Sunday, May 24, 2009

Remebering Newt Hesley This Memorial Day

Newt Heisley, 88, the designer of the POW/MIA flag adopted by Congress in 1990 as a symbol of the nation's concern for those missing during military actions in Southeast Asia, died May 14 at his home in Colorado Springs. No cause of death was reported.

Mr. Heisley's design, sketched in pencil in 1971 during the Vietnam War, shows the silhouette of a gaunt man, a strand of barbed wire and a watchtower in the background with the words "POW/MIA" and "You are not forgotten."

Congress in 1998 mandated that the flag be displayed at the White House, the U.S. Capitol, military installations and other federal buildings on national observances that include Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. The flag also flies at Veterans Affairs Department medical centers each day, along with the American flag.

Mr. Heisley was working at a New Jersey ad agency when he was assigned the task of submitting a design. His eldest son, Jeffrey, now 61, who had contracted hepatitis while training at Quantico in preparation for a tour of Vietnam, provided the inspiration for the silhouette. The words came from Mr. Heisley's experience of flying C-46 transport planes over the Pacific during World War II.

Mr. Heisley's original plan was to add purple and white, but the stark black-and-white pencil drawing proved popular. The image was never copyrighted, and Mr. Heisley didn't benefit financially from the widely reproduced design.

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