Jack Van Loan was born in 1931 in Corvallis, Oregon. He was commissioned a 2d Lt through the Air Force ROTC program on June 7, 1954, and went on active duty beginning September 24, 1954. After completing the Supply Service Officer Course at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, Lt Van Loan served as a Commissary Officer at RAF Kirknewton, Scotland, from April 1955 to May 1958, and was then accepted for pilot training. He was awarded his pilot wings at Webb AFB, Texas, in May 1959, and then completed F-100 Super Sabre Combat Crew Training before serving with the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron at Misawa AB, Japan, from November 1959 to April 1963. Capt Van Loan next served as an instructor with the 4514th Combat Crew Training Squadron at Luke AFB, Arizona, from June 1963 to August 1965, and then attended Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1965 to June 1966. After completing F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training, Maj Van Loan served with the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from December 1966 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on May 20, 1967. He spent 2,116 days in captivity before being released during Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973. Col Van Loan was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at March AFB, California, and then served on the staff of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, from August 1973 to June 1978. His final assignments were as Vice Commander and then Commander of the 507th Tactical Air Control Wing, and as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations with Headquarters 9th Air Force at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from July 1978 until his retirement from the Air Force on November 1, 1984.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For the period May 1967: This officer distinguished himself by gallantry and intrepidity in action in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force during the above period while a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. Ignoring international agreements on treatment of prisoners of war, the enemy resorted to mental and physical cruelties to obtain information, confessions, and propaganda materials. This individual resisted their demands by calling upon his deepest inner strengths in a manner which reflected his devotion to duty and great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.