Worn to honor and increase awareness of POW/MIA soldiers. Traditionally, these bracelets were worn until the POW returned to the United States at which time the bracelet was presented to the former prisoner.
The idea for POW bracelets originated in 1970. Carol Bates Brown and Kay Hunter were college students looking to support U.S. troops in Vietnam without being involved in the controversy of demonstrations and protests. Through their student group VIVA (Voices in Vital America), they were able to distribute millions of bracelets and other memorabilia nationwide.
POWs in the Public Eye
During the Vietnam War, American prisoners were a focus of public attention as never before.
Over 4,000 Americans were captured during World War I; more than 130,000 were taken prisoner during World War II; 7,000-plus were held in Korea. The American public knew little of their plight. But Americans were painfully aware of the 726 who were prisoners of war in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese paraded them in a sophisticated propaganda campain to erode public support for the war. POW families launched awareness campaings, and the media gave the POW situation extensive coverage. At the war's end, 661 returned home. Some Americans believe that thousands more "missing in action" were left behind.
20th Century Prisoners of War
World War I: 4,120 captured; 3,973 returned
World War II: 130,201 captured; 116,129 returned
Korea: 7,140 captured; 4,418 returned
Vietnam: 726 captured; 661 returned
Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.