Did you sport a Vietnam War POW bracelet in the 70s?

POW bracelet

I learned about the most fascinating trend the other day: POW bracelets of the Vietnam War. My aunt called to see if I could help her find a prisoner of war (POW) from the Vietnam War, and I just had to know why. (How often do you get a call like that?) She explained that in the 70s, it was a “thing” to wear a bracelet with the name of a POW. She had one with Capt. James Warner and wanted my help in finding him. (I’m pretty stellar with my Google skills.)

I was able to find some info on Capt. Warner to send to her, and in my searching, learned more about these bracelets. They were the brainchild of Carol Bates, who was part of a group, Voices in Vital America, to remind everyone of the POWs overseas. They were about $2.50-$3 and about five million were manufactured. Each bracelet was engraved with a soldier’s name and his date of capture.  VIVA closed in ’76; according to Bates, “By then the American public was tired of hearing about Vietnam and showed no interest in the POW/MIA issue.”

POW

(Everyone from Nixon to Johnny Cash to Sonny & Cher wore the POW bracelets in the 70s.)

If you happen to own one of these bracelets and want to send it to the soldier, contact:

Defense POW/Missing Persons Office
ATTN: Public Affairs
2400 Defense, Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301 – 2400

This Veterans’ Day, take a moment to think about each of the POWs who had his name engraved on a bracelet and thank those who have/are serving our country. Did you have a POW bracelet? Have you ever tried to contact “your” soldier?

44 thoughts on “Did you sport a Vietnam War POW bracelet in the 70s?

  1. Sunset Kayak says:

    I remember them vividly, and they were not $2.50. You left off a zero. The whole package was $25.00. They gave you a bracelet and some literature on it. I wanted one and didn’t have the money and asked my parents, and they said no because it was too expensive and it was a scam. I don’t know where you aunt got one and who sold it to her, but in NJ they were all $25.00.

    • Tracey says:

      New to this blog but had to comment. I do see your post is quite old. There must have been many sources for the bracelets. When I was 8 years old my dad was stationed in Annapolis. We went to a USO fund raiser on base where they had the POW bracelets for sale. My mother bought one for me and one for my brother and they were only a couple dollars. I don’t remember any literature that came with the bracelet. We did search the list of newly released soldiers in the newspaper at the bus stop each week to see if the name on our bracelet was there. The idea was to wear it until your soldier was no longer a prisoner.

      • Keith says:

        I grew up in New Jersey and had one. I was in Junior High at the time. I only paid $3.00 for it, not $25.00, which, during the day, would have been quite a sum of money.

      • Renee L. Beck says:

        Hey! A note from another reader:
        I’m an historian of children and childhood working on a book about the Vietnam War in the lives of American children and am currently focusing my research on POW/MIA bracelets. I would be very interested in visiting with some of you about wearing your POW/MIA bracelets as kids in the Vietnam era. (I’ve worn mine since the early 1970s)
        Thank you.
        Joel

        Joel P. Rhodes, Ph.D.
        Professor
        Department of History
        Southeast Missouri State University
        jrhodes@semo.edu
        573-651-2715

      • Renee L. Beck says:

        Hey! A note from another reader:
        I’m an historian of children and childhood working on a book about the Vietnam War in the lives of American children and am currently focusing my research on POW/MIA bracelets. I would be very interested in visiting with some of you about wearing your POW/MIA bracelets as kids in the Vietnam era. (I’ve worn mine since the early 1970s)
        Thank you.
        Joel

        Joel P. Rhodes, Ph.D.
        Professor
        Department of History
        Southeast Missouri State University
        jrhodes@semo.edu
        573-651-2715

  2. Ron says:

    I was at an event last night and actually heard Capt. James Warner talk. It was a very inspiring talk. I just wished they would have provided him more time to speak.

    I am wondering if the author of this article was ever able to contact James Warner to give him the bracelet his grandmother wore… if not, I might be able to help in making that a reality.

  3. Diane Keilman says:

    I proudly wore mine for a long time. I recently found it again. It brought back a lot of memories. I never found out what happened to my soldier, and felt that I didn’t have closure. Maybe now I can. Thank you for the information.

  4. Peggy Kuefler says:

    I know that I wore a bracelet for a very long time… unfortunately I no longer have the bracelet. Was wondering if there was some sort of records kept… I don’t even remember how I got the bracelet… Was this something that we “applied” for… if so are there any records still around…?? I wonder where a person would even start to look??? Thanks

  5. Margaret says:

    Can u still purchase a bracelet my brother died in Vietnam i would like to have one in respect for my brother

  6. John says:

    I wish I could have mine back. I was stationed in California and told to take it off and never wear it again. I sent it home but never got it back. Did they keep a record of who purchased who’s name?

  7. Gail Mullaney says:

    My POW bracelet was commander Edward Martin. I posted on the love letters site about how much it meant to me and right before Christmas I got a personal letter from my PO W. It was the most wonderful Christmas present ever. I still have the bracelet and it still means a lot to me.

    • Renee L. Beck says:

      Hey! A note from another reader:
      I’m an historian of children and childhood working on a book about the Vietnam War in the lives of American children and am currently focusing my research on POW/MIA bracelets. I would be very interested in visiting with some of you about wearing your POW/MIA bracelets as kids in the Vietnam era. (I’ve worn mine since the early 1970s)
      Thank you.
      Joel

      Joel P. Rhodes, Ph.D.
      Professor
      Department of History
      Southeast Missouri State University
      jrhodes@semo.edu
      573-651-2715

  8. Tracey says:

    I wore and still have my POW bracelet. It bears the name of a Capt.John Dunn. I was about 8 years old and living on the Naval Station in Annapolis. We used to check the paper each day or each week at the bus stop for POWs who had been released. We would wear the bracelet until our soldier’s name was in the paper. My mother bought mine at a USO fund raiser for a couple dollars.

      • Tracey says:

        Hi Renee, yes I knew he had been released but the link on your site let me know that he passed away in 1998. Its too bad. I wasn’t even thinking of locating him back then. What do you think the significance is for a soldier to have the bracelet that someone wore. Honestly it never occured to return it to him because it meant so much to me. It was nice to find his bio and I appreciate your efforts that led me there. Thank you. Tracey

      • Renee L. Beck says:

        Hey! A note from another reader:
        I’m an historian of children and childhood working on a book about the Vietnam War in the lives of American children and am currently focusing my research on POW/MIA bracelets. I would be very interested in visiting with some of you about wearing your POW/MIA bracelets as kids in the Vietnam era. (I’ve worn mine since the early 1970s)
        Thank you.
        Joel

        Joel P. Rhodes, Ph.D.
        Professor
        Department of History
        Southeast Missouri State University
        jrhodes@semo.edu
        573-651-2715

  9. Tracey says:

    CORRECTION John H. Dunn was deceased in 1998. My bracelet is for a John G. Dunn and there is no indication here that he is deceased. There is no middle initial on the bracelet but the capture date clarified which John Dunn I have.

  10. Joel says:

    I’m an historian of children and childhood working on a book about the Vietnam War in the lives of American children and am currently focusing my research on POW/MIA bracelets. I would be very interested in visiting with some of you about wearing your POW/MIA bracelets as kids in the Vietnam era. (I’ve worn mine since the early 1970s)
    Thank you.
    Joel

    Joel P. Rhodes, Ph.D.
    Professor
    Department of History
    Southeast Missouri State University
    jrhodes@semo.edu
    573-651-2715

  11. Julia Parisi says:

    I got my POW bracelets in 1972 in San Diego. I still have it. It broke in half in the late 70’s. My POW is Capt. John Fer, he’s a retired It. Col. I would love to send it to him. I haven’t found a Obit. for him. He would be about 79 or 80 now. I paid $2.00 for mine. I wore that bracelet with pride. I’ve read alot about my POW and so proud that I got to wear it in his honor. Thanks, Julia

    • Tracey says:

      My bracelet broke in half too. I was so young when I wore it that it broke from the stress of squeezing it to fit my small wrist. I have mine too, which I taped way back when.

      • Joel says:

        Tracey, would you be willing to talk with me about your bracelet for a book I’m writing on the Vietnam War in the lives of American children?

      • Christa says:

        Hi Joel,
        Can you tell me a little more about your book? I may be interested in speaking with you. My uncle was a POW for almost 6 years. We wore our bracelets everyday until he came home.
        Thanks

      • Joel says:

        Hey Christa,
        I’m a history professor and more specifically a political and social historian of the Cold War era. Currently, I’m researching and writing a book on the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of preadolescent American children which builds on my last book, “Growing Up in a Land Called Honalee: The Sixties in the Lives of American Children.” I’m interested in how the Vietnam War manifested in the lives of preadolescents – born roughly between 1960 and 1970 – and how children made meaning of these historical forces based on their particular developmental age. Ultimately, I am concerned with, not only the immediate imprint of Vietnam in their lived experience, but also the causal developmental results which may have resonated across their life course. In short, how their unique perspective on Vietnam has influenced them as adults.

        My father served in Vietnam in 1971 and I’ve been wearing a POW/MIA bracelet since 1972 (although not his). The chapter on POW/MIA bracelets centers on what motivated children to wear them, the emotional bonds forged between child and serviceman, how children “performed” patriotism by wearing them, and what impact the bracelets have had on how children thought about the war. As you might imagine, there is also a chapter on POW/MIA families which makes your insight particularly valuable to my work.

      • Tracey says:

        Hello, I have been thinking about your request to talk about my experience as a relates to the POW bracelets. I have since called my brother, because he had one too, but doesn’t remember much the same way I do. Makes me wonder how well my recollection of things is.

      • Joel says:

        No worries… that’s a common occupational hazard in my line of work. Perhaps it might jog your memory if you knew the types of questions I’m asking people. What motivated children to wear them, the emotional bonds forged between child and serviceman, how children “performed” patriotism by wearing them, and what impact the bracelets may have had on how children thought about the war?

      • Tracey says:

        I can’t say why I wore the bracelet or what the motivation was. My father was a LCDR in the Navy and I suppose patriotism was built in to our lives by default. So, I don’t think I wore it as a sign of patriotism. In other words I did not make a conscience effort to wear it for that reason. I don’t know, maybe I was just too young then.

  12. Joel says:

    Did you form an imaginative attachment to “your guy” as so many of us did? Did that “connection” have any impact on your thoughts about
    the war in Vietnam?

    • Tracey says:

      No, I cannot say there was any attachment beyond looking for his name in the paper. Even though Capt. Dunn was a POW for several years he was released relatively quickly after I got his bracelet. The impact of the Vietnam war on me was not forged by a connection to an unknown soldier through a bracelet. I was impacted more in earlier years by my father’s absence and an eventual move to Guam. I don’t think I was even thinking about a war going on. During the time we returned to Annapolis, when I got and wore the bracelet, I don’t think I was thinking about being at war. My father was nearing the end of a 20 year career and it was the most idyllic time in my childhood.

      • Joel says:

        Excellent…thank you so much for sharing your perspective, Tracey. I know what you mean about idyllic childhood, my last book was “Growing Up in a Land Called Honalee: the Sixties in the Lives of American Children.”

      • Tracey says:

        You’re welcome. I wish I could’ve offered more. When I pressed my memory the kinds of things you were asking about just weren’t coming to mind. I wish you well with your continued research and success with the new book.

  13. Donna Ninness says:

    The other day I came across my POW/MIA bracelet I wore in Jr. High. Upon googling the name on the bracelet, I found that he was a POW and was released in 1973 and there is a good possibility he is still living!

  14. Shelia Purdum says:

    I have one and only paid a few dollars for it. I still have it and have not checked lately but ran across it the other day so I need to do some checking on mine. I wore it for a LONG time was probably about 13 or 14 when I got it and am 62 now.

  15. Lynn Hexler-Haan says:

    Wow! I came across this by chance.Being a teen in the U.K when Vietnam was high profile,I only saw what was on the international news channels.Further history ha been self education.Then snippet’s like this are revealed and one learns a little bit more.Those bracelet’s are some kind of exclusive in a very special way.

  16. JESSICA PASCHKE says:

    I got my POW Bracelet probably in 1970 I probably paid $3.00 and with it I received a newspaper with info about POW’s. My bracelet was for Col. George Day, captured 8/26/1967. Col Day was a Marine who served in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. He was released on March 14, 1973. He wrote a book “Return with Honor” and was a highly decorated soldier, including the highest honor, the Medal of Honor. I graduated from High School the spring of 1973, got married and started a family. I regret not having contacted Col. Day. I still have my bracelet and keep it in my jewelry box. I take it out every so often and think of what a brave hero he was and of all the brave men and women who serve today. I hope we never have a call for such bracelets again.

    • JESSICA PASCHKE says:

      I have a correction for my post concerning POW Col George Day. Col Day was an Air Force pilot, I mistakenly referred to him as a Marine. My apologies.

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