During the Vietnam War, twenty-five-year-old Lieutenant Lance Peter Sijan was stationed in DaNang, Vietnam. On November 9, 1967, Sijan was on a flying strike mission. The target was Ban Loboy ford on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Almost immediately after releasing six bombs, the aircraft was engulfed in flames. Sijan miraculously succeeded in a low-level ejection. He was seriously injured and alone in enemy territory. A search and rescue operation got underway immediately, but rescue attempts failed. For six weeks, he evaded capture, living in the jungle with no food or water. Sijan was captured by the enemy and became a prisoner of war. For seven years, he was listed as POW/MIA, during which time his rank was upgraded to Captain. On January 22, 1968, Sijan died. When the prisoners of war were freed in 1973, the men who were held captive with Sijan were major sources for Malcolm McConnell's book, "Into the Mouth of the Cat, The Story of Lance Sijan, Hero of Vietnam." "Into the Mouth of the Cat" is required reading at the Air-Force Academy. Sijan's remains were returned to his parents in Wisconsin on March 13, 1974.
Sijan graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1965. In 1975, Sijan was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford. His military awards and decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Purple Hearts, two Air Medals, and a Certificate of Honorable Service.
Captain Sijan has been recognized for his achievements through scholarships and memorials across the country. The Air Force Academy has designated a wing of the dormitories Sijan Hall. Where his portrait hands, cadets snap to attention and salute. Langley Air Force Base, VA, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and Whiteman Air Force Base, MO, have streets named after Sijan. Heritage Park at Mountain Home Air Force Base, ID, is the home of a Lance P. Sijan F-4C, which is on permanent display. Scholarships from Bay View High School, Milwaukee, WI, the Elks Club and Purolater Courier Corporation are named after Sijan. Capt. Sijan's name is also included in the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC, and the Vietnam Memorial on Milwaukee's lake front.
Sijan was initiated into Bay View Chapter DeMolay in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1958. He was inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on June 15, 2002. One of his favorite sayings summed up his life philosophy.
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going."