HISTORY OF THE POW/MIA FLAG (Revised August 18th 2020)
In 1970, MIA wife and member of the National League of POW/MIA Families, Mrs. Michael Hoff, recognized the need for a symbol of our POW/MIAs. Prompted by an article in the Jacksonville, FL, 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 (PRC), as part of their policy to provide flags of all UN member states. Mrs. Hoff found Mr. Rivkees very supportive of POW/MIA accounting efforts; he and contracted employee Newt Heisley came up with our Vietnam War POW/MIA flag design.
After the League’s Board of Directors approved the design on January 22-23, 1972, POW/MIA flags were manufactured for distribution. To ensure the widest possible dissemination and use of this symbol to advocate for improved treatment for America’s POWs and answers on our MIAs, no trade mark or copy-right was sought. As a result, extensive use of the League’s POW/MIA flag is not restricted legally. The large volume of commercial production and sales required to meet demands of federal and state laws does not benefit the League financially
The importance of the POW/MIA flag lies in its visibility as a constant reminder of America’s UNRETURNED VETERANS. Other than "Old Glory," our POW/MIA flag is the only flag ever to fly over the White House, first displayed in this place of honor by President Ronald Reagan on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, 1982.
On March 9, 1989, an official League flag – flown over the White House on National POW/MIA Recognition Day 1988 – was installed in the US Capitol Rotunda after legislation passed overwhelmingly during the 100th Congress. In a demonstration of further bipartisan Congressional support, the leadership of both Houses hosted the installation ceremony, at which Ann Mills-Griffiths, then League Executive Director, now Chairman of the Board/CEO, delivered remarks representing the POW/MIA families.
The League’s POW/MIA flag is the only flag ever displayed in the US Capitol Rotunda where it stands as a powerful symbol of America’s determination to account for US personnel still missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. On August 10, 1990, the 101st Congress passed bipartisan legislation and President George H.W. Bush signed PL 101-355, recognizing our POW/MIA flag and designating it “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”.
On November 7, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed PL 116-67, amending Title 36, Section 2 (Days on Which the POW/MIA Flag is Displayed on Certain Federal Property), and Subsection 902(c) (Days for Flag Display). For the purposes of these sections, POW/MIA flag display days are all days on which the flag of the United States is displayed. The Federal property locations where the POW/MIA flag must be displayed in a manner visible to the public are: The US Capitol; the White House; the WWII Memorial; the Korean War Veterans Memorial; the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial; each national cemetery; buildings containing the offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs; office of the Director of the Selective Service System; each major military installation as designated by the Secretary of Defense; each Veterans Affairs medical center; and each office of the US Postal Service. Most states have adopted similar laws as have local governments nationwide.
Public Law 116-67 designates the League’s POW/MIA flag “as the symbol of the Nation’s concern and commitment to achieving the fullest possible accounting of Americans who, having been prisoners of war or missing in action, still remain unaccounted for; and . . Americans who in the future may become prisoners of war, missing in action, or otherwise unaccounted for as a result of hostile action.”
LEAGUE POLICY ON POW/MIA FLAG DISPLAY was adopted at the League’s 32nd Annual Meeting in June 2001. Members present overwhelmingly passed the following resolution: "Be it RESOLVED that the National League of POW/MIA Families strongly recommends that state and municipal entities fly the POW/MIA flag daily to demonstrate continuing commitment to the goal of the fullest possible accounting of all personnel not yet returned to American soil."
‘This is a historic victory for every man and woman who courageously defended this nation and remain unaccounted for’
November 07, 2019
WASHINGTON – Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) stood in solidarity with fellow members of the Veterans Service Organization (VSO) community as President Donald Trump signed the National POW/MIA Flag Act into law today.
“This is a historic victory for every man and woman who courageously defended this nation and remain unaccounted for,” said VFW National Commander William “Doc” Schmitz. “Today’s presidential signing and the daily display of the POW/MIA flag at all prominent federal properties now serves as a daily reminder that these heroes, and their families, are forever etched in our DNA.”
Law now requires the POW/MIA flag to be displayed whenever the American flag is displayed on prominent federal properties, including the White House, U.S. Capitol, World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, every national cemetery, the buildings containing the official offices of the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs, office of the Director of the Selective Service System, each major military installation, each Department of Veterans Affairs medical center, and each U.S. Postal Service post office.
The National POW/MIA Flag Act was initially introduced by U.S. Rep. and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jack Bergman and U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas March 7, 2019. The bipartisan bill received endorsement from the VFW, the National League of POW/MIA Families, and other veterans service organizations.
“Over 82,000 men and women who’ve served our nation in uniform are unaccounted for or listed as POW/MIA, including many Michiganders,” said Congressman Bergman. “Flying this flag at federal properties 365 days a year is just a small way that we can ensure their sacrifice and devotion to our nation is never forgotten.”
Pappas added that the POW/MIA flag is a symbol of courage and sacrifice that our armed forces have given on behalf of this nation.
“I have seen how important the flag is to demonstrate that these heroes are not forgotten,” said Congressman Pappas. “By putting the flag on full display outside of prominent federal buildings, memorials, and national cemeteries, we are reaffirming our commitment to the more than 82,000 service members who remain unaccounted for.”
Prior to today’s landmark signing, the POW/MIA flag was only required to be displayed by the federal government on certain prominent federal properties only six days per year to include Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and Veterans Day.
The National League of POW/MIA Families is the reason the POW/MIA flag exists today. The organization’s mission supports our POW/MIAs and killed-in-action from the Vietnam War by obtaining the release and return of all prisoners, the fullest possible accounting for the missing, and the repatriation of remains of those not yet recovered.
Evelyn Grubb, former national coordinator of The National League of POW/MIA Families, oversaw the development of the POW/MIA flag and campaigned to gain its widespread acceptance and use by the U.S. government in 1972.
B.J. Lawrence, executive director of the VFW Washington Office, expressed his sincere appreciation for today’s signing because it only furthers the relationship the VFW has with both The National League of POW/MIA Families and the DPAA.
“The VFW continues to stand firm on its relationship and dedication with both The National League of POW/MIA Families and DPAA,” said Lawrence. “Today is a huge step in the right direction. Our nation’s leaders made a pledge to account for every service member who did not come home. This is a pledge which also holds true for today’s servicemen and women. We must always ensure that if they do fall in battle, they are not forgotten and our nation will do everything in its power to bring them home.”