POW/MIA Flag History

The black and white POW/MIA Flag, with its silhouette of a bowed head, set against a guard tower and a single strand of barbed wire, serves as a national symbol and a challenge for our country to not forget. The origin of this flag dates back to the 1970s.

History of the POW/MIA Flag

In 1970, Lt. Commander Michael Hoff went missing in action when his plane crashed over Laos, Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. His wife, Mary Helen Hoff, felt there was a need for the nation to have a symbol in which those who were lost to war would not be forgotten, thus becoming the pioneer of the POW/MIA flag. She read an article in the Jacksonville, Florida Times Union about how Annin & Co. helped to design and manufacture flags for newer UN member nations. Mrs. Hoff contacted Annin and their VP of Sales, Norman Rivkkes commissioned graphic designer Newt Heisley to design a flag to represent the group.

Newt Heisley found inspiration for designing the flag from his past experiences as a WWII pilot: "I used to fly within range of the Japanese and wondered how I would hold up if I ever got captured. When I did the design, I thought how easy it would be to forget those guys." The now familiar slogan "You are not forgotten" was born of that sentiment. Heisley’s son, Jeffrey, upon returning home ill from Marine training, inspired the gaunt appearance of the flag’s silhouette. In addition to the slogan and silhouette, the flag also boasts a 5-point star, a watchtower with a guard on patrol, a strand of barbed wire, and a black and white wreath.

What Does POW/MIA Mean?

The POW/MIA flag is a reminder for Americans to never forget our Prisoners of War (POW) and those Missing in Action (MIA). Prisoners of War are individuals - whether military personnel or civilians - who are captured and imprisoned by the enemy during times of war. The status of life for those who are MIA have not yet been confirmed. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, over 83,000 Americans who fought in wars since World War II are still missing.

On November 18,1997 the 1998 Defense Authorization Act was signed into law. A section of that act required that the POW/MIA flag be flown from Military Installations, National Cemeteries, V.A. Medical Centers and many other Federal Buildings.

You can order your POW/MIA from Flags USA. Click here to shop for POW/MIA flags.

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