National POW/MIA Recognition Day has been observed on the third Friday of September since 1998.
This year, this day of recognition, this Friday, Airborne and Special Operations Museum will unveil its newest exhibit, “Not Forgotten.”
“If you look at the POW flag it says you are not forgotten on the bottom, (and) that’s the spirit of this exhibit,” said Scott Pelletier, curator, ASOM.
Visitors are invited to view a collection of items belonging to former prisoners of war.
The centerpiece of the exhibit, the Singlaub Flag, was donated by Retired Maj. Gen. John K. Singlaub, a former member of the Office of Strategic Services and a founding member of the Central Intelligence Agency.
After Japanese surrender, Singlaub parachuted into Hainan, an island off the south coast of China, rescuing over 500 Australian and Dutch prisoners of war.
The flag appears strange, with nine stripes and 40 stars. At the time it should have been 48 stars, but it serves as a symbol of gratitude wcrafted for Singlaub by the men he liberated.
The white stripes were made from Singlaub and his team’s reserve chutes, the red stripes from supply parachutes and the blue from burlap. The white stars on the flag were hand painted.
Another piece of the POW story displayed is a framed board donated by the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school. The board bares a hand painted quote from Retired Col. James “Nick” Rowe, rumored to have been written by Rowe himself. Rowe, captured by the Viet Kong in 1963, was held for five years and is credited with the development of the SERE course.
Items donated by Retired Lt. Col. Ray Schrump can also be viewed.
Schrump, a POW released during Operation Homecoming in 1973 after 5 years of captivity, escaped with clothing, cards, a small handmade calendar and a variety of artifacts representative of a day in the life of a Viet Kong POW.
“Vietnam has faded from people’s memory. As veterans get older, people need to understand the sacrifices and hardships that Soldiers, particularly POWs, went through. This is a chance for people to come in, young people to come in, and read about these heroes here and see,” said Pelletier.
The exhibit will be open until the end of the year. Visitors may also visit the Vietnam section of the main gallery to learn more about POWs.