The POW MIA Flag Meaning and History

Published on
February 8, 2024 at 4:22:00 PM PST February 8, 2024 at 4:22:00 PM PSTth, February 8, 2024 at 4:22:00 PM PST

America is home to brave military service members who dedicate their lives to protecting our freedoms. Those captured or missing are considered prisoners of war (POWs) or given the title missing in action (MIA). 


Relatives of former POW MIA's created a special emblem to honor the sacrifices of these brave servicemembers. The POW MIA flag is the only flag dedicated specifically to prisoners of war and those missing in action. Let’s explore the meaning and history of the POW MIA flag to learn more about honoring those who gave everything for our great country. 


Carrot-Top Industries is proud to offer POW MIA flags crafted from the highest quality materials. Our goal is to honor those who fought valiantly. Our commitment to the U.S. military and American manufacturing is why we carry flags primarily made in the U.S.A. Pay your respects with a vibrant, eye-catching POW MIA flag from Carrot-Top today! 


What Does POW MIA Stand For?  


POW/MIA stands for prisoners of war and missing in action, phrases used to describe servicemen who are captured or whose whereabouts remain unknown. Following the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, hundreds of POWs returned home; however, there were still over 2,500 soldiers listed as "lost in action." Many of these brave heroes were shot down in service, and their bodies could not be located. 


What is the History Behind the POW MIA Flag?  


For years, during and after the Vietnam War ended, the government was inundated with pleas from family members to locate or provide information on military men who were lost in action. It wasn’t until 1971, almost 20 years after the start of the war, that progress was made, and a flag was adopted to educate and bring light to the sacrifice of those who gave their all for our country. 


The POW MIA flag was spearheaded by Mrs. Mary Hoff, the wife of Commander Michael Hoff and a member of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing. On a clear January morning, Commander Hoff took off in his Sidewinder A-7A Corsair plane for a routine reconnaissance mission. His job was to find enemy troops and gather intel on their position and movements. 


He was stationed in Laos, a remote region in Southeast Asia surrounded by dense forests, which the enemy used as cover. Not long into his mission, Commander Hoff reported gunfire. He was forced to eject from his aircraft as it was shot to the ground.  


His team saw a flash, which let them know the ejection was successful, but they were unable to locate his position. The enemy attack made it impossible to perform a rescue mission, and thus, he remained missing in action. 


When Mary Hoff received the news that her husband was missing, she decided to spend her life bringing awareness to the missing and trapped servicemembers who were taken captive during the war. 


To help shed light on the plight of missing soldiers, Mrs. Hoff contacted Norman Rivkees, the Vice President of Annin Flagmakers, who brought on Newt Heisley to help develop a design for the final flag. Mr. Heisley was no stranger to combat; he once served as a pilot during World War II, a fact that must have seemed particularly poignant to Mrs. Hoff. 


One of the most impactful parts of the flag is how it honors Vietnam Veterans, who were often overlooked due to the outcome of the war. For those who never received the recognition or honor they deserved, it stands as a powerful reminder that you are not forgotten and your sacrifice has meaning. 


Mary Hoff never wanted recognition for her contribution to the POW MIA cause. She believed the flag should be owned by every American and used as a symbol of our nation's armed forces. Thus, she never trademarked the flag. offers an impressive selection of indoor and outdoor POW MIA flags crafted from quality materials and perfect for flying atop a flagpole in honor of the country’s brave servicemen. Purchase your American-made POW MIA flag and pair it with a U.S. flag for a stunning and heartfelt patriotic display. 


What is the Significance of the Silhouette on the POW MIA Flag? 


The POW/MIA flag's simplistic design is meant to honor American heroes who are missing or prisoners of war.  


Featured prominently on a black field is a white silhouette of a prisoner of war standing before a watchtower with barbed wire in the distance. The brave serviceman's head is tilted slightly downward, indicating the great weight he bears. 


Written above is POW/MIA, while below is the phrase, “You Are Not Forgotten.” Unlike many other U.S. flags, the POW MIA emblem features only two colors, black and white, a purposeful design meant to bring attention to the servicemembers and possibly connotate the despair they feel as they are held captive within enemy camps. 


Some point out the missing in action addition on the flag, saying that it suggests military members who were not located are still held captive. However, according to the U.S. government's official position, there is “no strong evidence that demonstrates that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.” It is important to note that the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency conducts investigations into all POW MIA issues and provides centralized management of prisoners of war and missing personnel affairs within the Department of Defense. 


Although the POW MIA flag was created following the Vietnam War, it has become a symbol for all soldiers missing in action. Discover the full line of military flags to honor brave servicemen and women, including members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force. 


What are the Rules for Flying a POW MIA Flag? 


For private citizens, there are no set rules for flying the POW MIA flag. However, since 2019, certain federal buildings are required to display the emblem daily. 


On November 7, 2019, President Trump signed the National POW/ MIA Flag Act into law, mandating that the POW MIA flag fly on all days the U.S. Flag flies on specified federal properties. 


This Act replaces the 1998 Defense Authorization Act, Section 1082, which only required the POW MIA flag to fly six days a year on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, and National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The POW/MIA Flag Act only applies to a select group of federal structures, including: 


  • The Pentagon 
  • The White House  
  • The U.S. Capitol 
  • Every Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center 
  • All U.S. post offices. 


Additionally, the flag must fly over all major military installations, national cemeteries, and war-related locations, including the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the World War II Memorial.  


The National POW/MIA Flag Act guarantees that the POW MIA flag flies every day as a constant reminder of the valiant military members who were captured or were missing in action during times of war. 


Other Frequently Asked Questions About the POW MIA Flag 


The POW/ MIA flag is a poignant emblem and a somber reminder that freedom isn’t free. Understanding the true weight of our servicemember’s sacrifice brings new meaning to this powerful flag. 

How many soldiers are prisoners of war or missing in action? 

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), 81,000 American servicemen remain unaccounted for. 75% of the missing were lost in the Asia-Pacific region, most likely at sea. The DPAA states that as of 2023, the number of missing military members in each U.S. war is as follows: 

  • World War II - 73,515 
  • Korean War - 7,483 
  • Vietnam War - 1,577 
  • Cold War - 126 


Can a Civilian Fly the POW/ MIA Flag? 


Absolutely! While it is required that certain federal agencies like the postal service fly the POW MIA flag, you don’t have to be the Secretary of Defense or a member of Congress to showcase your patriotism. Any civilian can pay their respects by hoisting the POW MIA emblem at their home or office. 


What is the Proper Way to Fly a POW MIA Flag? 


When displaying the POW MIA flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. Flag, it should be one size smaller and below the American emblem. When displayed with other military flags, the POW MIA flag flies after the state flag but before the military branches. For more information, see our blog, “How to Properly Display the Military Branch Flags.” 


Honor POW/MIA with High Quality Products 


Honor the brave Prisoners of war and those missing in action with high-quality flags from Carrot-Top Industries. We proudly offer the following American-made flags: 


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