Remains Returned 13 March 1974

NETWORK NOTE: The USG has Sijan's shootdown date as his date of death on the
WALL. Lance Sijan died during his rescue, in a fight with his captor on
January 22, 1968. He evaded capture for weeks.

Name: Lance Peter Sijan
Rank/Branch: O2/USAF
Date of Birth: 13 April 1942
Home City of Record: Milwaukee WI
Date of Loss: 09 November 1967
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 171500N 1060800E
Status (In 1973): Killed in Captivity
Category: 1
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C

Other Personnel In Incident: John W. Armstrong (missing)

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 2017.


Subject: John W Armstrong
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2000 20:50:45 -0800
From: "tka99" <>

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 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


Thomas K Armstrong


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

        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.

        Subject: RE: Lance P.
        Date: Mon, 8 Aug 2005 09:08:42 -0400

        In the Narrative about Lt Lance P. Sijan, you state that he went
        down near Mu Gia Pass. Incorrect, he went down near Ban Karai Pass
        which is about 50 miles southeast of Mu Gia Pass. Dave McNeil

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

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

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

                             Medal of Honor


Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Air Force, 4th Allied POW Wing, Pilot of
an F-4C aircraft.

Place and date: North Vietnam, 9 November 1967.

Entered service at: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Born: 13 April 1942, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


While on a flight over North Vietnam, Capt. Sijan ejected from his disabled
aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than 6 weeks. During this
time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight
loss due to lack of food. After being captured by North Vietnamese soldiers,
Capt. Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a
prisoner of war camp. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he
overpowered 1 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 interrogation, he was severely tortured, however, he did not divulge
any information to his captors. Capt. Sijan lapsed into delirium and was
placed in the care of another prisoner. During his intermittent periods of
consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition
and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Capt. Sijan's
extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at
the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S.
Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.


From - Thu Jul 06 18:12:00 2000
Passed along with Norm's permission.

This is a song concerning Lance Sijan and others.
From my notes exactly as I wrote it 30 years ago. Apparently Sijan was in
the 389th TFS because my classmates Morgan and Hunnycutt were. This is
factually accurate as we believed it then including the call sign. We
assumed all were dead on detonation. I never put music to it.




Two Phantom ships went thundering
 Into the rain and wind
Their call sign Baffle Zero-One
 Their crews were four young men
Armstrong and Sijan, Morgan, Hunnycutt
 And none has ever seen them again

It happened on a stormy night
 About two years ago
It was a strange occurrence
 I'll tell you all I know
It happened like I tell it
 If you'll fill my glass with rum
I'll tell you of the fate
 Of Baffle Zero-One

They took their ships into the North
 To strike the convoy force
And the bomb load that they carried
 Was of a different source
New fuses had been loaded
 Malfunctioned it was found
And the four of them were dead men
 From the time they left the ground

They started on their bomb run
 Above that barren road
Three minutes out, said Milky
 You're clear to arm your load
Two sets of switches moved to Arm
 Two sets of relays hot
Three minutes from eternity
 But the young men knew it not
Ten seconds out said Milky
 Prepare for my countdown
Their thumbs were tensed on buttons
 Four miles above the ground
And the last thing they would ever hear
 That night so cold and black
Was a voice that counted backward
 And the final codeword, Hack

The bombs that were intended
 To fall upon the ground
Had detonated at release
 And filled the sky around
With torn and twisted pieces
 Blasted from the pair
And caused by lack of interest
 By the ones who sent them there

The ones who knew about such things
 Said, no it could not be
The fuses were all good they said
 Load more and you shall see
And three more ships were stricken
 And more lives spent and gone
'till they finally admitted
 Was the fuses all along

And all the men and aircraft
 Were called a combat loss
And no one had better say it's not
 The word was quietly passed
And if they knew who wrote this song
 They'd nail him to the cross
But someone should have, long ago
 Told those who bear the loss

Written in Osan, Korea in 1970 by Maj. Norman M. Turner, 80th Tactical
Fighter Squadron


Much more information on Lance Sijan is available at:


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

Lynda Twyman Paffrath


Faith in captivity: Vietnam War POW inspires Airmen

by Staff Sgt. Jenna Hildebrand
128th Air Refueling Wing

4/30/2013 - MILWAUKEE (AFNS) -- With his hands bound in manacles, an imprisoned Air Force pilot watched from his bamboo holding cell as North Vietnamese soldiers moved a wounded American prisoner into the cell across from his. The pilot was shocked at the man's appearance; his fingers were raw and his body was emaciated. His whole body was covered in wounds; he had been pushing through the jungle for 45 days without food. The pilot did not recognize the new prisoner.

The next morning, the guards had the pilot and his cell mate pick up the new prisoner to take him to the bathroom. The withered man looked over at his fellow prisoner and said, "Aren't you Guy Gruters?"

"Yea, who are you?" Gruters responded.

"Lance Sijan."

War Hero Lance Sijan's Air Force Jet Being Moved

Posted: Feb 21, 2017 2:27 PM CSTUpdated: Feb 21, 2017 5:08 PM CST
By Michele McCormack

Milwaukee -

A massive 60 ft. crane will lift war hero and Bay View native, Captain Lance Sijan's Memorial F-4C Phantom Jet from its current location at the entrance to the former Air Force 440th Air Lift Wing at General Mitchell International Field, and put into storage, until its new home at 5500 S. Howell Avenue is ready this spring....