse and "Angels Unknown" by Lynda Twyman Paffrath website: www.AngelsUnknown.net
Lynda Twyman Paffrath