Keeping The Promise   National POW/MIA Recognition Day History

Until July 18, 1979, no commemoration was held to honor America's POW/MIAs, those returned and those still missing and unaccounted for from our nation's wars. That first year, resolutions were passed in the Congress and the 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.The Veterans Administration published a poster including only the letters "POW/MIA" and that format was continued until 1982, when a black and white drawing of a POW in harsh captivity was used to convey the urgency of situation and the priority that President Ronald Reagan assigned to achieving the fullest possible accounting for Americans still missing from the Vietnam War.

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. In the early years, the date was routinely set in close proximity to the League's annual meetings. In the mid-1980's, the American Ex-POWs decided that they wished to see the date established as April 9th, the date during World War II when the largest number of Americans were captured. As a result, legislation urged by the American Ex-POWs was passed covering two years, July 20, 1984 and April 9, 1985, as the commemoration dates.

The 1984 National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony was held at the White House, hosted by President Ronald Reagan. At that most impressive ceremony, the Reagan Administration balanced the focus to honor all returned POWs and renew national commitment to accounting as fully as possible for those still missing. Perhaps the most impressive Missing Man formation ever flown was that year, up the Ellipse and over the White House. Unfortunately, the 1985 ceremony was canceled due to inclement weather, a concern that had been expressed when the April 9th date was proposed.

Subsequently, in an effort to accommodate all returned POWs and all Americans still missing and unaccounted for from all wars, the National League of Families proposed the third Friday in September, a date not associated with any particular war and not in conjunction with any organization's national convention. Most National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies have been held at the Pentagon. On September 19, 1986, however, the national ceremony was held on the steps on the U.S. Capitol facing the Mall, again concluding with a flight in Missing Man formation.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremonies are now held throughout the nation and around the world on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, at schools, churches, national veteran and civic organizations, police and fire departments, fire stations, etc. The League's POW/MIA flag is flown, and the focus is to ensure that America remembers its responsibility to stand behind those who serve our nation and do everything possible to account for those who do not return.


"Keeping the Promise", "Fulfill their Trust" and "No one left behind" are several of many mottos that refer to the efforts of the Department of Defense to recover those who became missing while serving our nation.

More than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. Hundreds of Defense Department men and women -- both military and civilian -- work in organizations around the world as part of DoD's personnel recovery and personnel accounting communities. They are all dedicated to the single mission of finding and bringing our missing personnel home. The mission requires expertise in archival research, intelligence collection and analysis, field investigations and recoveries, and scientific analysis.

Since 1973, the remains of more than 900 Americans killed in the Vietnam War have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

For more than a decade the United States has conducted joint field activities with the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to recover the remains of missing Americans. Throughout those countries, teams continue to investigate crash and burial sites, as well as interview locals to gain additional knowledge. The United States also continues to obtain access to historical wartime records and archives that provide information relevant to the fates of missing Americans.

Today, more than 1,600 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam conflict.

Sources: DPAA
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Old Glory Traditions
 
 
POW/MIA Posters
 
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POW/MIA Flag History of the National League of POW/MIA Families' Flag

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. Prompted by an article in the Jacksonville, Florida Times-Union, Mrs. Hoff contacted Norman Rivkees, Vice President of Annin & Company which had made a banner for the newest member of the United Nations, the People's Republic of China, as a part of their policy to provide flags to all United Nations members states. Mrs. Hoff found Mr. Rivkees very sympathetic to the POW/MIA issue, and he, along with Annin's advertising agency, designed a flag to represent our missing men. Following League approval, the flags were manufactured for distribution.

On March 9, 1989, an official League flag, which flew over the White House on 1988 National POW/MIA Recognition Day, was installed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda as a result of legislation passed overwhelmingly during the 100th Congress. In a demonstration of bipartisan Congressional support, the leadership of both Houses hosted the installation ceremony.

The League's POW/MIA flag is the only flag ever displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda where it will stand as a powerful symbol of national commitment to America's POW/MIAs until the fullest possible accounting has been achieved for U.S. personnel still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

On August 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, which recognized the League's POW/MIA flag and designated it "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 importance of the League's POW/MIA flag lies in its continued visibility, a constant reminder of the plight of America's POW/MIAs. Other than "Old Glory", the League's POW/MIA flag is the only flag ever to fly over the White House, having been displayed in this place of honor on National POW/MIA Recognition Day since 1982.

With passage of Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act during the first term of the 105th Congress, the League's POW/MIA flag will fly each year on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day and Veterans Day on the grounds or in the public lobbies of major military installations as designated by the Secretary of the Defense, all Federal national cemeteries, the national Korean War Veterans Memorial, the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the White House, the United States Postal Service post offices and at the official offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense and Veteran's Affairs, and Director of the Selective Service System.

© 1998 National League of POW/MIA Families
 
 

2013 POW/MIA Poster

The 2013 POW / MIA Poster

 

The 2013 National POW/MIA Recognition Day poster honors those still missing from our Nationís past wars and conflicts and those who made the ultimate sacrifice and whose remains have not yet been recovered and returned home. The Poster depicts the Missing Man Table and there is special significance to each item that is displayed.

Set for four, the missing personnel from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force are represented at the table. The round table shows everlasting concern. The table cloth is white symbolizing the purity of the servicemenís motives when answering the call to duty. A single red rose is displayed in a vase as a reminder of the life of each of the missing and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith while seeking answers. The vase is tied with a red ribbon symbolizing the continued determination to account for them. A slice of lemon is a reminder of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land. The salt symbolizes the tears shed by those missing and their families who long for answers to end years of uncertainty. The lighted candle reflects hope for their return to their families and our Nation. The inverted glass symbolizes the servicemenís inability to share an evening toast. The chairs are empty; they are missing.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is held each year on the third Friday in September. On September 20, 2013, ceremonies will be held across the country to commemorate the sacrifices of the missing servicemen and their families.


For additional information,
visit the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Website

 
Page Created: November 2013