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National  POW/MIA Recognition  Day
  Last updated July, 2006

Prisoners of War  -  Missing in Action  -  Pow/Mia flag  -  Pow Bracelets

National POW / MIA Remembrance Day is on the third Friday of September.
On that day we celebrate paying tribute and respect to those, in all wars, that have been designated as Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA).
"...the real heroes are those who did not return to enjoy the freedoms they fought so hard to preserve."
- former Korean POW,  Maurice Sharp.

1960s POW
In the 1960s during the Vietnam War Voices In Vital America (VIVA, a student organization based in Los Angeles, California) began the POW/MIA Bracelet Campaign with Carol Bates Brown as Chairman of the project. The Concept began with students Carol Brown and Kay Hunter as a way to remember the American POWs (Prisoners of War) suffering as captives in Southeast Asia.
1967 March
On March 24, 1967 LCDR John "Buzz" Ellison and LTJG Jim Plowman were placed in MIA "Missing in Action" status after the raday disappearance of thier Buckeye aircraft near the Gulf of Tonkin after participation in the strike force against the Bac Giang thermal power plant in North Vietnam. Neither man was reported as captured or dead by the Vietnamese.
1969 POW
In late 1969 California TV personality, Bob Dornan (who later became a U.S. Congressman) introduced several members of VIVA to three wives of missing pilots. The wives and students began to work together to bring a positive involvement of students in a program of support for the U.S. soldiers without becoming embroiled in the controversy of the war. The idea of circulating petitions and letters to Hanoi demanding humane treatment for POWs was found appealing.  The League of POW/MIA families had not yet been formed.  Relatives and friends of the three missing pilots and the students began to organize locally.
1969 POW
Bob Dornan, the California TV personality, had been wearing a bracelet he received from Vietnamese hill tribesmen, that reminded him of the suffering the war brought to so many.
1970 POW
At about the beginning of 1970, VIVA had no funding but solicited a Santa Monica engraver who donated 10 sample bracelets made of silver (for horse decorating) engraved with a name, rank and date of loss.  With the engraver on the telephone, the members of VIVA were unable to think of anything but the basic information, that later will prove to be fully appropriate.
1970 May

The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia was formed. The League incorporated in the District of Columbia on May 28, 1970. The League's primary goal is the accountability of the unknown status, missing in action or prisoners of war, of American Soldiers. The League interprets official intelligence reports as to the knowledge of whereabouts of captives alive in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia that were not returned at the end of the Vietnam War.
1970 Spring
During spring and summer of 1970, with sample bracelets in hand the VIVA members sought funding to distribute bracelets to college students. They had not yet realizing that adults would be willing to wear the unattractive bracelets. Attempts to solicit Ross Perot, Howard Hughes and of course others came up empty. Late summer of
1970 Summer
Finally in late summer of 1970 the husband of student advisor, Gloria Coppin, donated enough brass and silver to make 1200 bracelets. The Santa Monica, California engraver agreed to make the bracelets with VIVA paying for them from the proceeds. VIVA charged the students $2.50 for the bracelets, the cost of a 1970 theater ticket, and $3.00 to adults who it was assumed could afford more. Copper bracelets were offered to adults to take advantage of the current fad of wearing copper bracelets for arthritis.
1970 September
The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia hold their first annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in late September of 1970.
1970 September
Local POW/MIA relatives had suggested that VIVA attend the National League of Families first annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in late September.  Reception of the bracelets were great among the wives and parents of POW/MIAs who were willing to help in any distribution.
1970 POW
Bob Dornan, the California TV personality, who had always championed POW/MIAs and their families, continued publicizing the POW/MIA bracelet on his Los Angeles Television talk show.
1970 November
November 11, 1970, Veterans Day, was the official kickoff of the bracelet program with a news conference at the Universal Sheraton Hotel. Eventually there were requests for over 12,000 bracelets each day.  The proceeds brought in money for brochures, bumper stickers, buttons and other advertising to promote the POW/MIA issue.
1971 POW/MIA flag Mrs. Michael Hoff, the wife of MIA Michael Hoff, and member of the National League of Families recognized in 1971 the need for a symbol of our POW/MIAs. Mrs Hoff had contacted Norman Rivkees, the president of the flag manufacturer, Annin & Company. Sympathetic to the issue, he with the help of his Advertising agency designed the POW/MIA flag. Newton Heisley was commissioned to produce three renditions. After approval of the National League of Families the flags were manufactured for distribution.
1971 POW/MIA flag Newton Heisley, drawing on memories as a World War II pilot, imagining what it would be like to have been shot down and taken captive, sketches three designs, in 1971, commissioned for consideration as the emblem on the POW/MIA flag.
POW/MIA flag colors A black background, the center bearing, in black and white, the emblem of the League. The emblem: a white disk bearing a black silhouette bust of a man facing right with head lowered, past his back a camp tower with an armed guard, and a strand of barbed wire horizontal below his chin; white letters POW and MIA separated by a star curves over the top of the disk; below is a wreath above the motto, "YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN". The colors have been altered over the year switching from black with white; to red, white and blue; to white with black. At times the POW/MIA had been revised to MIA/POW.
1973 February
February 12th, 1973 saw the first U.S. POWs release by Hanoi.
1973 March
The last 67 POWs that were held by the DRV were allowed to leave Hanoi in March 1973.
1976 POW
Vietnam War Voices In Vital America (VIVA) closed its doors in 1976 during a time when the American public became tired of hearing about the Vietnam war and became desensitized on the POW/MIA issue. Nearly five million bracelets were sold raising enough money to produce untold millions of bumper stickers, butttons, brochures, matchbooks, advertising to draw attention to America's missing in action and prisoners of war.
1979 POW/MIA Day
1979 is the first year that Congress passes resolutions for a national ceremony to honor America's POW/MIAs; those returned and those still missing. That first year the ceremony was at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., The missing man formation was by the 1st Tactical Squadron, Langley AFB, Virginia.
1980s POW/MIA Day American ex-POWs had decided on April 9th, as the date of observance, as that was the date in WWII that the largest number of Americans were taken prisoner.
1982 POW/MIA flag The POW/MIA flag is flown over the White House on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, in 1982 for the first time becoming a tradition. The POW/MIA is the only flag other than Old Glory to freely fly in that honored place.
1984 Ceremony President Ronald Reagan hosted the 1984 National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at the White House. The Reagan Administration focused the honor of all returned Prisoners of War and those still Missing in Action with the commitment to an accounting of those still missing.
1985 POW/MIA Day The National League of Families began to support the expansion of National POW/MIA Recognition Day to accommodate all returned POWs and all Americans still missing and unaccounted for from all wars
1985 POW/MIA Day The 1985 ceremony of National POW/MIA Recognition Day was canceled due to bad weather; concerns of inclement weather were expressed when the April 9th date was suggested. To avoid bad weather and to accommodate all returned POWs and missing Americans from all wars, the date was changed to the third Friday in September, a date not associated with any war.
1986 Ceremony Most National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies had been held at the Pentagon, however, on September 19, 1986 the National ceremony was on the steps of the U.S. Capitol facing the Mall.  The Missing Man formation again flew concluding the ceremony.
1987 The Run The motor cycle run "Rolling Thunder® Ride for Freedom" was born in 1987. It was to highlight the issue of of all POW/MIAs.
1988 The Run 2,500 motorcycles from across America rolled on Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day Weekend of 1988.
1988 POW/MIA
The 100th Congress passed a law, in 1988, allowing the POW/MIA flag to fly in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
1989 March
An official National League of Families' POW/MIA flag flew over the White House on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, March 9, 1989. As the first flag representing POWs and MIAs, to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, it will remain until the most complete accounting of those still missing from the Vietnam War can be achieved. The POW/MIA flag is the only flag other than the National Standard to be displayed in this place of honor, and has flown there each year on POW/MIA day.
1990 August
The 101st Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355 on August 10, 1990 recognizing the POW/MIA flag designating 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".
1995 POW/MIA Day Congress had been passing resolutions since 1979 to observe a National POW/MIA Recognition Day. In 1995 a law was passed that moved the proclamation to the U.S. President who will sign a proclamation of National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
1995 October
The Run
In October of 1995, Artie Muller and Don Luker formed the run "Rolling Thunder®" into a corporation. The non-profit paperwork arrived in January 1996.  
1995 Stamp The POW/MIA stamp was approved for use by the U.S. Postal Service in 1995.
1997 Admin. The Missing Service Personnel Act of 1997 attempts to prevent the arbitrary "killing on paper" of missing personnel without credible proof of death.
1998 February
The first POW/MIA Internet Blackout Day began on February 1, 1998. It has been held and continued to this day. See the website of POW/MIA Internet Blackout Day
1998 March
The 105th Congress passage of Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act requires that the POW/MIA flag be unfurled to flay below the American flag six days each year: Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day and Veterans Day. It is to be displayed on staff below the American flag at the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Departments of State, Defense and Veterans Affairs, headquarters of the Selective Service System, major military installations as designated by the Secretary of the Defense, all Federal cemeteries and all offices of the U.S. Postal Service.
1999 September
On September 18, 1999 the Veterans Memorial Museum honors over 50 former Prisoners of War at For Borst Park in Centralia, Washington. This ceremony was the first annual POW/MIA Remembrance Day observance by the Veterans Memorial Museum.
2000 September
President William J. Clinton on September 14, 2000 issued a proclamation declaring September 15, 2000, as National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

"I call upon all Americans to join me in remembering former American prisoners of war who suffered the hardships of enemy captivity and those missing in action whose fate is still undetermined.  I call upon Federal, State, and local government officials and private organizations to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities."
                          - President William J. Clinton

2000 Admin Bring Them Home Alive Act of 2000 is approved. The act grants refugee status in the United States of nationals of certain foreign countries where American POW/MIAs may be present, provided the individuals are able to assist in returning POW/MIAs alive.
2001 March
LTJG Jim Plowman, MIA since March 1967, after an approved Presumptive Finding of Death, was reclassified to "Died while Missing." vietnam had never admitted the capture or death of Jim Plowman or LCDR John "Buzz" Ellison.
2001 September
President George Walker Bush makes the yearly proclamation of National POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 21, 2001.

      "The noble ideals that became our Nation's constitutional foundation were formed over two centuries ago in the hearts of courageous patriots who risked their lives in the name of liberty and justice.  Throughout our history, American patriots have risen to answer the call when the enemies of freedom have jeopardized our liberties.  Our military history is replete with heroes who put love of country above their own well-being.  In answering the call to defend our ideals, generations of brave Americans have left home and family to protect our great Nation, some never to return.
      National POW/MIA Recognition Day is notably significant for many American families.  It reminds us of the men and women who withstood great hardship while imprisoned by our Nation's enemies; and it reminds us of those still missing, loved ones lost at war but whose fate is not yet fully known.  We will not forget these patriots who were willing to give their all to preserve and protect our freedoms."
                          - President George Walker Bush.

2001 Admin Persian Gulf War POW/MIA Accountability Act of 2001 (S-1339) ammends the Bring Them Home Alive Act of 2000, providing an asylum program in respect to American Persian Gulf Pow/MIAs.
2002 POW/MIA
Congress passes a law in 2002 that the POW/MIA flag must fly year-round at the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial.
2002 September
President George Walker Bush makes the yearly proclamation of National POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 19, 2002.

"Throughout American history, many men and women have bravely served in our military and sacrificed much to preserve our country and protect the democratic ideals that make our Nation a beacon of hope. Some of those who answered the call to service were captured in conflict and imprisoned by our enemies; and many remain missing in action."
                            - President George Walker Bush.

2003 Observance Marines and Sailors aboard the USS Peleliu had gathered to pay tribute to all service members designated as Prisoner of War or Missing in Action on September 19, 2003. Colonel Michael R. Regner, commanding officer of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit spoke saying: "Today is our day to remember your grandparents and probably some of your fathers."
"It gave us a chance to reflect on those either Missing in Action or Prisoners of War," Mr. Dawson, a Rock Springs, Wyoming native is quoted, "It's good to show them that we still think of them and honor them for what they've sacrificed for us."   -
2003 September
President George Walker Bush makes the yearly proclamation of National POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 19, 2004.

"The sacrifice and service of America's veterans, including those who became prisoners of war or who went missing in action, have preserved freedom for America and brought freedom to millions around the world. On National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we honor the extraordinary courage of the Americans who have been prisoners of war, and we pray for those who are still missing in action and unaccounted for. This Nation also remembers the challenges and heartache endured by the families of prisoners of war and missing in action. We seek answers for the families of those who are still missing, and we will not rest until we have a full accounting."
                            - President George Walker Bush.

2004 September
President George Walker Bush makes the yearly proclamation of National POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 14, 2004.

"Throughout our history, when the enemies of freedom were on the march and our country needed brave Americans to take up arms and stop their advance, the members of our Armed Forces answered the call of duty. These patriotic men and women defended our country in hours of need and continue to stand watch for freedom. Many of these courageous individuals risked capture, imprison-ment, and their lives to protect our homeland. On National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we honor the sacrifices and remarkable determination of those captured as prisoners of war. We also remember those who remain unaccounted for and ask for God's special blessing on their families. Our Nation will not forget these heroes, and we will not stop searching for our service members who are missing in action."
                            - President George Walker Bush.

2005 September
President George Walker Bush makes the yearly proclamation of National POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 16, 2005.

"In every generation, members of our Armed Forces have answered the call of service in our Nation's hour of need. These patriots have defended our freedom and way of life, triumphed over brutal enemies, and answered the prayers of millions. On National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we honor the Americans who have been prisoners of war and recognize them for enduring unimaginable hardships while serving in military conflicts around the globe. We also remember those who are still missing in action, and we renew our commitment to keep searching until we have accounted for every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine missing in the line of duty."
                            - President George Walker Bush.

Statistics During the period of WWI through 1999, more than 142,000 service members had been captured or interned, over 16,000 died as POWs.
4,400 remain missing from World War I. 78,000 still missing from World War II. 8,100 missing in the Korean War. Over 120 are missing in the Cold War. More than 1,900 from the Vietnam War. 41 from the 1991 Persian Gulf War (Gulf War I). 14 from the Bosnia conflict, other operations and the Iraq War (Gulf War II).
In 2000, estimates say that about 50,000 former POWs are living among us.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day is now observed in ceremonies 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 focus is two fold; one to honor those who have been or are POWs and MIAs and that America remembers it responsibility to those who serve and the accounting of those who do not return.
© Copyright 2005 Roger W Hancock
P O W / M I A
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