The History of Military Flags

Petty Officer 1st Class Coates; Mattie Grace Johnson

JAG Archive: U.S. Navy Flag

The earliest U.S. Navy ships wore a variety if flags, including the Grand Union and those bearing a pine tree or rattlesnake. There was no official Navy flag until the current design was authorized by Presidential order in April 1959. Until recently, the Navy did not fly its flag from vessels. It was reserved for ceremonial occassions.

JAG Archive: The U.S. Marine Corps Flag

In April 1925, gold and scarlet were designated as the official colors of the U.S. Marine Corps. The colors were adopted on the official Marine Corps flag in January 1939, with essentially the same design you see today.

JAG Archive: The U.S. Air Force Flag

The U.S. Air Force flag depicts the Air Force seal, which was approved in November 1947, shortly after the 'birth' of this branch in September of that year. The original design had the Wright Brothers' airplane on it. It was replaced by a thunderbolt to symbolize the Air Force's striking power.

JAG Archive: The U.S. Army Flag

The U.S. Army came into being in June of 1775. It did not have its own flag until 181 years later. In June of 1956, the U.S. Army flag design was adopted by order of President Eisenhower. It was unfurled on Flag Day in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

JAG Archive: The U.S. Coast Guard Flag

Based on a illustration from 1917, the origianl U.S. Coast Guard standar was white with a bald eagle and 13 stars in a semi-circle arching around it. Sometime later, the words 'U.S. Coast Guard - Semper Paratis' were added. After 1950, the semi-circle of stars was changed to the circle containing 13 stars.

JAG Archive: The U.S. POW/MIA Flag

In 1971, the wife of a man missing in action in the recent Vietnam War, recognized the need for a symbol of our POW/MIAs. Other than "Old Glory", the POW/MIA flag is the only flag ever to fly over the White HoU.S.e, having been displayed in this place of honor on National POW/MIA Recognition Day since 1982. It is also the only flag ever displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, where it will stand as a powerful symbol of national commitment to America's POW/MIAs until the fullest possible accounting has been achieved for U.S. personnel still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.