The black and white image of a gaunt silhouette, a strand of barbed wire and an ominous watchtower was designed by Newt Heisley, a former World War II pilot. Some claim the silhouette is a profile of Heisley’s son, who contracted hepatitis while training to go to Vietnam. The virus ravaged his body, leaving his features hollow and
emaciated. They suggest that while staring at his son’s sunken features, Heisley saw the stark image of American service members held captive under harsh conditions. Using a pencil, he sketched his son’s profile, creating the basis for a symbol that would come to have a powerful impact on the national conscience.