SIJAN, LANCE PETER
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
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 2018.
REMARKS: 740313 REMS RETD
|Subject: John W Armstrong
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2000 20:50:45 -0800
From: "tka99" <email@example.com>
Just searching the web and found it amazing that my father is listed on so
John Armstrong was the pilot/squadron commander and Lance Sijan was the
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
At 10/31/2001 09:59 PM -0500,
Dear Sirs: I would like to make a correction on the information on
The aircraft was brought down by defective fuses on the bombs that
This information is noted in the book "Into the Mouth of the Cat:The
I would like to see corrections made on your info page on
|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
|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.
SIJAN, LANCE P.*
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
|From - Thu Jul 06 18:12:00 2000
Passed along with Norm's permission.
This is a song concerning Lance Sijan and others.
THE BALLAD OF BAFFLE ZERO-ONE
Two Phantom ships went thundering
It happened on a stormy night
They took their ships into the North
They started on their bomb run
The bombs that were intended
The ones who knew about such things
And all the men and aircraft
Written in Osan, Korea in 1970 by Maj. Norman M. Turner, 80th Tactical
|Much more information on Lance Sijan is available at: http://www.mishalov.com/Sijan.html|
John W. Armstrong and Lance P. Sijan went down carrying FMU-35 Fuzes, which
Lynda Twyman Paffrath
War Hero Lance Sijan's Air Force Jet Being MovedPosted: Feb 21, 2017 2:27 PM CSTUpdated: Feb 21, 2017 5:08 PM CST
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....
|MORE INFO: http://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=141|
New memorial honors heroic Vietnam War
pilot Lance Sijan
The memorial features granite benches next to plaques describing Sijan's Medal of Honor citation and his heroism. Vietnam veterans, military ...
Sir, please find attached a follow-up to my recent email about the
dedication ceremony for the Lance Sijan Memorial Plaza being held this
Friday, May 26th, at the Milwaukee International Airport in Milwaukee,
I have attached a transcript of the talk I am planning to give. This
talk is about 15 minutes long. I will be joined by Lee Ellis, a
well-known POW, Janine Sijan, Lance's sister and Governor Scott Walker
My hope is that you choose to share the excitement of this event with
your members by sending this talk via email after I give it on Friday
(about noon) and before Memorial Day. Hopefully, then, your members who
did not attend the event will share in the celebration of it.
Thank you, sir, for your consideration in this matter.
God bless you,
LANCE SIJAN: A LEGEND OF HEROIC LOVE OF AMERICA
Talk given on May 26th, 2017, at the "Captain Lance P. Sijan Memorial
Plaza Dedication Ceremony“ Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Greetings, everyone; my name is Guy Gruters. I graduated from the Air
Force Academy in 1964, a year earlier than Lance did. However, I was in
the same squadron with Lance and knew him well while at the Academy.
After graduation, I obtained a Master's degree at Purdue University,
then attended Air Force pilot and fighter pilot training. I then
volunteered for Vietnam service only.
After almost a year's tour, one day while flying an F-100 fighter over
North Vietnam, I was shot out of the air and landed in enemy territory.
I was quickly captured and brought to a small village, then to a jungle
bamboo holding prison for the trip north to the Hanoi Hilton. It was in
this jungle prison I met Lance again.
Lance had been downed 6 weeks before me. He had not been rescued, but
instead had evaded capture by the enemy by remaining out of sight in the
jungle. He was wounded and emaciated, having had nothing to eat and only
the water found in the jungle for all those weeks.
When I first saw Lance again in the jungle bamboo prison, I did not
recognize him, but he recognized me. I did not recognize him because he
had lost so much weight and was covered with infections and sores.
I will never forget that moment. Major Bob Craner, the pilot I had been
shot down with, and I were told by the guards to care for the new
prisoner in another cell. We both attempted to help this very injured
man to his feet. When we picked him up, Lance said to me, "Aren't you
Guy Gruters?"¯ and I said, "Yes, I am, who are you?"¯ and Lance said, "I
am Lance Sijan."
My heart stopped, my eyes filled with tears.
I could not believe what had happened to Lance's body. He was so thin
and emaciated I did not recognize him at all. We did our best to care
for him, but the guards apparently felt Lance would die soon. Thus, they
viciously beat and tortured him in an attempt to obtain information
quickly, information that would aid them in the war they were waging
against the Americans and its free allies in South Vietnam.
Lance would only tell the interrogators his name, rank, service number
and date of birth. They kept pounding and kicking him in the beatings
given many times each day. From our cells, hearing every blow and
resulting scream, we tried to stop them by yelling and screaming also to
divert their attention, but this did no good. Lance would not budge. He
refused to jeopardize his comrades by telling the enemy any information
at all. We tried to care for him over the next weeks to keep him alive,
whenever we could get to him.
It was heartbreaking for me personally, because I knew Lance at the
Academy. I remember how healthy and strong he was, he was on the
football team, and now his body was in terrible shape.
I asked him why he had so many infected sores, hundreds of them. He told
me he had to crawl through the jungle by pulling himself along with his
hands, since he had a broken leg with the bone sticking out, then after
a few days and nights he would fall asleep from exhaustion. When he woke
up, there were rats all over him chewing on his flesh and at the same
time snakes after the rats.
He told us what he had gone through since his plane had been destroyed
by a malfunctioning bomb and blown out of the sky. I listened in awe to
the details and how he was finally discovered in an unconscious
condition on a small jungle trail. I asked Lance if he had made his
peace with God and he said he had. We both knew his days were numbered.
Lance was a great example for the two of us, Major Bob Craner and I, and
the other POWs we told his story to. Lance had great resolve to obey
orders. His middle name was obedience. We were under the standing orders
of the American Fighting Man's Code of Conduct, which I will now read
and then describe how Lance obeyed the code in its entirety:
Article 1: I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which
guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in
Lance gave his life in their defense.
Article 2: I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I
will never surrender my men while they still have the means to resist.
He was found while unconscious, 46 days after being downed. Lance did
not surrender of his own free will.
Article 3: If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means
available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape.
I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
According to unsolicited testimony to me by a North Vietnamese officer,
Lance did manage to escape by knocking out a guard when he was all alone
with him even though he was so seriously injured. He did not stop trying
to escape and to convince us of its possibility, even in his
deteriorated condition and even from the high security prison of the
Hanoi Hilton we finally ended up in.
As far as parole or special favors from the enemy, it is inconceivable
that Lance would ever even consider accepting something like that.
Article 4: If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my
fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action
which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take
command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over
me and will back them up in every way.
Lance was a perfect companion in prison camp. He made it possible for
Major Craner and myself to better resist interrogation. He was also
obedient to Major Craner, the senior officer in our cell.
Article 5: When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am
required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will
evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will
make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies
or harmful to their cause.
Lance did this perfectly, despite unbelievable pain and suffering. The
great French general, Napoleon, was famous in military studies for his
ability to effectively motivate and select men for special units.
Napoleon said that "the first quality of a soldier is the ability to
endure hardship."¯ If this is true, and it is tough to find a better
judge than Napoleon, then Lance is one of the greatest soldiers in all
Article 6: I will never forget that I am an American fighting man,
responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made
my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
Like Job in the Bible, like Jesus on the cross, Lance trusted God even
though he was given a bed of thorns, not a wreath of flowers. Lance
never complained of the hardships and sufferings presented to him. He
kept the faith. He died a peaceful man. He was a soldier to the very end
and an example for all time.
While at the Academy, all cadets were required to memorize the American
Fighting Man's Code of Conduct and also called to recite it in front of
Most don't realize the importance of the American Fighting Man's Code of
Conduct, but we as POWs certainly did. The code gave us direction and
purpose from capture to freedom. As a prisoner, it helped us to be
motivated to resist and fight the enemy in a different way than we had
been fighting him with fighter planes, bullets and bombs.
Our war now was a mental and spiritual one. We had to overcome the
torments and torture we received, overlooking the brutality of the
guards, who were just soldiers doing the job assigned to them, keep our
faith in God and our country and be positive and hopeful about the
future, despite living a life of terror each day without any apparent
hope or apparent end in sight.
Many of our citizens here in the USA have been spared the experience and
cannot imagine the horror of war, much less how cruel and devastating it
is to be treated worse than an animal, treated as a criminal and one who
is an enemy by men who would rather kill you than keep you alive.
But this is exactly how Lance spent the days of his last month on this
We witnessed his great mental and moral strength, his commitment and his
determination to resist the enemy and obey the orders to not give more
than name, rank, service number and date of birth. Bob Craner and I were
amazed at Lance's ability in his horrific condition to obey the standing
orders of the American Fighting Man's Code of Conduct through all the
torture and pain.
We should all reflect why Lance acted the way he did, that is, obey
orders under such conditions. Lance was a soldier and an American
fighting man called to fight in a war he believed in, a war to defend
America and keep it free.
If you remember the times we were living in back then, you can recall
the Russians and Chinese and many other peoples had become communist.
The Russians were committed to conquering the world and it was actually
occurring as the years went by.
The communist revolution started in 1917 in Russia and it was spreading
throughout the globe by their strategy of "Wars of National Liberation,"¯
like in Vietnam. America and several other free countries had sent
soldiers to Vietnam to fight the communist thrust there as a part of
what was also known as the "Cold War"¯ all over the world.
Lance was a soldier in this war to keep America free. He was a soldier
and knew that if the communists were not stopped, they would one day
invade America, kill men women and children and establish a communist
regime in the USA. This was the stated objective of the communists, and
had been for decades.
The communists did not believe in freedom of press nor freedom of
religion. The communists did not permit that people were allowed to
believe in God. If you conflicted the government, you were killed or
placed to live on a garbage dump with your wife and children or enslaved
in a labor camp.
I saw how the communists ruled in North Vietnam. I lived in a communist
country for over five years. I returned to America to freedom, the
freedom I did not realize the value of until it was taken from me.
Lance died, as did many other strong young men, for one reason and one
reason only. It was to keep America free. This is what our country
stands for. A country that is free. A country that values freedom and is
willing to fight for freedom and in Lance's case even giving up one's
life so that others can live in freedom.
We must all reflect often when we see a picture of Lance or when we
drive by his F-4 fighter plane memorial, that we live in a free country
because of Lance giving up his life along with many others that have
loved this country. These other soldiers, not perhaps in such a heroic
way as Lance did, still gave up their lives or perhaps suffered wounds
that lasted a lifetime, or risked their lives fighting in wars to keep
God, I believe, tests all of us in this life. God tests us to see how
great a lover we are. Daily we have to sacrifice to love others whom we
live with and care for. Daily we have to give, share and help others.
A war creates thousands of situations in which soldiers are tested to
see if they will love. The greatest love a man or woman can show or
demonstrate is to give up his or her life for another. Lance
demonstrated this great love. He passed the ultimate test.
Lance, perhaps, would be alive right now if he would have told the enemy
what they wanted to know. But he refused to do this. Instead, he fought
the enemy in a knowing attempt to love his country by protecting it, by
not giving the enemy the information they wanted to know.
Lance was, therefore, a great lover of you and me.
Would you do this for our country? Would you knowingly suffer and give
up your life for the ones you love? How about for people you did not
even know, that is, your fellow Americans?
Let us all learn from Lance's great example of heroic love. Because this
is what it was, the greatest love a person can show for another. I know
of no other word that describes it better than "heroic."
Our country awards the Medal of Honor to heroes of love. These are those
who gave up their life or risked it in a great way for you and for me so
we can live daily in a free country and make free choices, so we can
worship God, so we can travel where we wish to, so we can go to school
where we desire to, so we can work in the job we wish to work in.
This is a free land!
This is a free country!
This is what this means!
We can be united with our American brothers and sisters in a tremendous
spirit of freedom! Now, I would like to ask you to give the American
next to you a handshake celebrating our freedom!
Let us also now join together to thank God for our soldiers living and
dead, for this freedom, the freedom only given to us and preserved for
us by their sacrifices:
Dear Heavenly Father, today we join here to dedicate a memorial to Lance
Sijan. This memorial will be here and last for centuries. It is a
memorial to remind us of Lance's heroic love of country, of his
self-sacrifice, of giving his very life to provide us with a freedom of
living and thinking and believing as we will and doing as we choose to do.
Father, thank you for filling Lance with your love, the love he
demonstrated by giving up his life for each of us. Please continue to
bless our country with young men and women willing to risk their lives
and even knowingly give up their lives so that our country remains free,
so that our children can worship in freedom, live in freedom and be free
all the days of their life.
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your love and in giving this country
Lance Sijan as a beacon of your love.
In Jesus' Name, I pray. Amen.
Captain Guy D. Gruters
Motivational POW Speaker: High Performance Leadership/Teambuilding
Author: Locked Up With God
Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the storehouse of God's Blessings
Forgive to receive God's Divine Favors...
Forgive, and love again...
Humblest leaders/team members are the best..."You should not even have
the fleeting idea you are better than anyone else. In God's eyes, he who
believes that everyone else is possibly better....wins." St. John
Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church