POW MIA Flags
They will not be forgotten. Fly high the POW MIA Flag to represent our missing soldiers through this powerful symbol of our national commitment to our POW/MIA’s.
The POW/MIA flag was created for the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia and officially recognized by the United States Congress in conjunction with the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, “as the symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation.”
The original design for the flag was created by Newt Heisley in 1972 The National League of Families then-national coordinator, Evelyn Grubb, wife of a POW, oversaw its development and also campaigned to gain its widespread acceptance and use by the United States government and also local governments and civilian organizations across the United States.
In 1971, while the Vietnam War was still being fought, Mary Helen Hoff, the wife of a service member missing in action (Commander Michael G. Hoff) and member of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, recognized the need for a reference symbol about U.S. POW/MIAs, some of whom had been held in captivity for as many as seven years.
The flag is black, and bears in the center, in black and white, the emblem of the league. The emblem was designed by Newton F. Heisley, and features a white disk bearing in black silhouette the bust of a man (Jeffery Heisley), watch tower with a guard on patrol, and a strand of barbed wire; above the disk are the white letters POW and MIA framing a white 5-pointed star; below the disk is a black and white wreath above the white motto: “You are not Forgotten.” The POW/MIA was flown over the White House for the first time in September 1982. The flag has been altered many times; the colors have been switched from black with white – to red, white and blue – to white with black; the POW/MIA has at times been revised to MIA/POW.
On March 9, 1989, a league flag that had flown over the White House on the 1988 National POW/MIA Recognition Day was installed in the U.S. Capitol rotunda as a result of legislation passed by the 100th Congress. The leadership of both houses of Congress hosted the installation ceremony in a demonstration of bipartisan congressional support.
On August 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, recognizing the National League of Families POW/MIA flag and designating it “as a symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation.” Beyond Southeast Asia, it has been a symbol for POW/MIAs from all U.S. wars.
The flag is ambiguous as it implies that personnel listed as MIA may in fact be held captive. The official, bipartisan, U.S. government position is that there is “no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia”. The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) provides centralized management of prisoner of war/missing personnel (POW/MP) affairs within the United States Department of Defense and is responsible for investigating the status of POW/MIA issues. As of 29 March 2017, 1,611 Americans remained unaccounted for, of which 1,023 were classified as further pursuit, 497 as no further pursuit and 91 as deferred.
In October 2017, state government buildings in Maryland began flying the POW/MIA flag outside.
On November 7, 2019, the National POW/MIA Flag Act was signed into law, requiring the POW/MIA flag to be flown on certain federal properties, including the US Capitol Building, on all days the flag of the United States is flown. Previously, the flag was only flown on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and Veterans Day.
With the passage of Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act during the first term of the 105th Congress, the POW/MIA flag was specified to fly each year on:
- Armed Forces Day—Third Saturday in May
- Memorial Day—Last Monday in May
- Flag Day—June 14
- Independence Day—July 4
- National POW/MIA Recognition Day—Third Friday in September
- Veterans Day—November 11
The POW/MIA flag will be flown on the grounds or the public lobbies of major military installations as designated by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, all Federal National Cemeteries, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the White House, the United States Post Offices and at official offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense and Veterans Affairs, and Director of the Selective Service System. Civilians are free to fly the POW/MIA flag whenever they wish.
In the U.S. Armed Forces, the dining halls, mess halls and chow halls display a single table and chair in a corner draped with the POW-MIA flag as a symbol for the missing, thus reserving a chair in hopes of their return.
Other color patterns exist: the orange and black pattern was run by Outpost Flags at the time of Harley Davidson’s 100th anniversary, so that the bikers would help keep the issue alive and in the forefront of American politics. There are red and white versions, which some say are to cover more recent military actions, but this is not official policy. There are black and red versions available as well.
When displayed from a single flagpole, the POW/MIA flag should fly directly below, and be no larger than, the United States flag (Civilian or on congressionally designated days). For U.S. government agencies under a Chain of Command the U.S. Flag Code has a complete order of precedence that mirrors Army Regulations 840-10 specifically 840-10 2-2.c. If on separate poles, the U.S. flag should always be placed to the right of other flags (the viewer’s left; the flag’s own right). On the six national observances for which Congress has ordered display of the POW/MIA flag, it is generally flown immediately below or adjacent to the United States flag as second in order of precedence.