POW/MIA Recognition Day was 3rd Friday in September

pow/mia recognition day

A Proclamation by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 established the POW/MIA Recognition Day as the 3rd Friday in September. Every year, the White House reiterates that proclamation, even the current occupant. It’s a day of remembrance and honor for those who remain missing from several wars. The search for answers for families of those missing continues on a daily basis.

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Congressional research service report on POWs showed that 37 service members had been imprisoned during conflicts since 1991. This includes both Gulf Wars. At the time of writing, none of the POWs are still in captivity. However, during WWII, 130,201 service members were captured and imprisoned, and 14,072 died.

During the Korean War, 7,140 service members were imprisoned; 2,701 of them died. Of the 725 service members imprisoned during the Vietnam War, 64 died.

Of all the service personnel who participated in these wars, there are still 83,114 missing Americans. This includes six from conflicts from 1991, 126 from the Cold War, 1,626 from the Vietnam War, 7,841 from the Korean War, and approximately 73,515 from WWII.

Roughly 75 percent of all missing American personnel are thought to be somewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. More than 41,000 have been presumed lost at sea.

Efforts to find these service members, identify them correctly and bring them home are constant. In 2019, 41 MIA service members from the Korean War were accounted for, and of them, ten were previously buried as unknowns. Remains turned over by North Korean authorities helped identify 26, one was a recovery operation and four were combinations of recovery operations and the return of remains.

We Are The Mighty

The POW/MIA Flag was created by a WWII pilot named Newt Heisley in 1972 for the National league of Families. The model for the head on the flag was Heisley’s son Jeffrey, a 24 year old Marine. The black and white flag is the only flag allowed to fly just below Old Glory on the same pole and was officially recognized by Congress. Heisley served in WWII in the Army Air Corps, and became a commercial artist after his service. He passed away in May of 2009 at the age of 88.

pow/mia recognition day
Newt Heisley and the flag he created

The POW/MIA flag, also known as the National League of Families POW/MIA flag, can be seen flying in Defense Department installations and in many other government and private locations. It flies directly below the United States flag during the observance day. If there are two flagpoles, it is always flown to the viewer’s left of the U.S. flag.

Besides being flown on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Congress in 1998 legislated that it can also be flown on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. In 2019, Congress authorized the POW/MIA flag to be flown at certain locations on all days that the U.S. flag is flown.

At some DOD dining facilities, it is a tradition that a single table and chair be draped with the POW/MIA flag to honor the missing.

The POW/MIA flag was created for the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. That’s why the flag has the alternate longer name, as well. That nonprofit organization, which has been recognized by Congress, was created to account for those who are still prisoners or missing in Southeast Asia.

Department of Defense

The flag is a stark reminder never to forget those who did not return from their service in war.


Featured photo: wikimedia commons

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