The PVVM Fund Board of Directors (PVVMF) has the long-held vision of being able to tell the complete story of the Vietnam War in a way that will place the sacrifice of the 648 in proper context. The construction of a Monument will honor all of the POWs (Prisoners of War) and MIAs (Missing in Action) from the Vietnam War, but especially the 19 servicemen whose names are inscribed on the Memorial’s Wall of Names. Of special emphasis is the MIAs, whose families have never received closure on the loss of their loved ones.
The concept of the PVVMF has been to include monuments important to our involvement in Vietnam so that visitors will get a more complete picture of the war. It is in keeping with the original design of the Memorial, which includes seven panels describing scenes from the war.
We are honoring all POW/MIAs from Vietnam because it was the last war in which large numbers of Americans were imprisoned or listed as missing. There are 19 POW/MIAs honored at the Memorial, of which the remains of 9 former MIAs have been recovered while 10 MIAs remain unaccounted, remains not recovered.
The POW/MIA Monument is on the south side of the Memorial, near the statue of Cpl. Michael J. Crescenz, the only Philadelphian to receive the Medal of Honor for the Vietnam War. It joins the South Vietnamese Freedom and Heritage Flag Monument to the joint sacrifice of SVN and American servicemen, as well as the Purple Heart Monument.
The design by Doug Seiler of Seiler-Drury Architects of Norristown consists of a semi-circular form that surrounds a bronze flag pole topped with the POW/MIA flag. The flag is bordered by a crenelated base of black granite that is designed as an abstraction of a stockade. On either side of a black granite plaque, separating the viewer from the POW/MIA flag, is a low, bronze rail in an abstract barbed wire design. The combination of elements is intended to convey the sense of separation and loss which the POW/MIA community have endured.
A Short History Of POW/MIAs in SE Asia
The Vietnam War raised awareness about POWs and MIAs from all wars as Americans focused on the the fate of United States servicemen who were reported as MIAs during that conflict. With the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 ending the US involvement in the War, 591 American POW’s were returned. The Unites States at that time listed about 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered (MIAs).
A total of 2,583 POW/MIAs in 1975 were reportedly unaccounted for at the end of the Vietnam War, of which 1,618 remain in that status. Of the latter figure, Pennsylvania has the fourth highest number of MIAs with 90, following California, New York and Texas. Ninety percent were lost in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos.
More than 83,000 Americans remain missing from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Gulf Wars/other conflicts. About 75% of those losses are located in the Asia-Pacific region, and over 41,000 of the missing are presumed lost at sea (i.e. ship losses, known aircraft water losses, etc.). There was a total of 7,140 POWs and 8,025 missing from Korea. The largest number is from WWII with 124,079 and 30,314 MIAs.
The National League of Families (NLF), formed in 1970, is the principle advocacy group for POW/MIAs and is comprised of relatives of military servicemen who were missing or held prisoner in Southeast Asia. The NLF advocated for a representative symbol and chose the design of Newton Heisley, a former World War II pilot. The design depicted a silhouette of a man’s head in barbed wire and a watchtower in the background with a motto below “You Are Not Forgotten,” resulting in the familiar flag widely known and flown today
The League successfully advocated for a National POW/MIA Recognition Day on the third Friday each September, to remember “America’s responsibility to do everything in its power to account for those who are missing or captive.” In 1990, the 101st Congress officially recognized the POW/MIA flag, designating it “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 the families and the Nation” (Public Law 101-355).
The Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Accounting Agency investigates the fate of all the missing service personnel. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command with the Defense Department established the Central Identification Laboratory, which continues its work today.
An example of this investigation process is the fate of Michael William Doyle, one of the 19 servicemen whose name is inscribed on the Memorial Wall. Lieutenant Commander (LTC) Michael William Doyle’s aircraft on a mission over North Vietnam on August 25, 1972 was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). LTC Doyle ejected and search and rescue efforts were unsuccessful. On August 14, 1985 LTC Doyle’s remains were returned and on October 7, 1985 LTC remains were identified.