Where did the POW/MIA flag come from?



The Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action symbol is one of the most distringuished designs in American history. It was formed to honor and give thanks for the brave men and women of the US military who have been captured and held by enemy forces in the times of battle.

During the Vietnam War, Mary Hoff, a wife of a Missing In Action soldier and member of the National League of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, decided that there was a great need for a symbol to honor the approximately 1,350 POWs and approximately 1,200 MIA soldiers who had been injured yet whose bodies had not been recovered. She contacted the Annin Flag company, the United States’ largest flag company, who in return contacted Newton “Newt” Heisly, an artist in the National League of Families to help with the design.

Newton Heisley was a former pilot in WWII and father of Jeffrey Heisly, a Marine soldier who eventually went, fought, and returned home from Vietnam. At the time of design, Jeffrey had just returned home from Basic Training before his departure for Vietnam and had been suffering from a case of hepatitis, emaciating his body and face. At the sight of his son, Newton imagined what the POWs overseas must look like. Jeffrey became the silohuette for Newton’s design. He then added a watch tower and barbed wire to the background which were characteristics of the many prisoner camps during Vietnam.

For the slogan “You Are Not Forgotten”, Newton remembered the feeling he had as he was flying a mission over the Southeast Pacific during World War II and thought that he could end up being “taken prisoner and being… forgotten”. He designed the slogan to let soldiers know that despite their circumstances, they were not forgotten and the National League of Families would dedicate their mission to the rescue and return of these heroes.

Newton had originally drawn the design out with pencil only and was going to add in color later, presumably a deep purple, but by the time he could get back to add it in, Annin had already begun printing and distributing the white and black designed flags. The black and white logo stuck and became the official design of the National League of Families.

The POW MIA flag has intentionally never been copyrighted due to Newt’s belief that it is everyone’s flag. It was designed to give thanks to the many men and women we may never see, many we may never be able to give thanks to, many we will forever be greatful for. It acts as a symbol of hope for soldiers, a symbol of dedication for civilians, and a symbol of duty for our government.

On September 16th, 1988 on POW/MIA Recognition Day, the flag was proudly flown over the White House for the first time ever. Later on March 9th, 1989, the same flag was raised on the Capitol’s Rotunda and is still the only flag every flown in the Rotunda.

Today, give thanks for the many Prisoners of War and soldiers of whose fate are unkown. Hope that their families heal and that time eases the pain. Be proud to be an American and don’t ever look at the POW/MIA flag without saying thank you for these sacrifices. From everyone at Flagexpressions, we give thanks and salute all of our soldiers, POWs, MIAs, and families of these brave men and women.