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American Military Flag Timeline (1864-1994)



U.S. Coast Guard Standard

  • Year First Flown: Unknown; Possibly some time in the late 19th century
  • Design: A white flag with a blue eagle and a circle of 13 stars. the Air Force Coat of Arms placed in the middle and surrounded by a circle of 13 white stars.
  • Use Today: The standard of the U.S. Army is flown at official ceremonies and different government offices, while it is the Coast Guard ensign that is flown on the organization’s ships and bases.

Marine Corps Flag

  • Date First Flown: January 18th, 1939
  • Created By: U.S. Marine Corps
  • Design: A scarlet flag with a gold illustration of the U.S. Marine Corps emblem (which consists of a globe, and eagle, and an anchor) and the text “Semper Fidelis” (the Marine Corps motto) and “United States Marine Corps”.
  • Use Today: The Marine Corps Flag is flown at ceremonies and in the offices of the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy, and the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to honor past and present members of the Marine Corps.

U.S. Air Force Flag

  • Date First Flown: March 31st, 1951
  • Designed By: Dorothy G. Gatchell
  • Design: An “ultramarine blue” flag with the Air Force Coat of Arms placed in the middle and surrounded by a circle of 13 white stars. The Air Force Coat of Arms consists of an eagle in front of a cloud, a wreath of silver and blue, and a shield.
  • Use Today: The flag of the U.S. Army is flown at official ceremonies and different government offices.

U.S. Army Flag

  • Year First Flown: 1956
  • Created By: U.S. Army
  • Design: The flag features the American colors of red (courage), white (remembrance), and blue (loyalty) with the War Office Seal embroidered in blue as the flag’s central design. Beneath the seal “United States Army” is written in white on a scarlet scroll, and the year “1775” is written in blue below the scroll.
  • Use Today: The flag of the U.S. Army is flown at official ceremonies and different government offices

U.S. Navy Flag

  • Year First Flown: 1959
  • Created By: U.S. Navy
  • Design: A dark blue flag with yellow fringe. In the center of the flag is the seal of the Department of the Navy, which consists of an eagle, a ship, and the sea. Under the seal is a gold banner with the text “United States Navy” written on it.
  • Use Today: The flag of the U.S. Navy is flown in offices, in parades, and for ceremonial occasions. It is never flown by ships at sea or on naval bases.

POW/MIA Flag

  • Year First Flown: 1971 unofficially; 1982 officially
  • Created By: The Culpeper Minutemen
  • Designed By: Mary Hoff, Newt Heisley, & the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing
  • Design: A black and white flag with the silhouette of a gaunt man, a piece of barbed wire, and a threatening watchtower. At the top of the flag is the text “POW – MIA” and at the bottom is the phrase “You Are Not Forgotten”.
  • Use Today: Flown to remind the world of the men and women whose fates have never been accounted for after their services in the U.S. military.

U.S. Merchant Marine Flag

  • Date First Flown: May 24th, 1994
  • Created By: Maritime Administration of the Department of Transportation
  • Design: A blue flag with an eagle perched on top of a red, white, and blue shield with an anchor in the middle. At the top of the flag there is the text “In Peace and War” and at the bottom there is the date “1775”.
  • Use Today: Used to commemorate the previous and current merchant seamen who contribute to the safety and prosperity of the United States of America. It is used in ceremonies like parades, and currently is displayed at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.