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Flag Flying Days (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-05-16 by rick wyatt
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I've noticed that many countries have specified days for flying the national flag. The practice in the U.S. is different - government installations fly the flag every day and the public can fly it whenever they choose - there is a custom in the military and foreign services of displaying larger-than-usual flags on a number of days established by law, Presidential proclamation, or service custom. In addition, there are specific flag-related traditions associated with several of those days. Here they are, drawn from the relevant service regulations and other directives:


U.S. Special Flag Flying Days
January 1 New Year's Day
January 20 Inauguration Day (every fourth year)
3rd Monday in Jan Martin Luther King, Jr., Birthday
3rd Monday in Feb President's Day (note 1)
(Variable) Easter Sunday
April 6 Army Day (Navy only)
April 13 Thomas Jefferson's Birthday (Army only)
April 14 Pan American Day (embassies in Latin America)
May 1 Loyalty Day/Law Day (Army only)
2nd Sunday in May Mothers Day
May 15 Peace Officers Memorial Day (note 5)
3rd Saturday in May Armed Forces Day (note 2)
May 22 National Maritime Day (Army & Navy only) (note 2)
Last Monday in May Memorial Day (note 3)
June 14 Flag Day (note 6)
3rd Sunday in June Fathers Day (Army only)
July 4 Independence Day (note 4)
July 27 Korean War Armistice Day
August 19 National Aviation Day (Army only)
1st Monday in Sept Labor Day
September 11 Patriot Day (note 5)
September 17 Constitution Day
3rd Friday in Sept POW/MIA Recognition Day
Last Sunday in Sept Gold Star Mothers Day (Army only)
2nd Monday in Oct Columbus Day (October 12 at Foreign Service posts)
October 27 Navy Day (Navy and Marine Corps only)
November 10 Marine Corps Birthday (Marine Corps only)
November 11 Veterans Day
4th Thursday in Nov Thanksgiving Day
December 7 Pearl Harbor Day (note 5)
December 17 Pan American Aviation Day (embassies in Lat Am)
December 25 Christmas Day

On the days specified, Army posts fly the garrison flag, measuring 20 by 38 feet (6.1 by 11.6 meters) in lieu of the usual post flag (8.95 by 17 feet, or 2.7 by 5.2 meters). This has been the approximate size of the garrison flag since at least 1834, when the Regulations of the U.S. Army decreed that the garrison flag would not exceed 20 by 40 feet. In addition, Army posts may display the garrison flag for regional celebrations when directed by the post commander.

Naval vessels and installations fly holiday-size colors of the next larger size from those normally flown. The size of the flags used depends on the size of the ship or, at shore facilities, the height of the flagpole. Holiday-size colors for the largest ships (over 450 feet) are normally 8.95 by 17 feet. Holiday-size colors of 20 by 38 feet are used by shore installations with flagpoles of 55 feet or more. In addition to the days listed above, ships and installations may fly holiday size colors on the anniversary of the admission to the Union of the state in which they are located, or on foreign holidays when in foreign waters.

Marine Corps posts fly the 20 by 38 foot garrison flag only on flagpoles 65 feet or taller. In addition to the days listed above, garrison flags are displayed every Sunday.

The Air Force does not use holiday-size colors or fire gun salutes.

American diplomatic and consular missions normally display flags measuring 5 by 9.5 feet (1.6 by 3.1 meters), but use larger or smaller flags depending on the size of the building housing the mission and the height of the flagpole. Chiefs of mission may fly larger-than-usual flags on the days indicated above.


  1. Navy and Coast Guard ships in commission, not underway, full-dress ship from 0800 to sunset. (This entails displaying the largest national ensign available at the flagstaff, additional national ensigns at each masthead (except those displaying a personal flag or command pennant), and an array of signal flags from stem to stern in accordance with the sequence specified in the pertinent signal directives.) Saluting ships and Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard installations with saluting batteries fire a 21-gun national salute at noon.

  2. Navy and Coast Guard ships in commission, not underway, dress ship from 0800 to sunset. (This is the same as full-dressing ship, but without the array of signal flags from stem to stern.)

  3. The flag is displayed at half-staff until noon (except as indicated below), then hoisted to the top of the flagpole for the remainder of the day.
    At Army installations with a band, an "appropriate air" is played immediately before noon. Installations equipped with the necessary equipment fire a national salute of 21 guns (at three-second intervals) beginning at noon, at the conclusion of which the flag is hoisted to the top of the pole. The flag is then saluted by the band's playing of "appropriate patriotic music."

    Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard ships and installations fly the national ensign at half-mast beginning at morning colors (0800). At noon, saluting ships and installations with saluting batteries fire a salute of 21 minute guns. At the conclusion of this salute (or at 1220 aboard ships and installations not firing the salute), the ensign is hoisted to the peak or truck and remains there until evening colors at sunset.

  4. At noon, Army installations with saluting equipment fire a salute to the Union consisting of one gun for every state (50 guns) at three-second intervals. Ships in commission not under way full dress ship from 0800 to sunset. Saluting ships and Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard installations with saluting batteries fire a national salute of 21 guns (at five-second intervals) at noon. If July 4 falls on a Sunday, the gun salutes and full dressing of ships are postponed to July 5.

  5. The flag is displayed at half-staff for the entire day.
Joe McMillan, 11 October 1999

Note 6

Here is the text of the June 6 Presidential proclamation for this year's Flag Day. I would note that June 14 is also
observed as the US Army's birthday (1775); perhaps recognition of those who have fallen in service to the US is appropriate in that connection.

Flag Day and National Flag Week, 2003
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Each year, we set aside June 14 to commemorate the day in 1777 when the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of our Republic. With this act, the Congress declared that we were one Nation, under one flag, united for the cause of liberty and justice for all.

As a symbol of our patriotism, the American flag continues to invoke pride and resolve among our people, especially when we see it next to a headstone, on the masts of our military ships, worn by the generations of Americans who have proudly served our country, or emerging from the wreckage caused by a natural or manmade disaster. Flying over public buildings, monuments, schools, and homes, our flag is testament to the ideals of American democracy.

Through the years, millions of immigrants have come to our shores seeking to share in the promise of freedom represented by our flag. From war-torn Europe, to the mountains of Afghanistan, to the deserts of Iraq, the flag and those who carry it are universally recognized as harbingers of liberation, justice, and peace. Regardless of circumstance, our flag endures as a sign of hope.

On Flag Day, we look to the red, white, and blue as a symbol of our commitment to advancing the universal hope of liberty and justice for all. Old Glory abounds in the landscape of our daily lives, reminding us of the freedom we share. The 50 stars and 13 stripes are not just a random pattern, they symbolize the blessings of liberty we enjoy as Americans.

To commemorate the adoption of our flag, the Congress, by joint resolution approved August 3, 1949, as amended (63 Stat. 492), designated June 14 of each year as "Flag Day" and requested that the President issue an annual proclamation calling for its observance and for the display of the Flag of the United States on all Federal Government buildings. The Congress also requested, by joint resolution approved June 9, 1966, as amended (80 Stat. 194), that the President issue annually a proclamation designating the week in which June 14 occurs as "National Flag Week" and calling upon all citizens of the United States to display the flag during that week.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim June 14, 2003, as Flag Day and the week beginning June 8, 2003, as National Flag Week. I direct the appropriate officials to display the flag on all Federal Government buildings during that week, and I urge all Americans to observe Flag Day and National Flag Week by flying the Stars and Stripes from their homes and other suitable places. I also call upon the people of the United States to observe with pride and all due ceremony those days from Flag Day through Independence Day, also set aside by the Congress (89 Stat. 211), as a time to honor America, to celebrate our heritage in public gatherings and activities, and to publicly recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-seventh.


Joe McMillan, 15 June 2003