If you’ve ever seen a military flag, you’ll notice it’s the wrong way up. It’s a little confusing at first, and if you’re not an American, it could make you doubt yourself. It’s possible that you think it’s a display or printing issue, but that’s not the case.
“How come military flags are shown backward?” The reverse look is because the blue field of stars is always in front, followed by the red and white stripes. But there’s a lot more to it.
We’ll discuss why military flags are worn backward on uniforms, as well as the historical importance and symbolism involved. Any recent modifications to the reversed flags will also be noted.
If you want to learn more, keep reading this article.
History of Military Flags on the Right
The American flag is always placed to the right of other organizational flags such as the USMC or Navy flags.
The United States flag is carried to the right of the marching line when carried with an organization flag, as in the March of the Colors.
At a parade or during the National Anthem, the organizational flag may be dipped in respect to the reviewing officer, but the American flag is never dipped in salute.
History of the Backward Flag
The reverse American flag on Army uniforms is intended to give the impression that the flag is floating in the breeze while the soldier wearing it walks ahead.
Both mounted cavalry and infantry units designated a standard-bearer to carry the flag into battle during the Civil War. This standard bearer’s forward momentum caused the flag to stream back as he charged.
Because the canton is closest to the pole on the Stars and Stripes, that area of the flag flew to the right, while the stripes flew to the left. As a result, the flag is worn on the right shoulder, and when worn backward, it provides the impression that the flag is floating in the breeze as the wearer walks ahead.
Why is the Flag Backward in a Military Uniform?
Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, Army Regulation 670-1, is the regulating authority for how Army uniforms are worn. They govern the wearing of the American flag on Army uniforms under paragraphs 28-18.
The law specifically states: “Unless deployed or in a field setting, all troops will wear full-color US flag embroidered insignia on utility and organizational uniforms. While deployed or in the field, soldiers will wear the suppressed tactical flag insignia.” Muted colors make up the modest tactical flag worn on deployments or in the field.
However, only those Army Flag Patches worn on the right shoulder are reversed. The reason for this has to do with correct flag presentation.
The blue field of stars should always be at the top of the priority list. The highest position of honor while seeing the flag on a wall is the upper left when placed horizontally, and the top (upper left) when presented vertically.
The highest place of honor on a “moving item,” such as a person or car, is the front, not the back; so, the field of blue should be exhibited to the front.
The eagle rank of Colonels (or Navy Captains) follows the same principle: the eagles’ heads are always worn facing forward on the uniform, as the forward-facing eagle is the attitude of honor in heraldry.
They show flags on moving vehicles in the application, with the blue-star field always facing the front of the vehicle. The flag looks to be billowing in the wind as the vehicle moves forward in this manner (they always attach flags to their flag poles on the blue field side).
If the flag on the right side of the vehicle was not reversed, the vehicle would appear to be driving backward (or “retreating”).
When you next visit an airport, keep in mind that US-flagged planes have a “reverse” flag painted on the right side of the plane.
The same logic applies to flag patches used on uniforms: the blue star field always faces forward, with the red and white stripes behind. Consider the flag as a loose banner linked to the Soldier’s arm like a flagpole, rather than a patch. The red and white stripes will flow to the rear of the Soldier as he advances ahead.
“When worn on the right sleeve, it is considered proper to reverse the design so that the union is at the observer’s right to suggest that the flag is flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward,” the Institute of Heraldry, as the proponent for standardization and authorization of heraldry items within the Department of Defense, says of the apparent oddity of the reverse flag patch.
Updates to the Army Uniform Flag Rule
The Army’s uniform regulations were modified in 2003. The Army Regulation 670-1, “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia,” specifies the right and legal location of the United States flag patch on the Army uniform.
The stars must face forward, according to the rules. The American flag patch is to be worn on the right or left shoulder when allowed for the application to the relevant uniform.
To comply with the requirement and custom of having the stars pointing forward, one of the flags will be flipped (right shoulder). Combat forces have coined the phrase “assaulting ahead” (instead of “facing forward”).
The reverse side flag is the proper flag (color or subdued) for the right shoulder sleeve.
In 2005, the flag became an obligatory uniform component at all times.
They designed the United States flag according to Chapter 1, Title 4, of the United States Code, and the colors are red, white, and blue.
The full-color U.S. flag fabric reproduction is sewed half an inch below the right shoulder seam once it has been authorized for wear. It goes with the temperate, hot-weather, improved hot-weather, and desert battle dress uniforms, as well as the battle dress uniform field jacket and cold-weather uniform.
Frequently Asked Questions
The concept for the reversed American flag on army uniforms may be traced back to the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865.
A flag bearer would be assigned to mounted cavalry and infantry forces to carry the flag into combat. The flag streamed back due to the bearers forward motion as he charged.
The Army’s uniform rule was revised in 2003 to stipulate that the stars must face front. Because the American flag patch can be worn on either the right or left shoulder, it must be inverted to match the other.
On military uniforms, the flag is worn backwards to simulate it moving in the breeze while the person wearing it goes ahead. During the Civil War, soldiers would pick someone to carry the American flag as they marched into battle. One could see the flag blowing in the air as this individual marched forward.
No, flying a flag sideways isn’t rude in the least. Flags on poles frequently fly sideways due to the wind. On their combat outfits, American soldiers even wear the flag sideways as though it were flying backwards.
It signifies you’re staring at the right shoulder of an American military uniform. To aid allied forces in identifying Americans, most of these outfits include American flags on the shoulders.
The canton (blue with white stars) is on the left in a standard flat presentation of the US flag. If a patch depicting the US flag in normal position is worn on the right shoulder, the fly (the side with the ends of the 13 red-and-white stripes) will seem to be in front.
A flag on the right shoulder is portrayed with the canton on the right to make it look as though the flag is moving with the person in uniform.
That concludes the whole solution to the question, “Why are military flags backward?” You now understand the historical significance as well as the symbolism linked with it. There are also some contemporary changes that you should know about.
To summarize, the American flag looks backward on military uniforms because the canton or field of blue stars must be “assaulting forward” or facing forward in order to reflect the picture of historical standard-bearers bearing the banner into combat.
It represents the amazing courage and dedication of military people by replicating the picture of flags blowing in the wind.
We really hope you enjoyed the read and gained valuable insight into why flags are worn backward on military uniforms.
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