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)         

Official pre-capture photo
Image result for LANCE SIJAN

2021 - United States Air Force Academy. The life size statue portrays his courage, his pain, his resolve. It is surround by etched glass of his MOH Citation.
His story told for every cadet and visitor to see.

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 2021.


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 around.


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 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.


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

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....


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

of Wisconsin.


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,







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

their defense.


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

of history.


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

others often.


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

America free.


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

for us...

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

On March 4, 1976, he posthumously received the Medal of Honor, the highest military award in United States, for his selflessness and courage in the ...
2018- - sister, Janine Sijan-Rozina <>
But even with the two public landmarks, Sijan, a recipient of the Medal of Honor, still remains an oft-overlooked figure in Milwaukee history.