POW/MIA Recognition Day
September 20, 2013
Each year, the third Friday in September is set aside to honor the commitment and the sacrifices made by this nation's Prisoners of War and those who are still Missing in Action, as well as their families. This year, National POW/MIA Recognition Day will be observed on Friday, September 20, 2013.
Pursuant to 2001 Wisconsin Act 100, the State of Wisconsin has declared that the third Friday of September should be annually designated as POW/MIA Recognition Day in Wisconsin.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day legislation was introduced yearly, until 1995, when it was deemed by Congress that legislation designating special commemorative days would no longer be considered by Congress. The President now signs a proclamation each year.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day is one of the six days specified by federal law on which the black POW/MIA flag shall be flown over federal facilities and cemeteries, post offices and military installations.
Of the 125,214 Americans surviving captivity, about 29,350 were estimated to be alive as of the end of 2005. Records show that 142,246 Americans were captured and interned during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Somalia and Kosovo conflicts, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
More than 78,000 Americans are unaccounted for from WWII, more than 8,100 American servicemen from the Korean War, and at the end of the Vietnam War, there reportedly were 2,583 unaccounted for American prisoners, missing or killed in action/body not recovered.
As of September 1, 2006, 1,798 Americans are still so listed by the Defense Department, over 90% of them in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia where Vietnamese forces operated during the war. One hundred twenty-six Americans are still listed as missing in action and unaccounted-for from the Cold War.
July 18, 1979, was the first official commemoration to honor American’s POW/MIAs, those returned and those still missing and unaccounted for from our nation’s wars. During that year, resolutions were passed in the Congress and a national ceremony was held at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. The Missing Man formation was flown by the 1st Tactical Squadron, Langley AFB, Virginia.
Until 1982, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs published a poster including only the letters "POW/MIA" and that format was continued, year after year, until the black and white drawing of a POW in harsh captivity was used to officially convey the urgency of the situation and the priority that President Ronald Reagan assigned to achieving the fullest possible accounting for Americans still missing from the Vietnam War.
In 1971, Mrs. Michael Hoff, an MIA wife and member of the National League of Families, recognized the need for a symbol of our POW/MIAs. Mrs. Hoff contacted Norman Rivkees, who was the Vice President of Annin & Company, and used his advertising agency to help design the flag. Newt Heisley, a designer with the agency, created the winning design, which was eventually adopted as the official POW/MIA flag.
Mr. Heisley based his winning design, the silhouette of a young man on the profile of his own son, who had been medically discharged from the military after suffering from Hepatitis while undergoing combat training. As Mr. Heisley looked at his returning son’s gaunt features, he began to imagine what life must be like for those behind barbed wire fences on foreign shores. He then sketched the profile of his son as the new flag's design was created in his mind. Barbed wire, a tower, and most prominently the visage of a gaunt young man became the initial proposal. Following League approval, the flags were manufactured for distribution.
The importance of the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag is its continual visual reminder of the plight of America’s POW/MIAs. Other than the Stars and Stripes, the League’s POW/MIA flag is the only flag ever to fly over the White House, which will continue to symbolize the nation’s solidarity until the fullest possible accounting has been achieved for U.S. personnel still missing and unaccounted for. It is also the only flag ever displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
Congress has recognized the POW/MIA flag of the National League of Families as the official flag to represent our missing service members. The flag is to be flown over:
- The Capitol and the White House in Washington, D.C.
- Any building containing official offices of the Secretary of State
- The offices of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- The offices of the Director of the Selective Service System
- The Korean War and Vietnam Veterans War Memorials
- Every National Cemetery
- Every major military installation
- Every VA Medical Center
- Every Post Office
- The POW/MIA flag is also displayed daily in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol Building and should be flown at all VA Medical facilities on any day the National Colors are displayed. In addition to POW/MIA Recognition Day, the flag should be displayed on the following days:
- Armed Forces Day
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Veterans Day
- Flag Day