About The Film
Tell Us Your Lance Story
OPERATION: Phantom Jet
Click on markers in this image to learn more about Lance’s life:
Lance entered the U.S. Air Force Academy on June 26, 1961. He graduated and was commissioned a 2nd Lt in the U.S. Air Force on June 9, 1965. After Pilot Training he earned his wings in August 1966. Sijan completed combat training in the F-4 Phantom II at the 479th Tactical Fighter Squadron, George AFB, California, and began flying combat missions in Southeast Asia with the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Da Nang AB in the Republic of Vietnam in July 1967. Lance often accompanied his recorded messages back home to his family with photographs. In one of his recordings he sent along this particular image. “Some of us here find the anti-war demonstrators interesting to say the least. We have decided as a group to grow mustaches in protest to the protesters!”
Every class at the AFA designs and votes on their Class Crest, which is represented on one side of their ring. The Crest has to contain the following – the Polaris star, the class year, a saber, a falcon, the class number and the class motto. Cadets can choose their stone and engraving. Lance’s size 9 ring was 14K white gold, dark finish with an oval synthetic Blue Zircon stone. He ordered it as a junior from L.G.Balfour Company, it was delivered to him in June of 1964 and he wore it his entire senior year. Rings were worn with great pride as they symbolized a milestone – 3 years under their belt and 1 more to go! As a cadet, the ring was worn with the Class Crest facing inward, closest to their heart. After graduation, the ring is turned so that the Academy Crest is closest to their heart. As an officer, they are now ready and willing to protect and defend with the training they had received. In June of 1984, eleven years after the war and sixteen years after Lance’s death, the Sijan family was contacted and told that Lance’s AFA Class ring had been located. After months of negotiations, long-distance communications and help from President Reagan’s administration, the ring was returned to the family – the metal worn and scraped from untold circumstances that we may never learn.
Playing football in the Sijan family was a given. Lance’s father Syl had been on the All City Championship Team in 1937 while attending Bay View High School in Milwaukee. He was recognized as the All City End. He taught Lance the important team values that make a good player - determination, focus and lots of practice. Twenty-two years later, in 1959, Lance followed in his father’s footsteps – being recognized as the All City End on the All City Championship Team for Bay View High School. The AFA football program proved to be a more formidable opponent. By his senior year he had earned the privilege of playing on the Varsity football team but the demanding obligations of academics and football drove him to have to choose between the two. Academics would have to rise to the top in order for him to graduate with his class. So with a heavy heart he put his dreams for playing Varsity football aside. He went on to graduate with his class in 1965 and fulfilling another dream - becoming a United States Air Force pilot.
Imagine the sun’s rays bouncing off a new red Corvette parked in front of your dorm at school. Now imagine twenty or thirty of them! That’s what it looked like at the Air Force Academy in 1965. General Motors had extended an invitation for the senior class to purchase their hottest model for a great price. Lance signed up along with many of his classmates. $3,801.84 bought him a dream come true and another opportunity to live on the edge as he pressed the pedal to the metal.
Name, rank and date of loss – three powerful facts engraved on a nickel-plated or copper bracelet. The idea came from two college students in Los Angeles as a way to remember the American prisoners of war (POW) and the men who were missing in action (MIA) in Vietnam. The price of $2.50 per bracelet was chosen to coincide with the cost of a student admission ticket to a movie – surely everyone could afford that! On Veterans Day, November 11, 1970 the program – by now sanctioned by the League of Families -was officially kicked off and eventually they were receiving over 12,000 requests a day. Lance’s name was engraved on hundreds of bracelets; the Sijan family has received letters and pictures and returned bracelets over the years by many of the original supporters and their families. Lance’s parents had gold-plated bracelets made for themselves and wore them for the rest of their lives.
Medal of Honor Citation: While on a flight over North Vietnam, Capt. 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, Capt. 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. Capt. 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. Capt. 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. – President Gerald R. Ford – Lance’s family traveled to Washington D.C. and President Ford gave Syl and Jane Sijan their son’s Medal of Honor posthumously on March 4, 1976.