Lance P. Sijan

The Medal of Honor

Lance Peter Sijan was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 13 April 1942. After attending the U.S. Navy Preparatory School, Bainbridge, Maryland, he entered the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, graduating 9 June 1965. Commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, Sijan was assigned to Laredo AFB, Texas, for undergraduate pilot training (UPT). After graduating from UPT, he joined the 431st Tactical Fighter Squadron at George AFB, California. In July 1967, Sijan was transferred to the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang Air Base, Republic of South Vietnam, as an F-4C pilot.

On 9 November 1967, Sijan and his commander, Colonel Armstrong, were struck by antiaircraft fire while on a night mission approximately 37 miles southwest of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. Parachuting into the karst hills, Sijan suffered a broken left leg, mangled right hand, severe lacerations, and a concussion. Despite these injuries and subsequent severe weight loss, he remained at large for about 46 days.

Following his capture on approximately 25 December 1967, Sijan was removed to a holding point from which he escaped after overpowering a guard. Recaptured, he was kept in solitary confinement and tortured, but refused to reveal any information to his captors. He was then placed in the care of fellow prisoner, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Craner. Sijan subsequently contracted pneumonia and died at Hoa Lo on 22 January 1968.

On 4 March 1976, in ceremonies at the White House, President Gerald R. Ford posthumously awarded Captain Sijan the Congressional Medal of Honor. (Sijan had earlier won the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and Purple Heart with Oak leaf Cluster.)

On Memorial Day 1976, the United States Air Force Academy honored the first of its graduate to receive the Medal of Honor by officially designating the second cadet dormitory as Sijan Hall.

The Friends were instrumental in acquiring a collection of Sijan photos, memorials, and prisoner-of-war material for the Academy and the McDermott Library.



Basic Cadet Training

"Basic Cadet Lance P. Sijan, 19, of Milwaukee, Wisc. attempts to thread a needle with shroud line prior to beginning construction of pack harness. Cadets are also taught how to fashion loops and snares to be used in trapping small game." (Air Force Photo, 31 Jul – 11 Aug 61)


Christmas Dance

"Young sisters of Air Force Academy cadets came in for their share of attention at the formal dance which marked the opening of the Christmas season, Thursday evening at the Academy. Cadet Lance Sijan and his sister Janine execute a step for the benefit of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester Sijan, visiting from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Many parents and relatives are spending the holidays with fourth Classmen and will be guests at a reception in the Cadet Social Center, Arnold Hall, Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m." (Air Force Photo, 22 December 61)

JV Football

Sijan (#82) with the JV Football Team, 1963.

Dorm Life

A collage of photos of Sijan in the cadet dormitory, Vandenberg Hall.

Ring Dance

Cadet Second Class Sijan and date attending the Ring Dance for the Class of 1965, May 1964.

Red Corvette

First Class Cadet Sijan and his red Corvette, visiting with his mom and dad at home in Wisconsin, March 1965.


Sijan inspecting his diploma immediately following the graduation ceremony.

Undergraduate Pilot Training

Sijan astride a T-38 during Undergraduate Pilot Training.

Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam

Sijan under his F-4 at the gun pod, "Tiger Shot." September 1967

Vietnam Grave Marker

This gravestone was placed on Sijan’s grave in Vietnam, and was returned to the U. S. along with his remains. It is now part of the Clark Special Collections Branch of the McDermott Library.

LÊ PHI XíCH, Likely the name given Sijan by the Vietnamese.   CHÊT, Died.

Sijan Hall Dedication

Dedication of the second cadet dormitory as Sijan Hall on Memorial Day, May 1976.

Lance Sijan Portrait

Unveiling of the Lance Sijan portrait in conjunction with the dedication of Sijan Hall, with USAFA Superintendent Lt. General James R. Allen and Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester Sijan.

First Day of Issue Cachet

On March 4, 1976, the Medal of Honor was presented to Air Force Col. George E. Day, Navy Rear Adm. James B. Stockdale, and, posthumously, to Air Force Capt. Lance P. Sijan (inset) for extreme acts of heroism as POWs in North Vietnam. This stamp cachet, honoring Vietnam Veterans, was issued November 11, 1979.

Southeast Asia Memorial Pavillion

A bronze sculpture located in the Southeast Asia Memorial Pavilion adjacent to Doolittle Hall depicts Sijan's evasion ordeal. The tablet reads: “Captain Sijan suffered a crushed right hand, a broken left leg, a concussion and numerous lacerations from his F-4 ejection and parachute landing. In spite of these injuries, he evaded by pushing and pulling himself, as the pose shows, more than three mikes across unforgiving terrain during the forty-six days preceding his capture.”