Lt. Lance P. Sijan Receives The Medal Of Honor


Lt. Lance P. Sijan Receives The Medal Of Honor

March 4, 1976  Capt. Lance Sijan and Capt. Joe Ross On Nov. 9, 1967, the F-4 flown by 1st Lt. Lance P. Sijan of Milwaukee, Wisc., was hit by North Vietnamese ground fire and exploded. Although badly wounded he was able to parachute from his stricken plane. Even with no food and very little water he managed to avoid capture for 45 days. Because of a serious compound fracture of the left leg, he was unable to walk but did manage to pull himself backward through the jungle. Even with a broken leg, a skull fracture, and a mangled right hand he was able to escape shortly after his initial capture.

Upon recapture he was taken to Vinh and thrown into a bamboo cell. He was 'interrogated' repeatedly, and in spite of his captors technique of twisting his damaged right hand he refused to disclose any information but his name. When not being 'interrogated' he attempted additional escapes with the only results being beatings. Lt Sijan was soon moved  to a POW camp at Hanoi. Even in his pitiful condition, he attempted more escapes all meeting with failure. His physical condition continued to weaken without proper food or medical attention and soon he developed additional respiratory problems.


After many months of ill treatment, his health, but not his spirit, broke and one night he was dragged deliriously from his cell and never seen again.  Lt Sijan was promoted posthumously to Captain on June 13, 1968. On March 4, 1976 he was awarded posthumously the Medal of Honor which was presented to his parents by President Gerald Ford.

Captain Sijan thus became the first graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy to receive our nations highest decoration for heroism above and beyond the call of duty. When Lance Sijan was a cadet at the USAF Academy, one of his friends and fellow team mates on the junior varsity football team was Joe Ross. Later both would serve in Vietnam, both fly the same type of aircraft and both die in the service of their country within months of each other.


The 1963 USAF  Academy Junior Varsity Squad. Cadet Lance Sijan Is Standing In The First Row, Second From The Left. Cadet Joe Ross Is On The Far Left Of The Second Row.  
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