The US Government has been accounting for missing personnel and those who may have been held as prisoners since the establishment of the Bureau of Records of Missing Men of the Armies of the United States following the end of the American Civil War. Efforts were, however, on an as needed basis until World War I. Following World War II and the Korean War, officials made increasing efforts to locate the graves of American Service men and repatriate them to the US or bury them in US cemeteries abroad. While the graves registration program was successful in ensuring personnel were removed from the battlefield, efforts to account for the missing remained largely unorganized.
In 1966, during the Vietnam War, the families of men who were listed as missing in action or Prisoner of War began to organize themselves, initially for mutual support, and eventually to press for answers from government officials. Efforts by Sybil Stockdale, wife of captured pilot CDR James Stockdale, led to the formation of the “League of Wives of American Prisoners of War” in 1967. In May of 1970, the organization changed its name, incorporating into its membership the parents, siblings, and children of missing personnel and prisoners of war. In May of 1970, The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia was incorporated in Washington, D.C.
Recognizing the need for a symbol that could represent the plight of the missing in action and prisoners of war, Mrs. Michael Hoff, an MIA wife, approached a flag designer about designing a flag. The resulting image – a black flag with the head of a bowed prisoner and the words “You Are Not Forgotten” – was adopted at a Board of Director’s meeting as the logo of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing Southeast Asia in January of 1972.
In August 1990, Congress passed US Public Law 101-335, recognizing the League’s POW/MIA flag 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.” Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act requires that the flag fly six days a year; Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and Veterans Day. On these days, the flag must be flown at the White House, the US Capitol, the Departments of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs, the headquarters of the Selective Service System, major military installations as designated by the Secretary of Defense, all Federal cemeteries, and all offices of the US Postal Service.
Today, accounting for American personnel for all wars is directed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) with headquarters in Washington, D.C., and offices around the world, representing their global mission. The mission of DPAA is to “provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation.” Since the Treaty of Paris in 1973 was signed, more than 1,000 Americans unaccounted for from the Vietnam War have been identified by remains recovered in or returned by Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. For more information about the mission of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency or for a listing of those who remain missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, please visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil.
Recent statistics on efforts to achieve the fullest possible accounting, including lists of unaccounted for by state or by service visit the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
Find Recent news releases, including identifications of Vietnam War veterans here