This is the type of aircraft flown by Lt. Sijan and Col. Armstrong. Seeing it makes it alot more real, doesn't it?
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. 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.
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. The U.S. believes that the Lao or the Vietnamese can account for him, alive or dead. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep pushing this issue inside the Beltway... The need to get specific answers is more important now than ever before. If still alive, some MIAs are now in their 70s...They don't have much time left. We have to demand the answers from the bureaucrats and keep standing on their necks (figuratively speaking) until they get the message that THEY work for US and that we are serious about getting these long overdue responses. Diplomatic considerations aside... We can no longer allow questionable protocols established by pseudo-aristocratic armchair strategists, to determine or influence the fate of the men who were in the trenches while the diplomats were sharing sherry and canapes and talking about "Their Plans" for the future of SE Asia.
Col. Armstrong, you ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!!!
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