Histories: The POW-MIA Flag

You Are Not Forgotten... "History of the POW/MIA 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.

The House Resolution:

H.R.1119 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998 (Passed by the House)

SEC. 1054. DISPLAY OF POW/MIA FLAG.

(a) REQUIRED DISPLAY- The POW/MIA flag shall be displayed at the locations specified in subsection (c) each year on POW/MIA flag display days. Such display shall serve (1) 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 (2) as the symbol of the Nation's commitment to achieving the fullest possible accounting for Americans who in the future may become prisoners of war, missing in action, or otherwise unaccounted for as a result of hostile action.

(b) DAYS FOR FLAG DISPLAY- (1) For purposes of this section, POW/MIA flag display days are the following:

(A) Armed Forces Day, the third Saturday in May.

(B) Memorial Day, the last Monday in May.

(C) Flag Day, June 14.

(D) Independence Day, July 4.

(E) National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

(F) Veterans Day, November 11.

(2) In the case of display at United States Postal Service post offices (required by subsection (c)(8)), POW/MIA flag display days in any year include, in addition to the days specified in paragraph (1), the last business day before each such day that itself is not a business day.

(c) LOCATIONS FOR FLAG DISPLAY- The locations for the display of the POW/MIA flag under this section are the following:

(1) The Capitol.

(2) The White House.

(3) The Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

(4) Each national cemetery.

(5) The buildings containing the primary offices of--

(A) the Secretary of State;

(B) the Secretary of Defense;

(C) the Secretary of Veterans Affairs; and

(D) the Director of the Selective Service System.

(6) Each major military installation, as designated by the Secretary of Defense.

(7) Each Department of Veterans Affairs medical center.

(8) Each United States Postal Service post office.

(d) COORDINATION WITH OTHER DISPLAY REQUIREMENT- Display of the POW/MIA flag at the Capitol pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection (c) is in addition to the display of that flag in the Rotunda of the Capitol required by Senate Concurrent Resolution 5 of the 101st Congress, agreed to on February 22, 1989 (103 Stat. 2533).

(e) REQUIREMENTS CONCERNING DISPLAY AT SPECIFIED LOCATIONS- (1) Display of the POW/MIA flag at the buildings specified in paragraphs (1), (2), (5), and (7) of subsection (c) shall be on, or on the grounds of, each such building.

(2) Display of that flag pursuant to paragraph (5) of subsection (c) at the buildings containing the primary offices of the officials specified in that paragraph shall be in an area visible to the public.

(3) Display of that flag at United States Postal Service post offices pursuant to paragraph (8) of subsection (c) shall be on the grounds or in the public lobby of each such post office.

(f) POW/MIA FLAG DEFINED- As used in this section, the term `POW/MIA flag' means the National League of Families POW/MIA flag recognized officially and designated by section 2 of Public Law 101-355 (36U.S.C. 189).

(g) REGULATIONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION- Within 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the head of each department, agency, or other establishment responsible for a location specified in subsection (c) (other than the Capitol) shall prescribe such regulations as necessary to carry out this section.

(h) PROCUREMENT AND DISTRIBUTION OF FLAGS- Within 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator of General Services shall procure POW/MIA flags and distribute them as necessary to carry out this section.

PROTOCOL:

If flying the flag from ONE FLAG POLE, the POW/MIA flag is flown directly below the National Colors and above any state flag.

* If flying National, POW/MIA and State flags from TWO poles, the POW/MIA flag should be flown from the same pole as the National Colors, and beneath the American Flag, with the state flag flying from the pole to the left.

* If flying flags from three poles, the National Colors occupy the place of prominence (the right), with the POW/MIA flag immediately to the left of the US Flag, and the state flag to the left of the POW/MIA flag.


"Designer glad that POW flag lifts hopes
By Terri Cotten
Special to The Denver Post

Sunday, September 22, 2002 - COLORADO SPRINGS - As a World War II pilot, Newton Heisley covered vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean in frightening isolation. During those trips, he sometimes found himself imagining what it would be like to be shot down and taken prisoner.

He hoped he would not be forgotten.

Nearly 30 years later, Heisley drew on those memories when he was commissioned to design a flag that would rally support for the efforts of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.

He sketched three different designs, but the one chosen in 1971 now graces the banner that is the country's second-fastest-selling flag, behind only the Stars and Stripes. Beneath the emaciated silhouette of a man's head, the black and white POW/MIA flag bears the motto: "You Are Not Forgotten."

"I'm no hero," Heisley said Friday from his Colorado Springs home as people gathered throughout the country for National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies, an annual event that began in 1979.

"I didn't do it for personal gain or acclaim. I did it for the men who were prisoners of war or missing in action. They're the real heroes."

Initially, Heisley's design was used to rally support for bringing home those held prisoner or missing in Vietnam. Today, it is used to fight for an accounting of more than 89,000 soldiers who remain missing from all wars since World War II.

Historians and flag experts call the proliferation of the POW/MIA flag unprecedented in the history of the United States and perhaps the world. The POW/MIA flag is the only flag that flies continuously in the U.S. Capitol's rotunda and is the only flag, besides Old Glory, that has flown above the White House.

It has flown at the Super Bowl, the New York Stock Exchange and at every post office nationwide. Heisley's drawing, which was never copyrighted, can be found on everything from ball caps to mugs.

The idea began when Mrs. Michael Hoff, the wife of a soldier missing in action and a member of the National League of Families, recognized the need for such a symbol. She sought help from flag manufacturers Annin & Co., which, in turn, went to Heisley, who was then creative director for a New Jersey advertising firm.

About the time his father began working on the project, Jeffrey Heisley, then 24, was struck with hepatitis during a Marine Corps training program. His shrunken condition inspired his father to draw him in silhouette for the flag.

David Winn, a retired Air Force general, was a prisoner of war at the "Hanoi Hilton" when Heisley sketched the POW/MIA symbol.

Winn, one of those who gathered for Friday's observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, said he was shot down over North Vietnam in August 1968. He spent the first 22 months of captivity in isolation and shrunk from 175 pounds to less than 120 pounds, he said.

Two events gave him hope, he said. One was the Son Tay raid in November 1970, which prompted the Viet Cong to move all their prisoners to Hanoi and effectively ended solitary confinements.

The second came in 1971 at the Paris peace talks when the National League of Families flooded the North Vietnamese delegation with 3 million letters demanding the return of their loved ones. The prisoners found their conditions again improving.

Winn and his fellow prisoners were liberated in March 1973, but he said those who fly the POW/MIA flag today remain committed to a full accounting.

"It's impossible, the way we live such normal lives in this country, to conceive of a violent death," Winn said. "The average guy ought to be reminded that people are paying an awful price for his freedom."


Copyright 2002 The Denver Post"

Artwork: AII POW-MIAText Credit: Congressional Legislation, National Archives - History: National League of Families


Go BACK to POW MIA Histories Menu



The opinions expressed on this site are those of
Advocacy and Intelligence Index for Prisoners of War - Missing in Action.
If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail us at the above address.

Archive ©AII POW-MIA All Rights Reserved