POW/MIA Flag History

Nov 11th, 2016

The American POW/MIA flag is a symbol that represents concern about U.S. military that were taken as prisoners of war or are missing in action. In 1971, during the Vienam War, Mary Helen Hoff, a member of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, and the wife of a military member that was missing in action, felt there was a need for some type of symbol to recognize POWs and MIAs.


As a result of Hoff’s advocacy, a flag was designed in 1972 by Newt Heisley with oversight by Evelyn Grubb, the coordinator of the National League, and the wife of a Vietnam POW. The flag has a black field and features a white disk containing a man’s bust in black silhouette, a watch tower with a guard, and a strand of barbed wire. Centered above the disk are the initials POW and MIA separated by a five pointed star. A black and white wreath appears beneath the disk and the words “You are not forgotten” beneath the wreath.




Once the flag was designed, Grubb mounted a campaign to gain its acceptance by the federal, state and local governments as well as civilian organizations. It took ten years, until 1982, before the flag was flown over the White House. It is the only flag to do so, other than the U.S. flag.


In 1990, the POW/MIA flag was recognized by Congress as “a symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and accounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertain for their families and the Nation.”


The POW/MIA flag has since become a symbol of all POW/MIAs in all wars with U.S. involvement. The 1998 Defense Authorization Act was specified by Congress to fly every year on the following dates:


·         Armed Forces Day

·         Memorial Day

·         Flag Day

·         Independence Day

·         National POW/MIA Recognition Day

·         Veterans Day


There have been many color versions of the POW/MIA flag created and flown, but the one that is recognized by the U.S. government is the color combination adopted by the National League.


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