Today the black and white POW-MIA flag, with its silhouette
of a bowed head, set against a guard tower and a single strand
of barbed wire serves as a national symbol and a challenge
to a country not to forget. The story of its origin at Annin Flagmakers
over 30 years ago is one that we are proud to tell.
In 1970 Mrs. Mary Hoff, an MIA wife and member of the National
League of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia
recognized the need for a symbol for our POW/MIAs. She read
a newspaper article in the Jacksonville, Florida Times Union
about Annin Flagmakers that explained how Annin helped to
design and subsequently manufactured the flags for the newer
UN member nations. After contacting Annin, Mrs. Hoff found
Norman Rivkees who was VP of Sales at the time very sympathetic
to the cause. He in turn contacted a local advertising agency
and contracted graphic designer Newt Heisley to design a
flag to represent the group.
The job came just as Heisley’s son Jeffrey was returning
from Marine training at Quantico, VA. Home after becoming
ill during training, Jeffrey’s gaunt appearance became
the inspiration for the silhouette. Newt Heisely, himself
a World War II veteran who flew missions in the Pacific,
was glad he got the chance to design the symbol and help
the group. “I used to fly within range of the Japanese
and wondered how I would hold up if I ever got captured.
When I did the design, I thought how easy it would be to
forget those guys”, he said.
The now familiar slogan, “You are not forgotten”,
was born of that sentiment. Heisley also remarked in an interview
that the flag was not originally intended to black and white.
He figured that once the League selected the design from
the several he submitted, a suitable color would be chosen.
One less somber, more optimistic, he said. The black and
white motif stuck.
Following the League’s approval Annin manufactured
the flags for distribution. The image was never copyrighted
and is now part of the public domain.