Remains returned 08 April 1988, Identified August 1988

Name: Mark Lane Stephensen
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Udorn AFB Thailand
Date of Birth: 29 May 1930
Home City of Record: Salt Lake City UT
Date of Loss: 29 April 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 214501N 1050513E
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C
Refno: 0668

Other Personnel In Incident: Gary R. Sigler (released POW)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 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.


SYNOPSIS: Major L. Mark Stephensen was the pilot, and First Lieutenant Gary
R. Sigler the co-pilot, of a reconnaissance-outfitted version of the F4
Phantom fighter/bomber aircraft assigned an armed reconnaissance mission
over North Vietnam on April 29, 1967. Sigler and Stephensen were friends,
having met some 8 months before they were both shipped overseas.

Sigler was confident in his friend's flying ability, and was undoubtedly
thinking of his young daughter's first birthday the next day. Sigler and
Stephenson usually flew night missions, and nearing the end of their tour as
marked by an upcoming 100 missions, were glad it was dark, figuring if "we
couldn't see them, they couldn't see us."

Thirteen minutes after takeoff, they radioed their position to an airborne
controller. It was the last radio transmission before the Phantom went down.
About 60 miles from Hanoi, their systems indicated that SAMs (Surface to Air
Missiles) had locked onto them. Attempting to evade their course, the
aircraft crashed against treetops on one hill, then into the side of another
hill. Sigler ejected after the first impact, and from a position over the
top of a hill from the crashed aircraft watched the sky illuminated from the
burning plane.

Sigler was captured two days later and spent nearly seven years as a
prisoner of war before his release in 1973. Early in his captivity, he was
asked if another pilot was on his plane. He stated that during his entire
captivity, he had no indication that the Vietnamese knew what happened to
his pilot and friend. Major Stephenson was never heard from again.

In April 1988, the Vietnamese returned remains they identified as those of
Mark Stephenson. By August, 1988, the U.S. had verified that the
identification was valid. Mark Stephenson, alive or dead, had been a
prisoner of war for 21 years.

During the period he was maintained missing, Mark Stephenson was promoted to
the rank of Colonel. Gary R. Sigler was promoted to the rank of Captain
during his captivity.

Tim Woodward: Boisean gets Honor Flights for Idaho vets
He was speaking about his POW/MIA work at Nampa's Warhawk Air Museum when he learned that a group of Idaho WWII veterans had been rejected ...

.....Stephensen's father was a fighter pilot stationed at the base. Lance Stephensen will never forget the day - he was 10 then - when he and his sister were called out of class at the base school.

"When we got home, a staff car pulled up in front of the house. They told Mom that Dad was an MIA. We didn't even know what that meant then."

Their father, Col. Mark L. Stephensen, had been shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission in North Vietnam. His remains weren't found and identified until 1988. He was an MIA for 21 years......

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