You Are Not Forgotten – that's the central phrase behind the POW/MIA remembrance movement which honors America's prisoners of war, those who are still missing in action and their families. Many of our service members suffered as prisoners of war during several decades of varying conflicts. While some of them made it home, tens of thousands more never did.
Since World War I, almost 285,000 Americans have been taken as Prisoners of War, according to a Congressional report. The remains of almost 82,000 Americans are still missing, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
POW/MIA Recognition Day
POW/MIA Recognition Day is commemorated on the third Friday of every September, a date that's not associated with any particular war. In 1979, Congress and the president passed resolutions making it official after the families of the more than 2,500 Vietnam War POW/MIAs pushed for full accountability.
During the first POW/MIA Recognition Day commemoration, a ceremony was held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., while the 1st Tactical Squadron from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia flew the missing man formation. Most ceremonies since then have been held at the Pentagon, and many smaller observances have cropped up across the nation and around the world on military installations.
In order to comprehend the importance of this movement, all you need to do is look at the sheer number of Americans who have been listed as POW/MIAs.
According to a Congressional Research Service report on POWs:
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 83,114 Americans who fought in those wars are still missing, including:
The DPAA said about 75 percent of those missing Americans are somewhere in the Asia-Pacific. More than 41,000 have been presumed lost at sea.
Efforts to find those men, identify them and bring them home are constant. For example, the DPAA said that in the past year it has accounted for 41 men missing during the Korean War: 10 had been previously buried as unknowns, 26 were from remains turned over by North Korea in the 1990s, one was from a recovery operation, and four were combinations of remains and recovery operations.
The POW/MIA Flag
The traditional POW/MIA flag that's well-known across America was actually created many years before the remembrance day became official.
In 1971, a woman named Mary Hoff contacted a flag company near her home to see if a flag reminding people of POWs and the missing could be made. She was one of the many waiting to see if her husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Hoff, would ever return home after his plane had been shot down over Laos.
World War II pilot Newt Heisley designed the now-famous flag, which was made in black and white to represent the sorrow, anxiety and hope symbolized by the image of the gaunt man featured on it.
For every POW/MIA Recognition Day since 1982, the flag has flown just below the stars and stripes at the White House – the only other flag to ever do so. In 1998, Congress ordered it to also be displayed on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
The Air Force Birthday on September 18th commemorates the establishment of The United States Air Force.
Almost from the moment the Wright brothers found a way to soar with the birds, the military incorporated aeronautical pursuits into their missions. However, the Air Force did not become a separate branch of the Armed Forces until September 18, 1947.
The military established the Signal Corps as the first aeronautical force in the United States. During the Civil War, the first missions provided visional communications via flags and torchlight from aerial balloons. Even so, the Signal Corps didn’t become an official branch of the Army until 1863. Its creation made way for more aeronautical training and study.
Since then, military air service has gone through many names and commands. A few examples are Air Service of the US Army to the Air Corps and Army Air Force. Finally, in 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act establishing the United States Air Force as a separate branch of the military.
As a result of pursuing advanced technology and superior airmen, the US Air Force emerged as the swiftest tactical force ready to deploy anywhere at a moment’s notice. On September 18, celebrate the airmen and women who are on watch every day.
Recognize the military personnel in the Air Force. Give shout out and share your experiences as part of the Air Force. Use #AirForceBirthday to post on social media.
The 1947 National Security Act restructured The United States military and intelligence agencies in the aftermath of World War II. On September 18, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act establishing the U.S. Airforce on board the first Air Force One, a VC 54C.
Finally, we want to wish the US Air Force National Guard a Happy Birthday as well. Although the Air National Guard was not established as a separate reserve component of the U.S. Air Force until 18 September 1947, also as a result of the 1947 National Security Act, National Guard aviators have played significant roles in all of America's wars and most of its major contingencies since the First World War era. They have also aided their states in coping with natural disasters and civil unrest since the mid 1920s.
The history of the Air National Guard is quite impressive, with names like Lindbergh and Rickenbacker among its earliest aviators.