Way We Fly Our Flags
Occasionally, we receive questions about the
way we fly our flags, and in response, we have prepared this brief explanation.
The Code and the Flag
U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7 (f), states that "when flags of
States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same
halyard with the flag of the United
States, the latter should always be at the
peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States
should be hoisted first and lowered last. No such flag or pennant may be placed
above the flag of the United States
or to the United States
U.S. Code, in Section 7 (c), also states that "No other flag or pennant
should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of
the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval
chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the flag during
church services for the personnel of the Navy. No person shall display the flag
of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above,
or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag
of the United States at any place within the United States or any Territory or
possession thereof; Provided, That
nothing in this section shall make unlawful the continuance of the practice
heretofore followed of displaying the flag of the United Nations in a position
of superior prominence or honor, and other national flags in positions of equal
prominence or honor, with that of the flag of the United States at the
headquarters of the United Nations."
may appear that the Yacht Club is ignoring the law governing proper display of
our nation’s flag. However, if you read carefully, the U.S. Code does not
reference any laws regarding the display of the flag because there are no laws
on this subject! The U.S. Code offers only guidelines referencing the
display and use of the flag - but read on!
Sea Tradition Predates the
exists a tradition predating these guidelines. A tradition still followed
today by the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United
States Power Squadron, the United States Merchant Marine and many yacht clubs.
basis for this tradition goes back to the time sailing ships plied the seas.
Because of all the sail carried by the rigging of these vessels the flag of a
nation could not be clearly viewed if placed at the top of the main mast.
Instead, the national flag was displayed on the gaff, which is a spar extending
from the mast and used to support the top of a sail. The gaff was used because
it came first and the flag was more visible.
time, this became the place of honor to display a national flag. As the use of
sail gave way to mechanical power, the tradition was maintained by displaying
the national flag on a gaff-rigged mast when at sea and on a staff on the stern
(rear) of a boat or ship in port."
But We’re Not At Sea!
what about onshore display of the flag. If a facility has a simple flagpole
then the guidelines outlined in the U.S. Code above would certainly govern how
the flag is to be flown. However, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard shore facilities as
well as many yacht clubs use a flagpole which is considered to represent the
mast of a vessel. (See the picture above.) That flagpole may also have a gaff
(a pole extending, at an angle, from the main mast) in keeping with maritime
States Navy NTP 13(B), Chapter 8, Section 801b (3) which covers the Display of
National Ensign (U.S. Flag) at U.S. Naval Shore Activities, states "The
national ensign will be flown at the peak of the gaff. Half-mast position is
half way between top and bottom of gaff."
addition, according to the National Flag Foundation "when the U.S. Flag is
displayed on a gaff-rigged pole, the organization can determine for themselves
what display will best convey the love, honor and respect which they feel for
But It Looks Wrong!
causes concern with some people is that when the U.S. Flag is flown on a gaff,
other flags may be physically higher than it. This is proper because no other
flag is above the national flag on the same halyard (rope.) On a United States
ship at sea you will note that fleet flags, signal flags, officer’s flags, even
courtesy flags of foreign nations are displayed in the rigging and may be
physically higher than the U.S. Flag. In the case of a gaff-rigged flagpole at
a shore facility, fleet flags, signal flags, officer’s flags and even yacht club
burgees (flags) may be physically higher than the U. S. Flag.
We have many
members who are veterans and served to preserve freedom and the way of life our
flag represents. We are proud to display our nation’s
emblem correctly and in the place of honor according to maritime tradition.
Traditional Flag Holidays
New Year's Day - January 1 Memorial Day - (Half-staff until noon) - Last Monday in May
Martin Luther King's Birthday - January 15 Flag Day - June 14 P
Presidential Inauguration Day - January 20 Independence Day - July 4
Abraham Lincoln's Birthday - February 12 Constitution Day - September 17
President's Day - 3rd Monday in February Columbus Day - 2nd Monday in October
George Washington's Birthday - February 23 Veterans Day - November 11
Easter Sunday - Variable Thanksgiving Day - 4th Thursday in November
Mother's Day - 2nd Sunday in May Christmas Day - December 25
Armed Forces Day - 3rd Saturday in May
In addition to the above recommended days, it is appropriate to fly the flag on days proclaimed by the President of the United States, a State's date of admission to the Union and on State holidays. (courtesy Palm Coast Yacht Club & Charleston SC Marina)