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Military Flag History

Updated on August 31, 2013

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Air Force Service Flag History

On March 26, 1951 the United States Air Force Flag was born. It contains a coat of arms, the Air Force seal and 13 stars on a blue background. The 13 stars represent the original 13 colonies, while the colors ultramarine blue and gold are the official colors of the US Air Force. There is a grouping of three stars at the top of the flag which represent the three departments of national defense (Army, Navy and Air Force). At the bottom of the flag, there are roman numerals which indicate 1947, this represents the year the Air Force was established.

On July 28, 1947 the National Security Act became law and it created the Department of the Air Force. This act then established the United States Air Force and appointed W. Stuart Symington the first Secretary of the Air Force and Gen.Carl A. Spaatz the USAF's first Chief of Staff.

The US Air Force flag is made of white silk and is embroidered with a blue design of the official War Office Seal. This seal represents the United States Air Force after it was put into action by an act of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775. This is represented on the flag below the blue design of the War Office Seal with the marking of 1775.


US Army Service Flag History

The US Army Flag was first adopted on June 12, 1956. By order of President Dwight D. Eisenhower it was presented by then Vice President Richard Nixon to the Secretary of the Army William M. Brucker at the Capitol, Washington DC on June 13. On June 14th which happened to be flag day, Secretary Brucker introduced the flag to the United States citizens with a public address in Philadelphia at Independence Hall.

Traditional Army flags measure 4 feet 4 inches by 5 feet six inches. The US Army flag is made of white silk and is embroidered with a blue design of the official War Office Seal. This seal represents the United States Army after it was put into action by an act of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775. This is represented on the flag below the blue design of the War Office Seal with the marking of 1775.


Did You Know ???

Secretary of State to President John Adams designed and created the Coast Guard Ensign Flag. However, the original submission of the ensign flag had some yellow coloring to it. No one knows what part of the flag displayed yellow.


USMC Marine Corps Flag History

Not much information has been recorded for early versions of the US Marine Corps Flag in the late 18th century. In the early 19th century, around the 1830's and 1840's, the flag consisted of a white field with gold fringe and an emblem of an anchor and an eagle in the center. In the late 1800's the flag changed again, with the Marine Corps carrying the Stars and Stripes flag with "U.S. Marine Corps" embroidered in yellow on the middle red stripe.

In the early 1900's the flag changed yet again, but this time with a more distinctive standard. The flag was a blue field with a laurel wreath encircling the United States Marine Corps emblem. A scarlet ribbon above the emblem read "U.S. Marine Corps" while another scarlet ribbon below the emblem read "Semper Fidelis" which means always faithful.

In 1925, Marine Corps Order No. 4 designated gold and scarlet the official colors of the U.S. Marine Corps. These colors were not realized on the flag until 1939 however when a new design incorporating the colors was designed. This design has remained the Marine Corps standard ever since and is the flag of the United States Marine Corps that you see today.


US Navy Service Flag History

The United States Navy Flag went by a different name and different emblem for more than sixty years before being adopted as the official flag of the US Navy. This initial flag was named the Infantry Battalion flag and was introduced for use by naval landing forces. Sixty years after its inception, the Infantry Battalion flag was going to be replaced by the official flag of the U.S. Navy.

Two years earlier, the Navy Seal was introduced and was to be used on the official Navy flag as well. On April 24, 1959 by Presidential order, a flag truly representative of the Navy's operating forces at sea was born and remains the official flag of the United States Navy today.


The History Of The POW MIA Flag

Since World War I more than 200,000 Americans have been listed as being Prisoners of War or Missing in Action. Specifically during the Vietnam War, more than 2,500 Americans were captured and listed as Missing in Action, MIA. An organization called the National League of Families was formed short after the end of the Vietnam War. Composed of spouses, children, parents, and other family members of the MIA soldiers it's goal was to remind the nation of thier loved ones plight. In 1971 Mrs. Michael Hoff, the wife of a MIA soldier and member of the National League of Families, felt that there should be a symbol to remind the nation of these soldiers and the cause to bring them home. Around this time the People's Republic of China had been admitted to the United Nations and a flag manufacturer called Annin Company had produced a flag for them. Mrs. Hoff read about this in the Florida-Times Union and felt a flag would be perfect. She contacted the companies Vice President, Norman Rivkee. Mr. Rivkee was very receptive to this idea and quickly turned to one of thier advertising agencies to create a design. At this agency worked Newt Heisley, a military pilot in World War II. Mr. Heisley took on the project being he was a veteran himself and his oldest son Jeffery, had trained for combat in the Vietnam War. Jeffery had become very ill while training for combat and when he returned home a once strong man was now guant and lifeless. This image brought to mind what life must have been like for those soldiers captured and encased on foriegn soil. He began to sketch his son's gaunt profile using a black background and a white silhouette. As he sketched he added a barb wire and a tower in the distance still in the black and white color scheme. Under this image the words "You Are Not Forgotten" were boldly added. This design was one of many, but was instantly chosen. The flags went into production so quickly that the sketch was never refined and his initial drawing is the POW/MIA flag we see today.

The POW/MIA design was never copyrighted and has been legally ruled as "public domain." This flag is the only flag, other than the American Flag, that has ever flown over the White House. The POW/MIA flag has flown there on every POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday of every September, since 1982. It also flies over the nation's Capital on Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day. The flag is flown daily in the United States Capital Rotunda and all VA MEdical facilities are to display the flag on any day that National colors are displayed. The original creation of the POW/MIA flag was for those soldiers missing from the Vietnam War, but over time has come to represent missing men and women from any war.


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