Asked in Korean WarIraq WarFlagsFlag of the United States
Why is American flag backwards on soldiers uniform?
December 13, 2014 10:21PM
The flag is worn with the "appearance" of being backwards on soldiers RIGHT arm to symbolize early American armies which had a flag carrier holding our flag high (which looks backwards from one side while correct from the other). The "backwards" flag signifies this and gives the perception that every soldier is carrying a flag. Left arm patches are correctly laid.
Following is a quote from the Department of Defense website...
"Thank you for your inquiry about the proper placement of the American flag on the uniform of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Army Regulation 670-1, "Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia," updated most recently September 5, 2003, addresses explicitly the proper and lawful placement of the U.S. flag patch on the Army uniform.
The regulation states that when authorized for application to the proper uniform the American flag patch is to be worn, right or left shoulder, so that "the star field faces forward, or to the flag's own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer's right, and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward. The appropriate replica for the right shoulder sleeve is identified as the 'reverse side flag'."
Most of the world's military wears the flag on the left shoulder. American flyers do the same but as the US Army wears their unit patch of the left shoulder, they wear the flag on the right shoulder.
I have talked to people and fellow veterans about the US flag being worn backwards on military uniforms, I found that most average people and some veterans are not aware of it. I wrote to Congressmen, Senators, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs and everybody up to and including the Vice President. I requested a Congressional Inquiry. I wrote to news organizations and started a petition on The White House website titled Defend Our American Flag. I called Joint Base Lewis/McChord and talked with a Lieutenant Colonel, a Captain and the base Command Sergeant Major. I pointed out to them that wearing the US flag backwards violates US Code and US Army Regulations and that it is an unlawful order. They said they will inform their chain of command and after they all review the regulations and US Code the Base Commander will contact me.
Soldiers who served after 2003 say that the backward flag patch looks as a flag would look on a staff being carried forward into battle and worn the normal way looks as if they are retreating. I can respect that. But the millions of veterans and the millions of dead soldiers who served prior to 2003 served and fought to preserve the flag and what it represents. That flag preserves the Liberties which we all take for granted, Free Speech, Free Press, Freedom of Religion, Right to Bear Arms, etc. And if you think the boys on Omaha Beach look as if they are retreating then you must be from a different country than me.
Now, after hundreds of thousands of US troops have rotated back to The United States they bring this doctrine home. People here are wearing the backwards flag patch and displaying the flag backwards. I have seen it on NFL and MLB teams and some police uniforms. It is all over the television. There was a time during the 1940-1950's when the media and entertainment industry would not show an image of the flag not properly displayed, they would flip the image over. I feel that you guys started this, so now you need to fix it.
Many people, organizations, businesses and even government buildings across the Nation displayed the flag every way but the proper way. Then, in 1923 a Congressional Committee came up with The Flag Code so that every American knew the proper way to display the flag. Every citizen should be familiar with The Flag Code and every soldier should know it inside and out. I had to learn it when I was in the Army for a Soldier of The Month Board.
Read US Army Regulations 840-10 Chapter 2, "The Union (blue field and stars) will always be at the top and on the flags own right." Then read United States Code Title 4. Then read United States Code Title 36 Chapter 10, subsections 175 and 176. But nobody looked at the regulations and nobody spoke up for the flag. If I do not speak up for the flag, who will? Most people simply do not care. Many people feel that I should not say anything and since I am a nobody what could I know anyway. I can only say it is not about me, or you, or how cool someone thinks the flag looks when this way or that way, it is about The Flag.
US Code and US Army Regulations provide for a flag patch on the uniform sleeve. But not backwards! That is disrespectful. You never see any pictures of US troops in The Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War, Mexican War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War wear the US flag patch any way but the proper way, with the Union at the flags' own right. No soldier, nor any General can change the US flag by simply changing the wording and the meaning of "the flags' own right" in a Department of The Army (DA) pamphlet. It takes a Congressional Committee to do that. United States Code and US Army Regulations supersede the DA pamphlet, or any other DA pamphlet.
Try reading AR 840-10 Chapter 2, the first paragraph.
"2-1. a. The flag of the United States is the symbol of our nation. The Union, white stars on a field of blue, is the honor point of the flag. The union of the flag, and the flag itself when in company with other flags, is always given the honor position; for example, the marching right, the flags' own right or an observers left facing the flag."
Notice that word "always". And I'd say that display of the flag takes precedence over wear of the uniform.
"AR 670-1 21-18. Wear of U.S. flag embroidered insignia
a. All Soldiers will wear the full-color U.S. flag embroidered insignia on utility and organizational uniforms, unless deployed or in a field environment. Soldiers will wear the subdued tactical flag insignia while deployed or in a field environment.
b. How worn. See DA Pam 670-1."
"DA-PAM 670-1 21-18. Wear of U.S. flag embroidered insignia.
a. Description. The colors of the U.S. flag embroidered insignia (full color) are red, white, and blue. The size is approximately 2 inches by 3 inches.
b. How worn. (1) The U.S. flag insignia (full color or subdued) is worn on the right shoulder pocket flap of utility uniforms and cold-weather jackets. The flag insignia is placed directly on top of the hook-and-loop-faced-pad already provided on the uniforms shoulder pocket flap. The subdued U.S. flag insignia is worn as directed by the commander under tactical field conditions. (2) The U.S. flag embroidered insignia is worn so that the star field faces forward, or to the flags' own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observers right and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward. The appropriate replica for the right shoulder sleeve is identified as the reverse side flag."
As I said when the Union (star field they call it) is forward on the right sleeve it is not in the place of honor at "the flags own right", where according to US Code Title 36 Chapter 10 and US Army Regulation 840-10 Chapter 2 it should "always" be. Also, in most cases soldiers wear only the flag on the right sleeve and no flag on the left.
You are aware of this, now as a Soldier I charge you to do your duty and report this unlawful order to your chain of command and help me return the honor and respect due our National Symbol, the Flag of the United States of America.
DA-PAM 670-1 Chapter 21-18 is an unlawful order and I do not wish to see our National Symbol forever changed. I do not mean any disrespect to our troops or Veterans. But I do care about Our American Flag. I feel that if General Patton were alive today he would rip that patch off of the first soldier he saw and fine him $100 for disrespecting the US flag and for not knowing the US Army regulations about displaying the flag properly.
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.