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The POW/MIA Table: A Place Setting for One, A Table for All

By Annalisa C. Underwood
Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

If you’ve ever been to a military ball, stepped inside a chow hall, or attended an event at a military veterans association in your local community, you’ve likely noticed the small, round table that is always set but never occupied—the prisoners of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) table.

The tradition of setting a separate table in honor of our prisoners of war and missing comrades has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. The manner in which this table is decorated is full of special symbols to help us remember our brothers and sisters in arms.

The POW/MIA table is smaller than the others, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his or her oppressors. This table is separate from the others and can be set for one to four place settings to represent each service participating in the event.

The white tablecloth draped over the table represents the purity of their response to our country’s call to arms.

The empty chair depicts an unknown face, representing no specific Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, but all who are not here with us.

The table itself is round to show that our concern for them is never ending.

The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.

The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends. A Purple Heart medal can be pinned to the napkin.

The single red rose reminds us of their families and loved ones. The red ribbon represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.

The yellow candle and its yellow ribbon symbolize the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet accounted for.

The slices of lemon on the bread plate remind us of their bitter fate.

The salt upon the bread plate represent the tears of their families.

The wine glass, turned upside down, reminds us that our distinguished comrades cannot be with us to drink a toast or join in the festivities of the evening.

The significance of the POW/MIA table is called to attention during the toast of the evening. This is an important part of many military banquets to remind us that the strength of those who fight for our country often times rests in the traditions that are upheld today. As we celebrate the Navy’s birthday this week and you find yourself at one of the many birthday events that will take place around the world, take the time to reflect on why that small, lone table is there and raise a glass for our fallen comrades.

NHHCinfographic_POW-MIAtable_large

August 11, 2017

August 11, 2017

MIA Update

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced burial updates and identifications of remains of seven American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II and the Korean War. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

  • Army Cpl. Sgt. Stafford L. Morris, 24, of Allentown, Pa., was buried Aug. 5 in Atlanta. In late November 1950, Morris was a member of Battery A, 503rd Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, which was fighting north of the town of Kujang-dong, North Korea. On December 1, his battalion began to withdraw under continuous enemy fire. It would be later learned that Morris had been captured but died in captivity on Jan. 21, 1951. Read about Morris.
  • Navy Fireman 1st Class Lawrence H. Fecho, whose remains were identified earlier, will be buried Aug. 13 in Bottineau, N.D. Fecho, 20, of Willow City, N.D., was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen. Read about Fecho.
  • Navy Radioman 2nd Class Walter H. Backman, 22, of Walton, N.D., was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen. Interment services are pending. Read about Backman.
  • Navy Radioman 2nd Class Quentin J Gifford, 22, of Mankato, Minn., was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft on Dec. 7, 1941. The battleship sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen. Interment services are pending. Read about Gifford.
  • Army Cpl. Roy J. Hopper was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion 19th Infantry Regiment. He was reported killed in action on July 31, 1950, when his battalion was engaged in a fighting withdrawal against North Korean forces in Chinju, South Korea. Interment services are pending. Read about Hopper
  • Army Sgt. 1st Class Alfred G. Bensinger, of Oklahoma, was a member of Company D, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was heavily engaged fighting Chinese forces in the Ch'ongch'on River area in northwestern North Korea, in late November 1950. Bensinger was reported missing in action as of Dec. 1, 1950. It would later be learned he had been captured but died in captivity. Interment services are pending. Read about Bensinger.
  • Army Pfc. Walter C. Hackenberg, of Beavertown, Pa., was a member of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, when Chinese and North Korean forces attacked his unit west of Chorw'on, South Korea, in April 1951. The American troops were able to hold the line, but Hackenberg could not be accounted for at the end of the battle. He was declared missing in action as of April 25, 1951. Interment services are pending. Read about Hackenberg.
Posted: May 19, 2017

Posted: May 19, 2017

MIA Update

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of four Americans who had been missing in action from WWII and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

  • Army Pfc. Manuel M. Quintana, 19, of Klondyke, Ariz., will be buried May 19 in Boulder City, Nev. Quintana was a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment. In late July 1950, the regiment unexpectedly encountered enemy forces while moving toward Hadong, in present day South Korea. Following the battle, Quintana could not be accounted for and was declared missing in action as of July 27, 1950. Read about Quintana.

  • Army Staff Sgt. Michael Aiello was a member of Company G, 401st Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR). Attached to the 325th GIR for Operation Market Garden in September 1944, Aiello’s unit battled German forces in a dense forest in the Netherlands, known as Kiekberg Woods. During four days of intense battle, the Americans incurred many losses, including Aiello. Interment services are pending. Read about Aiello.

  • Army Cpl. John Lane was assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division. In late July 1950, Lane’s unit set up in defensive positions in Chinju, South Korea, after Chinese forces attacked the city. After his unit was forced to withdraw east to regroup, Lane could not be accounted for and was reported missing in action as of July 31, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read about Lane.

  • Army Cpl. Richard Seadore was assigned to Company D, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Seadore’s unit was set up in defensive positions north of Uijong-bu, South Korea, on Dec. 14, 1950, when they were attacked by Chinese forces. Seadore could not be located after the battle. Originally listed as absent without leave, his status was later changed to missing. Interment services are pending. Read about Seadore.

  • Army Cpl. Glen E. Kritzwiser was a member of Battery C, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. Kritzwiser’s unit, part of Support Force 21, provided artillery fire support for South Korean forces from Changbong-ni. On Feb. 11, 1951, Chinese forces launched a massive counter offensive, forcing the support force to withdraw. Kritzwiser could not be accounted for after the unit reassembled in Wonju on Feb. 13. Interment services are pending. Read about Kritzwiser.

  • Army Cpl. Frank L. Sandoval was a member of Battery A, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. Sandoval’s unit, part of Support Force 21, provided artillery fire support for South Korean forces from Changbong-ni. On Feb. 11, 1951, Chinese forces launched a massive counter offensive, forcing the support force to withdraw. Sandoval could not be accounted for after the unit reassembled in Wonju on Feb. 13. Interment services are pending. Read about Sandoval.

  • Navy Fireman 3rd Class Robert N. Walkowiak 20, of Oshkosh, Wis., will be buried April 28 in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Walkowiak was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Walkowiak was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Read about Walkowiak.

  • Army Cpl. Freddie L. Henson, 19, of Klamath Falls, Ore., will be buried May 4 in Houston. Henson served with Battery A, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division, part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. The RCT was attacked by an overwhelming number of Chinese forces in late November 1950. Henson was among 1,300 members of the RCT killed or captured in enemy territory. He was reported missing as of Dec. 6, 1950. Read about Henson.

  • Marine Corps 2nd Lt. George S. Bussa was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Bussa's unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against stiff Japanese resistance. Bussa was killed on the first day of the battle, one of approximately 1,000 Marines and sailors killed in the intense fighting. Interment services are pending. Read about Bussa.

  • Army Pvt. Walter F. Piper was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Piper was reported missing in action on Feb. 13, 1951, while fighting in Korea. Interment services are pending. Read about Piper.

Posted: December 26, 2016

Posted: December 26, 2016

Missing In Action Update

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of 12 Americans who had been missing in action from World War II and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

  • Navy Seaman 2nd Class Floyd F. Clifford was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Clifford was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending. Read more.

  • Navy Fireman 3rd Class Kenneth L. Holm was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Holm was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Navy Seaman 1st Class Harold W. Roesch was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Roesch was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Navy Yeoman 3rd Class Edmund T. Ryan was assigned to the USS Oklahoma, which was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when Japanese aircraft attacked his ship on Dec. 7, 1941. Ryan was one of 429 crewmen killed in the attack. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Army Air Forces Staff Sgt. Byron H. Nelson was a nose gunner aboard an American B-24G Liberator bomber with the 721st Bomb Squadron, 450th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force. During a bombing run near Varese, Italy, on April 25, 1944, Nelson’s aircraft and two others were separated from the formation due to dense clouds and later attacked by German fighters. Of the 10 crewmen, six parachuted from the aircraft and escaped capture, two parachuted and were captured by German forces, and two perished in the crash. Nelson was reported to be one of the two who perished. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Army Air Forces Capt. Albert L. Schlegel of Cleveland, Ohio, disappeared Aug. 28, 1944, while piloting his P-51D Mustang on a ground strafing mission near Strasbourg, France. In his final communication, the fighter “ace” radioed he’d been hit by heavy anti-aircraft fire and would need to bail out. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Army Cpl. Gerald I. Shepler was the lead scout on a reconnaissance patrol for Company K, 3rd Battalion, 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, near Hajoyang-ni, North Korea, when his patrol was ambushed by enemy forces. Shepler was unaccounted for after the mission, and the U.S. Army declared him deceased on Nov. 29, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Army Sgt. Homer R. Abney was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, when his unit was engaged in heavy fighting with Chinese forces on the road from Kunu-ri to Sunch’on, North Korea — later named “The Gauntlet.” After several days of fighting, his regiment declared Abney missing on Nov. 30, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Army Cpl. James T. Mainhart served with Company I, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT) deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. The RCT was attacked by an overwhelming number of Chinese forces in late November, 1950. Mainhart was among 1,300 members of the RCT killed or captured in enemy territory. He was reported missing as of Nov. 30, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Army Cpl. Edward Pool was reported missing in action on Nov. 30, 1950, while serving with 31st Heavy Mortar Company, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. His unit was part of the 31st Regimental Combat Team deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Pool could not be accounted for after several days of intense fighting. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Army Cpl. Jules Hauterman was a medic with the Medical Platoon, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT) deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. The RCT was attacked by an overwhelming number of Chinese forces in late November, 1950. Hauterman was among 1,300 members of the RCT killed or captured in enemy territory. He was reported missing as of Dec 2, 1950. Interment services are pending. Read more.
  • Army Cpl. George A. Perreault was part of Support Force 21, assigned to Headquarters Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, near the Central Corridor in South Korea. While supporting Korean-led attacks on Chinese forces, they were caught in a massive Chinese counterattack on Feb. 11, 1951. Perreault was declared missing on Feb. 13, 1951. Interment services are pending. Read more.
Posted: August 21, 2015

Posted: August 21, 2015

National POW/MIA Recognition Day 2015

The third Friday in September is designated as National POW/MIA Recognition Day every year. This year it falls on Sept. 18, and VFW Posts nationwide will be recognizing those who were captured and returned, as well as remembering the 83,000 Americans who have yet to return home from their wars, and their families who continue to hope and pray. A suggested POW/MIA Recognition Day speech is now available online in the members-only section of www.vfw.org, and 2015 posters are now available for order or download from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
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Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015

Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015

  News Releases  

Soldiers Missing From Vietnam War Accounted For (Price, Griffin)
15-011 | March 31, 2015

The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of two U.S. servicemen, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be buried with full military honors.

Army Staff Sgt. Bunyan D. Price Jr., 20, of Monroe, N.C., and Sgt. Rodney L. Griffin, 21, of Mexico, Mo., assigned to 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, were passengers aboard an UH-1H Iroquois (Huey) helicopter that was en route to Fire Support Base Katum, South Vietnam, when it was diverted due to bad weather. After flying into Cambodian airspace, the aircraft came under heavy enemy ground fire causing the pilot to make an emergency landing in Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia. The Huey’s four crewmen and its four passengers survived the landing. One crewman was able to evade being captured by enemy forces and later returned to friendly lines. The other three crewmen and one passenger were captured. Two of the captured crewmen were released by the Vietnamese in 1973, and the remains of the other two captured men, were returned to U.S. control in the 1980s and identified. Price and Griffin died at the site of the crash during a fire fight with enemy forces. Their remains were not recovered after the fire fight. Price will be buried, April 11, in Belmont, N.C. Griffin will be buried, April 25, in Mexico, Mo.

From 1992 through 2008, joint U.S./Kingdom of Cambodia (K.O.C.) teams investigated the site without success. On Feb. 18, 2009, a joint team interviewed witnesses in the Memot District of Cambodia who claimed to have information on the loss. The witnesses identified a possible burial site for the two unaccounted for servicemen. The team excavated the burial site but was unsuccessful locating the remains.

From Jan. 16, 2010 to March 11, 2011, joint U.S./K.O.C. teams excavated the area, but were unsuccessful recovering the crewmen’s remains.

In February 2012, another joint U.S./K.O.C. team re-interviewed two of the witnesses. The witnesses identified a secondary burial site near the previously excavated site. The team excavated the secondary burial site and recovered human remains and military gear from a single grave.

In the identification of Price, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) analyzed circumstantial evidence and used forensic identification tools, to include mitochondrial DNA, which matched his brothers and sisters.

In the identification of Griffin, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL analyzed circumstantial evidence and used forensic identification tools, to include mitochondrial DNA, which matched his brothers.

Today there are 1,629 American service members that are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call (703) 699-1169.


Posted: Friday, January 9, 2015

Posted: Friday, January 9, 2015

Three MIAs Recovered
The Defense POW/MIA Office announced the identification of remains belonging to three American servicemen who had been missing in action from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Recovered are:

  • Army Air Forces Maj. Peyton S. Mathis Jr., 28, of Montgomery, Ala. On June 5, 1944, Mathis was piloting a P-38J Lightning when the aircraft lost power while attempting to land at Kukum Air Field on Guadalcanal Island in the Solomon Islands. A rescue team located the crash site but was unable to recover Mathis because the aircraft was submerged in a dense jungle swamp. He will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.
  • Army Cpl. Francis D. Knobel, 20, of La Crosse, Wis., was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, when he was lost Dec. 12, 1950, in North Korea. He will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.
  • Air Force Col. William E. Cooper, 45, of Albany, Ga., was assigned to the 469th Tactical Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, when his F-105D Thunderchief was shot down while on a strike mission on a highway-railroad bridge north of Hanoi, North Vietnam, on April 24, 1966. He will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.
Posted: Friday, October 24, 2014

Posted: Friday, October 24, 2014

Three MIAs Identified

The Defense POW/MIA Office has announced the identification of three American servicemen who had been missing in action since World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Returned are:

  • Army Air Force 2nd Lt. Jimmie D. Collins III, 32, from Talladega County, Ala., copilot of a B-24H that was lost over The Netherlands on June 21, 1944. He was assigned to the 446th Bombardment Group, Eighth Air Force, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.
  • Army Cpl. Lonald D. Skeens, of Johnson, Ky., was lost Sept. 4, 1950, in South Korea. He was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.
  • Army Staff Sgt. James L. Van Bendegom, 18, of Kenosha, Wis., was lost July 12, 1967, in South Vietnam, and later died of his wounds in a POW camp. He was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, and will be buried with full military honors on a date and location yet to be determined.

The POW/MIA Table: A Place Setting for One, A Table for All

By Annalisa C. Underwood
Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

If you’ve ever been to a military ball, stepped inside a chow hall, or attended an event at a military veterans association in your local community, you’ve likely noticed the small, round table that is always set but never occupied—the prisoners of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) table.

The tradition of setting a separate table in honor of our prisoners of war and missing comrades has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. The manner in which this table is decorated is full of special symbols to help us remember our brothers and sisters in arms.

The POW/MIA table is smaller than the others, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his or her oppressors. This table is separate from the others and can be set for one to four place settings to represent each service participating in the event.

The white tablecloth draped over the table represents the purity of their response to our country’s call to arms.

The empty chair depicts an unknown face, representing no specific Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, but all who are not here with us.

The table itself is round to show that our concern for them is never ending.

The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.

The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends. A Purple Heart medal can be pinned to the napkin.

The single red rose reminds us of their families and loved ones. The red ribbon represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call.

The yellow candle and its yellow ribbon symbolize the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet accounted for.

The slices of lemon on the bread plate remind us of their bitter fate.

The salt upon the bread plate represent the tears of their families.

The wine glass, turned upside down, reminds us that our distinguished comrades cannot be with us to drink a toast or join in the festivities of the evening.

The significance of the POW/MIA table is called to attention during the toast of the evening. This is an important part of many military banquets to remind us that the strength of those who fight for our country often times rests in the traditions that are upheld today. As we celebrate the Navy’s birthday this week and you find yourself at one of the many birthday events that will take place around the world, take the time to reflect on why that small, lone table is there and raise a glass for our fallen comrades.

NHHCinfographic_POW-MIAtable_large