Linda Moss Mines: History Of POW/MIA Day

Thursday, September 17, 2020 - by Linda Moss Mines

On the third Friday of September, the United States commemorates the service and the extraordinary sacrifices of our POWs and MIAs in a national day of recognition.  The 2020 official POW/MIA poster, ‘A Determined Nation’, is a reminder that the families of POWs/MIAs continue to push for accountability.  The remains of more than fifty soldiers have been returned from North Korea since 2018. The identification and burial of our nation’s patriots brings closure to the families who have waited for more than 65 years to "know" the fate of their loved members of the armed forces.

It is easy to forget the staggering numbers of troops who were POWs during their combat service and those who are still missing as a result of their service. According to a recent Congressional Research Service Report for the Department of Defense:

-130,201 World War II service members were imprisoned; 14,072 died;
-7,140 Korean War service members were imprisoned; 2,701 died;
-725 Vietnam War service members were imprisoned; 64 died; and
-37 service members were imprisoned during conflicts since 1991.

In the same report, 83,114 Americans were identified as still missing:

-73,515 World War II MIAs;
-7,841 Korean War MIAs;
-1,626 Vietnam Conflict MIAs; and
-6 from conflicts since 1991.

On this Friday, 18 September, the POW/MIA flag will be flying high at the Chattanooga National Cemetery and other government buildings. The black and white flag, representing the sorrow and hope symbolized by the silhouette of a man, was originally envisioned in 1971 by Mary Hoff in an attempt to draw attention to her MIA husband, Navy Lt. Commander Michael Hoff, whose plane had been shot down over Laos. World War II pilot Newt Heisley designed the flag based on Mrs. Hoff’s vision.

On every POW/MIA Remembrance Day since 1982, the flag has flown just below our nation’s flag at the White House, the only other flag ever given that place of prominence. Since 1998, the flag has also been included in all Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day commemorations, by an act of the U. S. Congress. 

For individuals, POW/MIA Day is a time to fly your U.S. flag, pause for a moment and remember the high cost of our rights and responsibilities as citizens and then silently say "Thank You" to the members of our armed forces and their families for their commitment to our freedom.

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Linda Moss Mines is the Chattanooga and Hamilton County Historian, a member of the Tennessee Historical Commission and the Regent, Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR. She can be reached at localhistorycounts@gmail.com.


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