While on a mission over Laos, Capt. Lance P. Sijan ejects from his disabled McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom jet near Vinh, North Vietnam. Despite suffering a skull fracture, a mangled right hand, and a compound fracture of the left leg during his ejection, Sijan successfully evaded capture for more than six weeks.
Eventually Sijan’s wounds and lack of sustenance overwhelmed him and he collapsed along a road, where he was found by North Vietnamese troops. After several days of captivity, Sijan gathered his strength and escaped. Still weakened and suffering from his injuries, Sijan was recaptured and tortured, and then transported to the infamous prison known as the Hanoi Hilton. While there, he contracted pneumonia and died. Throughout his ordeal, Captain Sijan never gave up his desire to escape and resisted his captors to the very end. When the American prisoners of war (POWs) were released in 1973, several of Sijan’s fellow POWs immediately initiated a recommendation for Sijan to receive the Medal of Honor. On March 4, 1976, President Gerald Ford presented the medal to Captain Sijan’s father in a ceremony at the White House.