Mary Hoff And The Origin Of The Iconic POW/MIA Flag


Few things have the power to bring people together as seamlessly as love, loss and true conviction for a cause. The Civil Rights movement is a great example of people coming together and fighting for freedom, However, throughout history, there has been push back for even the most basic of human rights movements. 

When’s the last time you saw everybody agree on something? 

And I mean everybody—Democrats and Republicans, blue collar and white collar workers… people from every walk of life. Most people have never seen everyone agree on something, let alone led them in the cause. 

Mary Hoff did just that in 1970, after she got the worst news of her life.

pow/mia flag waving in the wind, with a blue/grey sky behind, the edge of an american flag peeking from the corner

The news struck Mrs. Hoff early on a January morning in 1970. We would never wish this on our worst enemies. But in life, how we react to our circumstances is what makes us who we are, not how often we win. That’s what made her reaction to this news so inspiring.

It was a normal assignment for a guy like Michael Hoff. After all, a job flying a Sidewinder A7A Corsair aircraft was crazy to begin with. Commander Hoff was tasked with an armed reconnaissance mission to pinpoint enemies and gain valuable intel about their movements in a specific region of Laos.

The mission began smoothly. It was a clear day, and Commander Hoff could see for a reported 10 miles. However, things suddenly took a turn for the worse when Hoff contacted his mission leaders, reporting he had a fire warning light and had to bail from the craft. Nobody had eyes on his plane… until it was too late. A team member caught sight of a flash right before the aircraft plunged into the dense jungle beneath them and exploded.

That flash was a clear sign that Commander Hoff had been successfully ejected, but there was a major problem—nobody could see the parachute at all.Worse than that, when the rescue team went back to check, they came under heavy enemy fire. His body was never recovered.

When Mrs. Hoff got the news, she decided that, in spite of her husband’s tragic loss, she wanted to make an impact in honor of her husband’s legacy.

A New Life Mission

Despite now being responsible for raising 5 children (the youngest being just under a year old) alone, Mary decided to do everything in her power to build awareness for those trapped in other countries as prisoners.

She went on to start the POW/MIA movement and helped design the iconic POW/MIA flag that is flown on government buildings and private property across the nation. It is one of the most recognizable US flags, born from a determined spark in a very dark moment in Mary Hoff’s life.

Mary Hoff is a heroic figure, not only for her sacrifice, but also for her dedication to honoring her husband in his passing. Even when the design was finished, she refused to take ownership of the rights to the flag. She believed that everybody should own this flag, and she shouldn’t be the one to profit from it. As a result of her opinion, no trademark or copyright was ever sought after.

The Flag’s Impact Today

Over time, the POW/MIA flag has gained traction and even has dedicated days to be flown. This is all because in 1998, the Defense Authorization Act was passed, and it required a slew of government agencies and buildings to fly the flag on the following days:

  • Armed Forces Day
  •  Memorial Day
  • Flag Day
  •  Independence Day
  • National POW/MIA Recognition Day
  • Veterans Day.  

The flag must be flown at the White House, Capitol Building, Departments of State, Defense, The Headquarters of the Selective Service System, all federal cemeteries and offices of the US Postal Service, and at many other locations.

The POW/MIA flag has truly made an impact by honoring current prisoners of war and those who have gone missing while serving on the front lines.

Our Goal at Gettysburg Flag Works

Gettysburg Flag Works has been working diligently to make sure all of your possible gravesite and remembrance needs are met. Our small team wants to ensure you can celebrate your loved ones’ lives and pay respect to all of the soldiers and front line workers that have lost their lives.

Join us in paying respect to the people that made the ultimate sacrifice by getting your own POW/MIA material here, or call us at 1-888-697-3524 for more information.

We’ve also specifically curated pieces that show gratitude and appreciation for the brave men and women that served for us and were captured:

Battle-Tough POW/MIA Flag: Made in the USA

Prisoner Of War And Missing In Action Memorial Medallion: 6 inches in diameter

High-quality POW/MIA Lapel Pin to wear on these special days throughout the year 

One Comment

  1. Thanks for educating me on the history of the POW/MIA flag. Great story and glad you provide this flags


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