This series is an adaptation of an article that originally appeared in the August 2015 American Legion Auxiliary Magazine. Look for the remaining parts of this blog series next week. Please remember: More than 83,000 servicemembers are still classified as either prisoners of war (POWs) or missing in action (MIA).
Here are some of the highlights of our nation’s attempts to recover our Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action (POW/MIA) servicemembers during the past several decades:
1953 – During Operation Big Switch, 3,597 American Prisoners Of War are returned after the Korean War.
1954 – The remains of 1,868 American servicemembers of the Korean War are returned home during Operation Glory.
1967 – Several women form the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia to raise awareness about POWs during the Vietnam War. It is incorporated in 1970.
1971 – Grahme Wilkin proposes a flag as a symbol of U.S. POW/MIAs.
1973 – The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 lead to the release of 591 American POWs from the Vietnam War during Operation Homecoming. Also in 1973, the Department of Defense establishes the Central Identification Laboratory-Thailand to coordinate POW/MIA recovery efforts.
1982 – For the first time, the POW/MIA flag, originally designed by Newt Heisley, is flown over the White House.
1985 – During the 67th American Legion National Convention, attendees designate a resolution for the POW/MIA Empty Chair setting at all official meetings of The American Legion.
1990 – The 101st Congress passes a law recognizing the POW/MIA flag as a symbol of the nation’s commitment to POW/MIAs.
2013 – President Barack Obama issues a proclamation declaring the third Friday of September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. It fell on Sept. 15 in 2017.
2015 – The U.S. Department of Defense creates the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to recover and account for missing servicemembers from past conflicts. It replaces the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.