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STEPHENSEN, MARK LANES Remains returned 08 April 1988, Identified August 1988 Name: Mark Lane Stephensen Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: 11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Udorn AFB Thailand Date of Birth: 29 May 1930 Home City of Record: Salt Lake City UT Date of Loss: 29 April 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 214501N 1050513E Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C Refno: 0668 Other Personnel In Incident: Gary R. Sigler (released POW) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.NETWORK 2014. Major L. Mark Stephensen was the pilot, and First Lieutenant GaryR. Sigler the co-pilot, of a reconnaissance-outfitted version of the F4Phantom fighter/bomber aircraft assigned an armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam on April 29, 1967. Sigler and Stephensen were friends, having met some 8 months before they were both shipped overseas. Sigler was confident in his friend's flying ability, and was undoubtedly thinking of his young daughter's first birthday the next day. Sigler and Stephenson usually flew night missions, and nearing the end of their tour as marked by an upcoming 100 missions, were glad it was dark, figuring if "we couldn't see them, they couldn't see us." Thirteen minutes after takeoff, they radioed their position to an airborne controller. It was the last radio transmission before the Phantom went down. About 60 miles from Hanoi, their systems indicated that SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) had locked onto them. Attempting to evade their course, the aircraft crashed against treetops on one hill, then into the side of another hill. Sigler ejected after the first impact, and from a position over the top of a hill from the crashed aircraft watched the sky illuminated from the burning plane. Sigler was captured two days later and spent nearly seven years as a prisoner of war before his release in 1973. Early in his captivity, he was asked if another pilot was on his plane. He stated that during his entire captivity, he had no indication that the Vietnamese knew what happened to his pilot and friend. Major Stephenson was never heard from again. In April 1988, the Vietnamese returned remains they identified as those of Mark Stephenson. By August, 1988, the U.S. had verified that the identification was valid. Mark Stephenson, alive or dead, had been a prisoner of war for 21 years. During the period he was maintained missing, Mark Stephenson was promoted to the rank of Colonel. Gary R. Sigler was promoted to the rank of Captain during his captivity.