Stephensen, Mark Lane, Col Fallen
 
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Last Rank
Colonel
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
1325F-Pilot
Last AFSC Group
Aircrew
Last Unit
1966-1967, 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing
Service Years
1952 - 1967
Colonel

 Last Photo   Personal Details 


Home State
Utah
Utah
Year of Birth
1930
 
Casualty Info
Home Town
Salt Lake City
Last Address
Udorn RTAFB

Casualty Date
Apr 29, 1967
 
Cause
Hostile, Died while Missing
Reason
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Location
Vietnam, North
Conflict
Wars and Conflicts/Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
18E 116

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Aviator (Senior)



 
 Unit Assignments
11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Photo-Jet432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing
  1966-1967, 11th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, Photo-Jet
  1966-1967, 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing
 My Aircraft/Missiles
F-4 Phantom  
  1966-1967, F-4 Phantom
 Combat and Operations History
  1961-1975 Wars and Conflicts/Vietnam War
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
On 29 April 1967 Air Force F-105 bombers from the bases in Thailand staged another strike against the bridges at Hanoi. Although all of the bombers returned safely to base, two of their supportiung aircraft were less fortunate.

Four F-4C Phantoms from the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Danang had been tasked to provide combat air patrol for the heavily laden F-105s. One of the F-4s, tail number 64-0670 flown by 1st Lt Loren H. Torkleson and 1st Lt George J Pollin, was hit by antiaircraft fire about 15 miles west of Hanoi. Torkleson ejected and was captured; he came home on 4 March 1973. Pollin either could not eject or was killed during or after ejection. He came home in 1990.

Post-strike reconnaissance was conducted by an RF-4C (tail number 65-0872) of the 11th Tac Recon Squadron from Udorn RTAFB, scheduled to arrive over target after nightfall. As the RF-4C approached Hanoi it was locked up by a surface-to-air missile control radar. The pilot, Major Mark L Stephensen, took the only possible action: he descended to minimum altitude and began evasive maneuvers to break radar lock. As the aircraft popped over a ridgeline it flew through several treetops with enough violence so the backseater, 1st Lt Gary R Sigler, immediately ejected. As Sigler swung in his parachute he saw the RF-4 hit a hillside; he did not see Major Stephensen eject. Sigler was captured after two days on the run; he too came home on 4 March 1973. Major Stephensen's remains were repatriated in April 1988 and positive identification was announced on 29 July 1988.

SYNOPSIS:
Major L. Mark Stephensen was the pilot, and First Lieutenant Gary
R. Sigler the co-pilot, of a reconnaissance-outfitted version of the F4
Phantom 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.




   
Comments/Citation

COL Mark L Stephensen, USAF, MIA/KIA
Remains returned April, 1988
Command Pilot, RF-4C, Udorn RTAFB
Hometown: Riverton, Utah

My father was a loving husband, brother, son and father. We still miss him terribly. There are times when I wonder if this nation is worthy of his sacrifice.

My sister, Kyler, wrote an eulogy, saying in part, "He died defending democracy at a time when it was considered hypocrisy."

He has 5 grandchild whom he has never seen. He has 2 daughters-in-law and a son-in-law, none of whom will know his sense of humor.

They do know, from us, his children, his sense of duty and honor.

My family and I are forever indebted to the National League of POW/MIA Families whose courage and persistence facilitated his return to the nation he loved to be buried with full military honors as he was promised.

May God bless my father and may God Bless America.

Mark L. Stephensen II, son
846 Dogwood Place, Eagle Id 83616
msteph1771@aol.com

30 Jun 2003

My father was a hero.
Let no man or woman say otherwise.
He gave his life for me and for you.
Do not forget that very important fact.
My father was larger than life.
He remains so to this day.
I miss him deeply even after 36 years.

Please do not forget this brave and heroic man who was loved by a caring and patient wife and four bright children who knew that their husband and father knew where his duty lie. He loved us and he loved his country. He is greatly missed.

Take care to inform those whom you love that you love them dearly because there may not be a second chance. Enjoy your freedom and remember who gave their life so that you could enjoy freedom.

Never forget.

Thanks, Dad.

Written by Kristen Rathbun, loving daughter.
God bless you and God bless America.

4626 West Second Street, Greeley, CO 80634
homeontheplain@hotmail.com


   
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