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 Rank/Branch: O2/USAF Unit: 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 2002.
REMARKS: 740313 REMS RETD
========================= 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 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.
------------------------------- 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 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.
Medal of Honor
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 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.
THE BALLAD OF BAFFLE ZERO-ONE
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: http://www.mishalov.com/Sijan.html
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 ===================
|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.