Archive for the ‘Historical Flags’ Category

The Iwo Jima Flag

Raising the Iwo Jima Flag was probably the most historic US flag photo ever. Joe Rosenthal took the most famous picture of the war photograph on February 23rd, 1945. It captured 5 US Marines and US Navy Corpsman raising a giant 48 star U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of for Iwo Jima, one of the decisive battles of World War II.

Joe Rosenthal was an Associated Press photographer. The photograph was carried by thousands of publications. Later, it became the only photograph to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photography within the same year as its publication. It’s also regarded as the most important and recognizable US picture of the war and is probably the foremost reproduced photograph of all time.

Iwo Jima Flag raising statue from theThe U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia

Iwo Jima Flag raising statue from the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia

The image served as a model for Marine Felix De Weldon to sculpt the 1954 United States Marines War Memorial.  The memorial sits next to Arlington National Cemetery.

The famous photograph was actually the raising of the second Iwo Jima Flag. A smaller flag had earlier been raised and photographed by SSgt. Louis R. Lowery, a photographer with Leatherneck magazine. The first flag wasn’t easily visible and a replacement was sent for. The legend is that the Secretary of the Navy wanted the flag but the local commander thought it should stay with the battalion. He sent his assistant operations officer to the shore for a replacement. As an afterthought, he shouted “make it a bigger one”.

The bigger Iwo Jima Flag turned out to be 96-by-56 inches (that’s 8 feet long by 4 feet 8 inches high!) and took several soldiers to raise.

The Iwo Jima Flag was eventually damaged by the winds at the top of the mountain and replaced. Both the first and second Iwo Jima Flags are now on display at the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico Virginia.

Veteran Burial Flag

The VA will provide a Veteran Burial Flag at no cost to honor the memory of any veteran who honorably served.  It’s traditional to drape the flag over the casket or have it accompanying the urn.  The flag is generally given to the next of kin as a keepsake after the funeral service.

Veteran Burial Flag etiquette calls for flag display in alignment with the position of the body. For a closed casket, the “Union” (field of blue stars) rests at the head and over the left shoulder of the body of the deceased.  When the casket is displayed half-open, the Veteran Burial Flag is folded into thirds, the outer fold showing the Union next to the open portion of the casket on the deceased veteran’s left. When the casket is displayed in a fully opened position, the burial flag is correctly folded into a triangle with only the stars and blue of the Union showing. The folded burial flag is then placed in the center of the top portion of the casket cap (lid) just above the left shoulder of the deceased.

Folded Veteran Burial Flag

Folded Veteran Burial Flag

The funeral director usually makes the arrangements for the flag.  Alternately, a flag can be requested with VA Form 27-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes or from the Post Office.  Veteran burial flags are automatically provided when burial is in a national, State or military post cemetery.

Replacement Veteran Burial Flag

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) issues almost a half million Veteran Burial Flags each year, but only one flag is issued for each Veteran’s funeral.  Replacements or extra flags aren’t provided, but some veteran’s groups may be able to provide another flag at no cost.

Veterans Burial Flags are also known as Memorial Flags, Casket Flags, or American interment Flags.  They’re made of cotton and 5’x9′.6.  Cotton flags are for indoor use or display only.  They’re not designed for long term display outdoors.
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Flag Flown Over the Capitol

The Flag Flown Over the Capitol program lets you order flags that have flown over the Capitol Building.  Contact your Congressman or Senator to place an order, most have order form on their web page.  Flags are available in a variety of sizes and materials.  Order cotton for indoor flags, nylon for flags that will be outdoors.

Flag flown over the capital

Flag flown over the capital

Costs are reasonable and will vary by the type.  There’s also a small charge, currently less than $5 but scheduled to go up, for flying the flag, the certificate, and postage.

Your order for a flag flown over the capital goes to the Architect of the Capitol for scheduling.  The Architect’s office receives hundreds of thousands of requests a year, so allow plenty of time, at least 2 to 4 weeks in advance.   You can ask that your flag be flown in honor of a specified person or occasion, and  that your flag be flown on a certain date such as a birthday or anniversary.

Your flag flown over the capital will be mailed to you 4 to 6 weeks later, along with a certificate from The Architect Of The Capitol certifying the date that your flag was flown.  The certificate will also show who it was flown for and include any special people or events that it was flown to honor.

No actual records exist for the earliest date the flag was flown over the Capitol but it can be assumed that there were flags flying somewhere over the building since it’s first use. Early inscriptions and lithographs in the office of the Architect of the Capitol show flags flying on either side of the original low dome above the passages connecting the areas now referred to as Statuary Hall and the Old Senate Chamber.  The big flags over the East and West entrances are 8 feet by 12 feet and have been flying 24 hours a day since World War I.

The Capitol Flag Flown Over the Capitol program began in 1937 when a Member of Congress requested a flag that had flown over the Capitol.  Requests soon outgrew the number of flags that were in regular use, and special flagpoles were set up to fly smaller flags that are better suited for home use.

15 Star and Stripe Flag

The original thirteen stars and stripe flag was soon outdated as Kentucky and Vermont were added to the union in 1791 and 1792.  Two new states meant two new stars and stripes were needed and the 15 Star and Stripe Flag was created.

15 Star and Stripe Flag

15 Star and Stripe Flag

The 15 Star and Stripe Flag flew over a lot of history.  It was the design that flew over Fort McHenry to inspire Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner. In 1805, the 15 Star and Stripe Flag flew over a military installation in the Old World for the first time when American Marine and Navy troops raised it over a conquered pirate stronghold in Tripoli.

Later, the 15 Star and Stripe Flag was our official banner in the war of 1812.  It flew over the Battle of Lake Erie in September 1813 when our Navy defeated the Royal British Navy in one of the biggest naval battles of the war.  And it was flown by General Andrew Jackson during his victory at The Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.  It was the victory that ended the War of 1812 .

Star Spangled Banner 15 Star and Stripe Flag

The famous 15 Star and Strip Flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner has been restored and is on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  The special display is designed to protect the flag, yet allow visitors a close look.

Adding More Stars

The early 1800s saw a lot of new states added to the union, and Capt. Samuel C. Reid proposed to Congress that the stripes be returned to 13 representing the thirteen original colonies, and that a star be added for each new State. In 1818, President Monroe signed a bill creating a flag with 13 stripes and 20 stars with the provision that, as new states were added, a star is added to the union of the flag on the fourth of July following its date of admission.

The Star Spangled Banner

O! Say Can You See?  The Star Spangled Banner came from a dark time in American history.  The War of 1812 wasn’t going well for the United States.  It was 1814 and the British had won the Battle of Bladensburg.  The British force led by Major General Robert Ross occupied Washington, D.C. and set fire to many public buildings including the White House and the Treasury.

President Madison sent Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner to meet with Major General Ross to set up a prisoner swap.  They met aboard the British flagship HMS Tonnant and eventually negotiated a deal.

The 15-star, 15-stripe "Star Spangled Banner Flag" which inspired the poem.

The 15-star, 15-stripe “Star Spangled Banner Flag” which inspired the poem.

While negotiating, Key and Skinner had heard some of the plans for the British attack on Baltimore and the British didn’t want to release them until after the bombardment.  British gunboats tried to slip by the defenses during the night.  Key watched bomb blasts and artillery lit up Fort McHenry periodically through the night and noted that the small storm flag was still visible.  Darkness prevented him from seeing if the flag was still flying after the illumination from the bombardment ended.

As dawn lit up the fort, Key saw that the smaller storm flag had been replaced by a larger full size American Flag flying over the fort.  Inspired by sight of the flag that signaled victory, Key started writing a poem on the back of an envelope that he finished later and called “Defence of Fort McHenry”.  It was later set to music and was later used by the Navy during the raising and lowering of the flag.  It wasn’t until 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson designated that it be plaid at other military events.  In 1918, The Star Spangled Banner was played during the 7th inning stretch of the World Series, and later became a tradition at all ball gamed during World War II.

Years later, Key said in a speech:
“I saw the flag of my country waving over a city-the strength and pride of my native State-a city devoted to plunder and desolation by its assailants. I witnessed the preparation for its assaults. I saw the array of its enemies as they advanced to the attack. I heard the sound of battle; the noise of the conflict fell upon my listening ear, and told me that ‘the brave and the free’ had met the invaders.”

The flag that inspired Key came to be known as the Star Spangled Banner Flag and is today on display in the National Museum of American History.

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