Lance Peter Sijan

480TH TFS, 366TH TFW, 7TH AF
United States Air Force
13 April 1942 - 22 January 1968
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Panel 29E Line 062

Medal of Honor POW Medal

USAF Pilot

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
Lance P Sijan
Photo courtesy of Warrick L. Barrett

The database page for Lance Peter Sijan

The President of the United States
in the name of the Congress of the United States
takes pride in presenting the


posthumously to

United States Air Force

for service as set forth in the following


While on a flight over North Vietnam, Captain 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, Captain Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a prisoner of war 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 interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors. Captain 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. Captain 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.
5 Dec 2001

Lance, your dad paid my boyfriend the highest compliment possible: he told him that he could see you working through him.

We need you to keep us strong, Lance. Help keep us focused, carry us when we're weak, dry our tears when we cry, lift us when we're down, help us smile through the many disappointments. Most importantly, give us the correct words to use in the work that we do, and the wisdom to use them correctly. You are our hero.

From a friend,
2228 N. 115th Street, Wauwatosa, Wi 53226

24 June 2002

About 15 years ago, a vice-president for my company suggested I read a book called "Into the Mouth of the Cat." It's the story of Lance Sijan. In 2000, the same company initiated The Lance Sijan Award, and it has become the company's most prestigious award. I'm proud of WHAT Capt. Sijan did for all of us and proud to be part of a company that has chosen to honor a heroic effort in this fashion.

God bless you, Captain Sijan.

Michael Durham
E-mail address is not available.

15 Sep 2002

I read the book "Into the Mouth of the Cat" several years ago, and was moved to tears. If ever there was an inspiration for courage, it was Lance Sijan. In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, with all the heartache and loss felt by our grieving country, I take pause to remember the determination and strength of spirit shown by Lance Sijan. In the most horrible of circumstances, he never faltered, never gave in, never quit ... even when his body was deteriorating, his mind was always set on freedom. He is an inspiration to us all.

As our beloved country faces a new kind of war, let us remember the boldness and courage of those who have given their lives to preserve our freedoms. We have many differences among us, but one thing stands true for us all ... the American people are all filled with the same love and pride of country as shown by Lance Sijan. The United States of America will live on, and become stronger.

from a friend,
Melanie Hart

18 Sep 2002



E-mail address is not available.

01 Oct 2002

Sir. I'm an ex-Air Force Staff Sergeant who was moved beyond words regarding your heroism and sacrifice. I was at the Wall just yesterday and obtained a "rubbing" of your name and that of PFC Richard L. Zody ... my first grade teacher's son. I truly wish I could see you in person, yet, I think I do anyway whenever I see our flag snapping briskly in the wind. God Bless you and ALL whom served and died, and those that returned.

SSgt Earl Wagner
50th Security Police Squadron
Hahn Air Base, FRG ( 1981-1983)
Warren AFB, WY (1983-1990)
E-mail address is not available.

06 Nov 2002

Whenever it seems as if times are tough, remember Lance Sijan.
Thank you for showing what one person can do, Lance.

David M. Callender
E-mail address is not available.

01 Feb 2003

My father was one of your fellow classmates at the Academy. As a boy scout he often told us of your courage and valor. You became the troop hero. In the face of adversity or in scouting competitions your name was used as a motivation to overcome and to win. During a tug of war competition, the chant "Sijan! Sijan! Sijan" was shouted by fellow troop members to lead us to victory after victory. That was years ago, yet the feelings of admiration that I have for you, and those like you, who defeated the enemy not only through your skill as a fighter but because you chose not to be defeated, remain with me today. With that understanding, no matter who or what the enemy may be, I can win because I choose not to be defeated.

Thank you, Lance P. Sijan, for the reminder of the strength that can be in all of us.

From a classmate's son.
E-mail address is not available.

10 Apr 2003

We had to pick a military leader and do a briefing on him/her for my Air Force ROTC freshman class. I wanted to do it on someone that not many college students my age know about but would also be someone that they would take interest in. I chose Lance Sijan.

One day soon I will be an officer in the Air Force. It is shocking yet wonderful to see someone as dedicated as Captain Sijan. I hope that others in ROTC and just pretty much anyone will read his story and see how dedicated men are to this country ("men" meaning man or woman). Captain Sijan is the perfect example of someone that not only deserved the Medal of Honor, but should be a role model to future people in the military. And no matter what, I will always remember the type of person Lance Sijan was and I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and the United States of America.

Tabatha Rose Spriggs

10 May 2003

I wish that you were still here! I was just in Milwaukee for my Dad being in the Air Force and we looked at your stuff and I got so sad. I mean I wish that you were still alive. We all appreciate you and wish that you are still with us. We love you!

17 Sep 2003

Hey, this is to everyone that reads this! I don't know if Lance is still alive but I hope so! I am praying for him and everyone else that they couldn't find! Thank you God for giving us Lance and I hope that he is still with us and I hope that someone finds him soon! Love ya all! Hugs and kisses to Lance! Love ya!!

Leah in Wisconsin

31 May 2003

In a series of letters and tapes home, Lt. James Badley talked about a series of losses experienced by the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing during November of 1967. Douglas Condit (he graduated from Oregon State University with Jim Badley) and Herbert Brennan's aircraft was the last in that series.

On 9 November 1967 a 480th Tac Ftr Sqdn F-4C (tail number 64-0751) crewed by Lt. Colonel John Armstrong and Lt. Lance Sijan went down near Ban Loboy Ford, Laos, as they bombed enemy supply routes. The circumstances indicated that the destruction of the aircraft could have happened in one of two ways: they could have taken a direct hit or the plane could have been blown up by its own bombs. Since Armstrong's flight was armed with the new FMU-35 time-delay fuses, there was a distinct possibility that they had malfunctioned. Faulty fuses could have prematurely triggered detonation of all six bombs, and if this had happened, over two tons of high explosive would have erupted less than fifty feet from the airplane.

The next day, 10 Nov 1967, Lt. Colonel Kelly Cook told his wife in a letter that part of his flight assignment that night was to check out some malfunctioning bomb fuses. Cook's flight that night consisted of two aircraft from the 389th Tac Ftr Sqdn:

  • BAFFLE 01, F-4C tail number 64-0669
    • Major James S. Morgan, 389th TFS, flight lead
    • 1LT Charles J. Huneycutt, 389th TFS

  • BAFFLE 02, F-4C tail number 64-0834
tasked with a SKYSPOT mission over North Vietnam. SKYSPOT was frequently used when the weather was too bad for the pilots to actually get into the target; the flight crew would fly to a designated point where they were picked up by radar and the radar controllers would then vector the crew to another point where a countdown for bomb release would begin. Normally, the bombs were ordered released while flying level at 15,000 to 20,000 feet, and bomb damage was assessed by the same radar controllers who were directing the mission. On this particular night, when the radar people directed Baffle Flight to drop their bombs, both aircraft had immediately disappeared from the radar scope. Since there was nothing said by the pilots, the radar crew figured that, once again, one of two things must have happened: either the bombs underneath the aircraft had been hit by an 85 millimeter shell, or the bombs had been set off prematurely by the new FMU-35 fuses.

When mechanically-fused bombs were released, the arming wire was pulled and a front spinner propeller began to spin. After the spinner rotated a certain number of revolutions -- set during ground weapons load -- the bomb's fuse was active and ready to detonate upon ground impact. The new FMU-35s, chemical fuses developed for use on mines and delayed bombs, armed the bomb through a precisely-timed, two-step process: First, the bomb was released from the aircraft; this act pulled an arming wire, which then allowed the second step to begin. During the second step, chemicals began eating through a thin metal shield. When the shield was broached, the bomb was an armed mine: volatile and very sensitive to impact.

Unfortunately, as they were to prove months later, there was a defect in the fuses when the military first began using them, and, essentially, the bombs were arming when they were attached to the aircraft. This meant the bombs were live and deadly when released from the aircraft, allowing premature, sometimes immediate, detonation.

Colonel Frederick "Boots" Blesse, Deputy Commander of Operations for the wing, suspected the fuses were defective after the back-to-back losses of Armstrong/Sijan and Baffle Flight. At that time, he ordered all the FMU-35 fuses removed and replaced with regular mechanical fuses. Unfortunately, 7th Air Force didn't agree with Colonel Blesse's conclusion that the FMU-35 fuses were at fault and he was ordered to continue using the FMU-35s.

On 26 November 1967, Colonel Brennan and Lt Condit went down in Laos (F-4C 64-0697, 390th TFS). It seemed to be a repeat performance of the Armstrong/Sijan loss two weeks earlier. They had rolled in on the target, released their bombs, and had immediately blown up. Colonel Blesse immediately suspended all use of the FMU-35 fused weapons until a thorough investigation could be conducted. This time 7th Air Force listened and responded by sending U.S. Air Force Contractor personnel to DaNang to officially investigate the fuse problem. This official delegation couldn't find anything wrong with the fuses and delivery of weapons employing this fuse was began again at the end of December.

Two weeks later, on 16 January 1968, Colonel Blesse's suspicions were finally confirmed. Two F-4s from the 480th TFS were tasked with a SKYSPOT mission using FMU-35 fused 750 pound Mk 117 bombs set for delayed detonations from 45 minutes to six hours after arming. The mission crews were

  • F-4C tail number 64-0927
    • Major Charles E. Lewis, flight lead
    • 1LT Jack L. Kelley

  • F-4D tail number 66-8706
    • Capt Scott B. Stovin
    • 1LT Thomas N. Moe
Kelley was very concerned about the fuses so during the briefing he advised Major Lewis to take the extra precaution of pulling up sharply upon release of the last bomb and, fortunately, that was precisely what he did. Their aircraft and the one behind was blown up. The four crewmen safely ejected; Lewis and Kelley were rescued several hours later, while Stovin was picked up two days later. Tom Moe was captured and spent the rest of the war as a POW.

After returning to the base, Lewis and Kelley told how one of their bombs exploded below and behind their right wing. They saw the flash of light, felt the push on the aircraft, heard the noise, and saw 1/3 of their right wing being blown in pieces up and slightly to the left. That information was all Blesse needed -- he ordered the armament people to use the fuses, but to leave them disconnected from the bombs. From that time forward, there were no more incidents at DaNang of aircraft suddenly blowing up upon release of their FMU-35 fused bombs.

Lynda Twyman Paffrath

09 June 2003

Rest in Peace, brave hero.

Terrance Crooms

Tribute sought for Vietnam War hero

Capital Times

MILWAUKEE — Over the last three decades, he has grown into almost a legendary figure not just in Bay View, the working class Milwaukee neighborhood where he (and I) grew up, but among Vietnam War vets, historians and others familiar with his story.

In 1976, eight years after he'd died in the notorious Vietnam POW prison known as the Hanoi Hilton, Lance Sijan was awarded the Medal of Honor, the first Air Force Academy graduate to receive the medal. Some 20 years later, Malcolm McConnell, also a Bay View native, wrote a critically acclaimed book, "Into the Eye of the Cat," that documented Sijan's extraordinary efforts to stay alive after his F-4 was shot down over Laos on Nov. 9, 1967.

(Despite a broken arm and leg, the 26-year-old Sijan evaded the Viet Cong for 46 days. Then, after being captured and severely tortured, Sijan who'd lost 100 pounds from his 6-foot-2 frame somehow overpowered a guard and escaped into the jungle before being recaptured several hours later. He died on Jan. 28, 1968.) Even John McCain, this country's most celebrated POW survivor, singled out Sijan for praise in his best-selling memoir, "Faith of My Fathers." "I never knew Lance Sijan," the Arizona senator wrote, "but I wish I had. I wish I had had one moment to tell him how much I admired him, how indebted I was to him for showing me, for showing all of us, our duty for showing us how to be free." So why, many have wondered, is Sijan buried at Arlington Park Cemetery on south 27th Street in Milwaukee and not in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where most U.S. war heroes end up?

And why is his gravesite marked with a simple bronze plaque on a flat stone?

As it turns out, there's no great mystery behind those questions, says Syl Sijan, Lance's father, who still resides in Bay View with his wife, Jane.

His son was buried at the Milwaukee cemetery because the family had purchased a large plot there many years ago "and we wanted the physical presence of Lance right here," the elder Sijan said in a phone interview. And while the gravesite itself is relatively modest, it's similar to John F. Kennedy's burial site in Arlington National, he pointed out.

Nonetheless, Sijan, a former bar and restaurant owner, says that he and his wife are supporting a drive to raise $10,000 for an 8-foot marble memorial at the site that would be built in the configuration of an F-4. The site would include a bench and a small park-like area set beneath a large American flag.

And the reason they support it, he says, is because they've heard from many people over the years who have complained not only that they had trouble finding the present site, but that there's nothing there that explains exactly who Lance Sijan was and why he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

The Sijans, by the way, didn't officially find out about their son's death until 1974. And while three decades have helped heal the pain, Syl Sijan makes it clear that he still blames President Lyndon Johnson for what happened on that grim November day in 1967.

"Because Johnson was directing the strike missions," he says, "and the enemy knew when each one of those was going to happen. They were shooting down four or five of our planes a day. So Lance had a pretty clear concept that his chances of surviving those missions were pretty slim. He'd talked about that." Ted Fetting, director of Veterans Services for Milwaukee County and the man who's spearheading the fund-raising drive, says he wasn't even aware that Sijan was buried at the Milwaukee cemetery until being contacted by a California man last year. The man explained that he was headed for the East Coast, but that he had great admiration for Sijan and had specifically stopped in Milwaukee to visit his grave. When he asked Fetting for directions, Fetting admits being dumbfounded.

"I just assumed Lance was buried at Arlington National," he says.

In any event, Fetting says the drive had raised about $7,500 as of last week, and he's confident it will hit the $10,000 mark in the next few months. (Those interested in contributing should contact Fetting at 414-271-2426.) The timetable for the actual construction of the memorial will be pretty much up to the Sijans, he says.

Fetting, who earned three Purple Hearts in Vietnam as a machine gunner, says he's delighted to be playing even a minor role in the whole scenario.

"It seems we bestow heroism rather cheaply these days, on people who can throw a baseball 100 mph or who excel at golf," he says. "So why not recognize a Milwaukeean and Wisconsinite who truly lived and died a hero?"

Included with the kind permission of
Rob Zaleski
Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin

Lance P Sijan

06 May 2003

The Memorial to
Captain Lance P. Sijan
at Arlington Park Cemetery,
Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
will be dedicated on
June 8, 2003.

Sunday, June 8, 2003

Tribute to Vietnam POW Captain Lance P Sijan. USAF "MOH"
A F-4C Phantom Jet-shaped Memorial dedicated to fallen Captain Sijan

Greenfield, Wisconsin. -

Memorial Service
Air Force Capt. Lance Peter Sijan was setting a standard for genuine heroism among U.S. prisoners of war.

Ross Perot, an advocate for POW rights, quoted former POW Adm. James Stockdale as saying Sijan was a hero to every prisoner of war. Stockdale was Perot's running mate during Perot's 1992 run for the presidency.

Jane and Sylvester Sijan pause while unveiling a memorial to their son, Air Force Capt. Lance Sijan of Milwaukee, who was captured weeks after his plane was downed during the Vietnam War. Sijan died of pneumonia in January 1968.

After his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War, Sijan crawled through the jungles of Southeast Asia to survive, fellow POW Guy Guters recalled Sunday.

Sijan's left leg was broken. His right hand was mangled. He had no food to eat and only swamp water to drink. Yet he evaded capture for 46 days. And when North Vietnamese soldiers finally caught him on Christmas Day 1967, Sijan still managed to overpower a guard and crawl back into the jungle for a few more hours before he was recaptured.

In captivity, Sijan was beaten and tortured, but he refused to give his captors any information except his name, rank and serial number. He died of pneumonia in January 1968.

"He died defending this country," said Guters, a retired Air Force captain who now lives in Ohio. "He died so we could be here today in a free country."

Former presidential candidate Ross Perot was among several hundred people who turned out on a rainy afternoon to pay tribute to Sijan at the dedication of a memorial to the Milwaukee native and Medal of Honor recipient.

The memorial, in the shape of an F-4C Phantom jet fighter, stands at Sijan's grave site in Arlington Park Cemetery, 4141 S. 27th St. After the ceremony, a real Air Force jet - an F-117 Stealth fighter - flew over the cemetery to honor Sijan.

Perot, an advocate for POW rights, quoted his 1992 running mate, ex-POW Adm. James Stockdale, as saying Sijan was a hero to every prisoner of war.

A similar message came from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), another former presidential candidate and ex-POW. In remarks read by Sijan's nephew, Caleb Rozina, McCain said that "liberty and freedom endure" because of sacrifices by the military.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker echoed those words, saying Sijan's sacrifice shows the price of liberty. And Col. Michael Smith, commander of the Air Force Reserve's 440th Airlift Wing, said Sijan is "a real presence" at the 440th base at Mitchell International Airport. A replica of Sijan's Phantom stands at the base entrance, and the dining hall is named after him.

After the ceremony, Rozina, a 23-year-old University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student, said he draws strength from the spirit of the uncle he never met.

And Sijan's sister, Janine Sijan Rozina of Fox Point, said her older brother was a hero to her before his plane was shot down. She said she thinks of him every day, not just when other POWs such as Lynch are in the news.

From a fellow Vietnam veteran,
Joe Campbell

03 Sep 2003

I briefly attended the Air Force Academy. Although I did not complete my schooling there, Lance's courage affected me greatly. My husband and I wanted to give our children middle names that held great meaning to us. We chose to name our son Robert Sijan. We have done our best to pass along the great story of Lance's courage and bravery every time someone asks us why we chose Sijan. Bobby is now 10 and fiercely proud of his unusual name and knows the meaning behind it also. Thank you, Lance, for giving us someone to believe in. Rest in peace, you will never be forgotten.

Greene, RI

20 Sep 2003

God Bless you, Lance Sijan. I will read the book "In the Mouth of the Cat". Thank you for serving with honor.

Steve Sammons
Chief Master Sergeant, USAF
E-mail address is not available.

20 Nov 2003

I was required to prepare a written assignment for my Airman Leadership School ... the result was a piece including Captain Sijan entitled

"Morals Passed On - a Story on Leadership"

I apologize if this is too long or out of line, but I thought some here might enjoy it!

God Bless!

Sergeant Ryan W. Foster
United States Air Force
Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana

04 Dec 2003

Captain Sijan,

Sir, I wish I could tell this to you face to face. I feel confident that wherever you are, you will be able to see this and know that you are appreciated.

I hold you in the highest esteem. I am an Air Force officer candidate at Auburn University, and I can only hope that as an officer I come within five miles of being as great an example to my peers and countrymen as you are. Your strength and focus throughout your ordeal is a constant source of inspiration to me as I go through such things that stress me from day to day. I am hoping to fly in the USAF, and I hope that if I am placed in the same position you were in I have the strength and the guts to respond in the same manner. God bless you, sir.

Trae Haughton

17 Dec 2003

I can remember seeing footage of the Vietnam war on television as a child. Since then I have read more than 100 books about Vietnam written by the men and women who served there. Of them all the story of Lance Sijan touched me the most. Lance was the kind of man most men want to be. He is an inspiration to us all, not only those in the military, but for everyone who is faced with adversity. Lance was a real hero. I have never been to the Vietnam memorial, but when I do go I will search for the name Lance Sijan and will revere it with honour and respect.

Darren James
E-mail address is not available.

23 Jan 2004

I read about Lance Sijan many years ago - not only the story of his time in Vietnam, but also before Vietnam.

I'm a female USMC veteran and I've known lots of tough men, but I can't remember any other serviceman who touches me the way Sijan's life has. Even now - long, long after I first read his name - burning tears come to my eyes when I think of him.

Even if Sijan hadn't come to such a tragic end, he was - and remains - an extraordinary man. His ordeal and death in Vietnam only served to compress his admirable nature into a short and intense period of time. He was the kind of man who enobles ALL of humankind; whose very nature was the definition of courage, hope, and strength.

I also see Sijan's end as an event that serves to emphasize the horrible tragedy of war. In a different world, there would be no war. Sijan would have lived to be an old man: husband, father, grandfather, friend, outstanding citizen, extraordinary person.

So sad that he's not still here. He does live, however, in the minds and hearts of anyone who has read his story.

Personally, I'm not a believer. But for your sake, Lance, I hope you reside in Paradise.

Thanks for showing us the way.

A friend from afar and fellow Service member,
Sherry VanEpps Hubbell

21 Mar 2004

I was assigned as a Recruiter in Captain Sijan's hometown of Milwaukee, WI. I was given the honor of driving his family to the airport in (I believe) 1975 or 76, when they attended a ceremony at the Air Force Academy to name a dormatory after Captain Sijan.

President Gerald Ford presided over the event and I was honored to play a very small part in the events of that weekend for the family of a genuine hero.

James M. Bryant
SMSgt, USAF (Ret)

11 Sep 2004

I just found this website. I went to school with Lance and found him to be a wonderful person. He had the lead role in the "King and I" as I played and watched him from the orchestra pit.

I've often thought of Lance through the many years since we graduated, and am always saddened by the loss of such a great person.

I thought today, September 11, 2004, would be a great day to pay tribute to him.

Thank you Lance for making all Americans so proud of you. You were truly a hero.

From a friend from high school,
Donna Bell Tolaio
E-mail address is not available.

6 Jan 2005

As a classmate of Lance's (USAFA 1965) and a squadronmate, I was asked to be the guest speaker at the Offutt Air Force Base Sergeants' Association annual POW/MIA luncheon. The luncheon was attended by over 250 and it was with great difficulty I related the story of Lance, his heroism, and some personal observations based on our experiences together at the Academy. As we get older we reflect on the experiences in Vietnam and remember those who gave their all. While the American people as a group did not support our troops during that time, it is refreshing that they do now and are honoring those of us who did our duty and set the example. Lance certainly set the example.

From a classmate and friend,
Bill Swick (Lt Col USAF Ret)

14 Mar 2005

Captain Lance P. Sijan endured what many had to endure during the turmoil of that war. However, upon hearing his story for the first time, I instantly was brought to tears. His story is more than just unique, it's a message for every servicemember currently serving and those who have yet to serve. If the entire Armed Forces lived and breathed the energy and patriotism that Captain Sijan had, I am thoroughly convinced that the world would see a force that could never be reckoned with. God bless you, Captain Sijan, and your family.

Captain Shabbir Hasan

23 May 2005

Lance, you are my hero. I want to be just like you in every aspect of my life that takes a turn of a misfortune, I don't want to look at the bad; I want to find the good and try to make the best out of it, like you did no matter how dark of a cloud shadows my view from the sunlight. You never give in nor gave up, that pain you endured is something that no one should ever face, but you did and you fought back with no mercy, just trying to do what the Academy prepared you for; defeating the enemy. The courage of that action came from within; you knew how to use it and you did; the Academy teaches you how to take on the top dawg and not be inimidated but you have to be able to use what you've been taught in order to succeed otherwise it's useless and you did more than expected. It breaks my heart to know that that I will never meet you. But just to hear about your bravery makes me feel like I can do anything, defy anyone that challenges me. I plan to join the AF through ROTC and I can't wait to do so.

From a future officer,
Melissa A.
E-mail address is not available.

16 May 2005

While stationed at Dover AFB, Delaware in 1980, I was nominated for the Lance Sijan Leadership Award. As a Vietnam veteran, it was an honor to be nominated.

Ralph Moerschbacher
Captain, USAF Retired
19 W. Highland Street, Avis, Pa 17721

30 May 2005

Today is Memorial Day - a fitting day to remember this hero.
So many of today's youth believe that a huge NFL or recording contract make you a hero.
It is important for them to understand what a real hero is and what sort of person to emulate in life.
I promise to make my grandchildren aware of this man and his spirit and his patriotism.
I just heard his story this weekend and have thought about Capt Sijan many times over its course.
My prayer is that his life continue to be an inspiration to us all.

Pat Montgomery

14 Aug 2005


Words can never say what's in the hearts of those who appreciate you and love you. One day I will meet you in heaven and thank you in person for your courage, honor and duty displayed in all your life, not just during your military life. You are a great example for all Americans to follow and I'm glad your story was shared with us in "Into the Mouth of the Cat". I wore Col John W. Armstrong's MIA/POW bracelet and learned about you through learning about him. My bracelet is now in a display case at the John W Armstrong Elmentary School, close to Col Armstrong's home town. I have a photo of him and you on my desk at work and I take every opportunity to tell your story to all who will listen. You both are my heros and I'll be proud to meet you in heaven one day and tell you about the great difference you made during your short stay on earth. Thank you with all my heart for the greatest sacrifice one can give to another. Because of you and those like you, we have freedom; freedom of the highest price.

Dianna Cruz
P O Box 442, Baytown, Tx 77522

09 Nov 2005


In 1971, when I was nine years old, my mother purchased a POW bracelet for me from VIVA. I never knew anything about the man whose name I wore until 1973, when I read that Capt. Lance Sijan had died in captivity. I put the bracelet away in my scrap book. It remained there, until 1984, when I discovered "In The Mouth of The Cat" in a bookstore window. I put the bracelet back on for Memorial Day 1984, and have been wearing it continuously ever since.

Whenever I'm tempted to feel self-pity or frustration at life's daily antagonisms, I glance down at your bracelet for inspiration. You have been a role model in absentia, and I recount your heroic tale to anyone who enquires about my bracelet.

Thirty-eight years ago today you were shot down. Your spirit, however, still soars.


From a proud Lance Sijan POW bracelet wearer,
David F. Goldsmith
495 Juniper Drive, Pasadena, Ca, 91105

26 Jun 2006

I'm ashamed to be from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and to not have been aware of the story of Captain Lance Sijan. I learned about him from another brave Milwaukeean a year behind Lance at the Air Force Academy, Captain Phil Dibb (Ret). Captain Dibb lost his brother in Viet Nam. Stephen Dibb was a U.S. Marine and was lost in 1966. People need to learn of these brave men and their sacrifices.

Captain Sijan is remembered on the Solomon Juneau High School (Milwaukee) War Memorial.

Forever Grateful,
Donovan J. Koeberl
718 N. 66th Street, Wauwatosa, Wi 53213

A Note from The Virtual Wall:
During Operation HASTINGS a platoon from Fox 2/1 Marines made a night movement 20/21 Jul 1966 to join with an element of Hotel 2/1 to establish a blocking position. During the march, Fox 2/1 had a meeting engagement with an NVA force; after joining with Hotel 2/1 the combined force was attacked by the NVA. Although the Marines held their position, seven men died in the two engagements:

  • 1stLt Edward F. Hap, East Chicago, IN, Fox 2/1
  • HM2 James F. Askin, Port Charlotte, FL, Fox 2/1
  • Sgt Stephen K. Dibb, Milwaukee, WI, Fox 2/1
  • Cpl Richard F. McNichols, Philadelphia, PA, Hotel 2/1
  • LCpl Rolf W. Jorgensen, Seattle, WA, Fox 2/1
  • Pfc Pedro Martinez, Mercedes, TX, Hotel 2/1
  • Pfc Ernest D. Mitchell, Garden Grove, CA, M Btry, 4th Bn, 12th Marines (FO w/ Fox 2/1)
01 Aug 2006


My little brother is named after you.

I am 33 years old, but I didn't know your story until recently.

My dad, a Vietnam Vet, recommended that I read "Into the Mouth Of the Cat".

I will never forget you and your bravery and sacrifice.

Thank you,
Jon Blanciak

08 Sep 2006

My step-son is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy. Through him I learned about Lance Sijan. Amazing. I have bought a few copies of 'Into the Mouth of the Cat' and have passed them to people, asking them to pass them on to others. It is an inspirational but sad story. How I wish Lance Sijan had survived and come back to America. What a better and more beautiful place this would be. Thanks to Lance and other people like him we live in a great country. I wish I could thank him personally.

E-mail address is not available.

14 Nov 2006

Capt Sijan,

I am a cadet in AFROTC Detachment 895. I am to write a paper about an Air Force leader, and when I discovered the incredible journey you had gone through, I knew that I had to write about it and let other cadets know about the sacrifices you made.

The POC constantly stress the Articles of the Code of Conduct. The first time I read them, I knew the importance of them; however, I never fathomed how one man could endure so much and still have the dicipline to follow them. Whenever I read the Code of Conduct now, I can not help but think of your story. Because of you, and the countless others who have also given their all for this country, it makes me even prouder to know what I am doing.

You are a true inspiration. You have raised my standards, and I can only hope to internalize the Code as much as you had. I thank God for blessing this earth with people such as yourself. I am proud to serve in the same service as you, and I will strive my hardest to not let you down. I cannot begin to explain how greatful I am to you. Thank you, and you are never going to be forgotten.

Very Respectfully,
Michael Rivera, Cadet 3rd Class

19 Jul 2007

In 1971, my aunt gave me her POW bracelet honoring CAPT Lance P. Sijan. I didn't know who he was, but I proudly wore it for 3 years, never knowing if he was ever found or if he was alive. I finally retired the bracelet to my jewelry box where it still sits to this day. In 1984, I found an ad for his book in a newspaper and immediately recognized it as the one on my bracelet. His story was incredible and moving. In 1987, we were living in Maryland and I had the opportunity to visit the Vietnam Wall where I made a rubbing of his name. I keep that rubbing tucked inside his book. I wish I knew how many of these bracelets they made with Lance's name on them ... I like to think there are only a few of us who have them. I feel honored to have been able to wear his bracelet all those years. Thank you Lance for your courage. Someday I hope to pass along my bracelet to a young, deserving USAFA graduate who exemplifies Lance's spirit and strength.

E-mail address is not available.

06 Aug 2007

I too, was moved to tears after reading the book about Lance.

I was assigned to VA-22, a Navy A-7E squadron aboard the USS CORAL SEA, November, 1971-July, 1972 and lost several shipmates to enemy and non-hostile operations. Most came home in 1973. One, Lt. Geoff Shumway, was not found until his remains were identified at a crash site in North Vietnam in the 90's. He was shot down at the end of June, 1972.

I met Lance's brother Marc Sijan at an art show in Minneapolis this past weekend and paid my respects. His art is really amazing and worth seeing.

To all who give the ultimate sacrifice, we honor your courage.

Patrick N. Rounds
E-mail address is not available.

From The Virtual Wall:
During her late-1971 to mid-1972 WESTPAC cruise, USS CORAL SEA and Carrier Air Wing 15 lost 9 aircraft - 3 A-6s, 4 A-7s, and 2 F-4s. Thirteen aircrew were lost in these incidents. Five had been captured and were repatriated during Operation Homecoming. Eight simply disappeared. Attack Squadron 22 lost three men:
    * LT Daniel D. Cooper, Medford, OR; 04 Feb 1972 - A-7E 156870, water impact during night recovery
    * LT Marvin B. Wiles, San Diego, CA; 06 May 1972 - A-7E 156879, SA-2 missile 25 km northwest of Dong Hoi
    * LT Geoffrey R. Shumway, Skaneateles, NY; 25 Jun 1972 - A-7E 157437, SA-2 missile 50 km north of Vinh
VA-22 lost another aircraft, A-7E 157590, on 06 April 1972 when Commander Thomas E. Dunlop, C.O. of Carrier Air Wing 15, was shot down by an SA-2 missile about 7 kilometers south of Dong Hoi.
Four of the eight MIAs, including CDR Dunlop and LT Shumway, have been repatriated.

31 Oct 2007

There are few of us left today.
Those of us remenber each other always!

From a fellow pilot,
Bill Vain

08 Dec 2007

I stumbled upon "Into The Mouth of the Cat" in my college library about 15 years ago and couldn't put it down. I kept the book for weeks and re-read it because I was so entranced in the story of Captain Sijan.

Thank you, Captain Sijan, for being an example of courage that transends time and for your heroic efforts to uphold the values and freedoms we hold so dearly here in the greatest country in the world because of men like you, the United States of America.

Richard T. French
E-mail address is not available.

15 Dec 2007

I just wanted to say that Lance was a Serbian...
And that I am proud to be a Serb...
He is one of the greatest Heroes, and he will live on forever!

Dimitri Stojanovic
Serbia, Vrsac 26300, Prvomajska 13

02 Jan 2008

I read the book "Into the Mouth of the Cat" many years ago and learned the story of Captain Sijan. Being a Marine Corps Vietnam vet I have read many books on Vietnam. This story affected me the most. Semper Fi, brother in arms!

Dick Stanley
4015 E. Cedar Lake Drive, Greenbush, Mi. 48738

27 Jan 2008

Sir, thank you for your sacrifice and your unending devotion to the principles that comprise this great nation and its Air Force. Your heroic actions will never be forgotten.

Very Respectfully,
A C4C, CS-12
USAFA Class of 2011
E-mail address is not available.

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On the night of 09 Nov 1967, then-LtCol John Armstrong, commander of the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Da Nang, South Vietnam, and Weapons System Officer Capt Lance P. Sijan were tasked with a bombing mission in the Ho Chi Minh Trail area of Laos. The target was Ban Loboy Ford, and a second F-4C was along as wingman.

Shortly before 9 PM, Armstrong rolled in on the target and released his ordnance. Almost immediately, the aircraft was engulfed in a ball of fire and entered a banking climb to about 10,000 feet before rolling into a near vertical plunge into the jungle below. Neither the Forward Air Controller nor Armstrong's wingman saw parachutes, but initiated SAR at once.

The SAR forces established contact with Sijan, who was badly hurt during his ejection and landing, but were unable to pick him up. SAR efforts continued the next day, but were called off when no further radio contact could be established with Sijan. No contact was made at any time with LtCol John Armstrong. Both men were placed in MIA status.

Although wounded and without food, water, or even his survival kit, Sijan managed to evade the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese forces for 46 days before being captured on Christmas Day 1967. By that time, he was emaciated and in extremely poor shape. Never the less, he managed to cold-cock his guard and escape, but was recaptured within hours. He was transported to a holding compound in Vinh, North Vietnam, where he was put into the care of other American POWs. After further travel to Hanoi, Sijan's body failed him and he died of wounds and exhaustion on 22 January 1968. His mental determination and physical stamina so impressed his fellow POWs that, upon their return, Sijan was nominated for and received the Medal of Honor. Further details are available on a number of web sites; Mishalov's site and the are recommended.

Then-1stLt Sijan was shot down on 09 Nov 1967; he was captured on 25 Dec 1967 and transported to Hanoi where he died in captivity on 22 January 1968. His remains were repatriated on 13 Mar 1974 and positively identified on 22 Apr 1974. He is buried in Arlington Park Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 5 Dec 2001
Last updated 08/10/2009