In the United States, National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Recognition Day is observed on the third Friday in September.
It honours those who were POWs and those who are still MIA. It is most associated with those who were POWs during the Vietnam War. National Vietnam War Veterans Day is 29 March, the date in 1973 when the last US combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam.
This day was established by an Act of Congress, by the passage of Section 1082 of the 1998 Defence Authorisation Act. It is one of six days that the POW/MIA Flag can be flown. The POW/MIA flag was first recognised by Pub.L. 101–355 and made into 36 U.S.C. § 189 in 1990.
The POW/MIA Flag should fly below, and not be larger than, the United States flag. It is generally flown immediately below or adjacent to the United States flag as second in order of precedence.
National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day
National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day is different and separate from National POW/MIA Recognition Day. National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day is 09 April.
It was officially designated by Congress in 1988, Public Law 100-269 [Sen J Res 253 100th Congress] as a Presidentially-proclaimed observance. National Former POW Recognition Day commemorates the 09 April 1942 surrender of approximately 10,000 United States military personnel and 65,000 Filipino soldiers on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines by Major General Edward P. King to the invading Imperial Japanese Army headed by General Masaharu Homma. Bataan, thereafter, is distinguished as the largest mass surrender in United States military history. The surrender was followed immediately by the infamous Bataan Death March. By law, the President of the United States must issue annually a proclamation.
The Bataan Death March began on 09 April 1942 and lasted, for some, almost two weeks. The Imperial Japanese Army forced all American and Filipino POWs on a 65-mile trek up from Mariveles at the tip of the Bataan Peninsula north to the San Fernando train station. At San Fernando, the men were packed standing in unventilated boxcars for a 24-mile journey by rail to Capas. Survivors then marched an additional three miles to the makeshift POW camp at Camp O’Donnell, an unfinished Philippine Army training facility. It is estimated that at least 10% of the men on the March died en route. Sick and starving, the surrendered American and Filipino soldiers on the Bataan Death March were robbed of their personal possessions, denied food, water, and medical care while subject to being beaten, bayoneted, beheaded, crushed by trucks and tanks, and executed.
Although this remembrance day is for all who were POWs, it is most associated with those who were POWs of Imperial Japan during WWII.