A brief history of Armed Forces Day, and why we fly the flag in 2018

May 19, 2018

New meaning to

New meaning to “flying the flag”: (Wikipedia caption) A pair of specially painted F-117 Nighthawks fly off from their last refueling by the Ohio National Guard’s 121st Air Refueling Wing. The F-117s were retired March 11 [2008] in a farewell ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Kim Frey. This is just a great photo.

Armed Forces Day is the third Saturday in May. This year it falls on May 19.

The U.S. Flag Code designates Armed Forces Day as one day for all Americans to fly their flags, in honor of those men and women presently serving in any of the Armed Forces.

Activities to honor active duty and active reserve forces occur in hundreds of communities across the nation.  Check your local papers.

Remember to fly your flag.

A bit of history, as we’ve noted earlier:  After President Truman’s administration brought the management of the armed forces under the umbrella of one agency, the Department of Defense, Truman moved also to unite what had been a separate day of honor for each of the branches of the military, into one week capped by one day for all uniformed defense services.

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department — the Department of Defense. Each of the military leagues and orders was asked to drop sponsorship of its specific service day in order to celebrate the newly announced Armed Forces Day. The Army, Navy and Air Force leagues adopted the newly formed day. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day but supports Armed Forces Day, too.

In a speech announcing the formation of the day, President Truman “praised the work of the military services at home and across the seas” and said, “it is vital to the security of the nation and to the establishment of a desirable peace.” In an excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, Mr. Truman stated:

Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.

Celebrations like Armed Forces Day offer good opportunities to promote history. I suspect that the day’s coming always in the middle of May suppresses some of the teaching moment value, as teachers make a final push for end of course tests, finals, and in high schools, for graduation — and as many colleges are already out for the summer. Good materials are available that can be sprinkled throughout a course.

Photograph of President Truman and other digni...

President Truman and other dignitaries on the reviewing stand during an Armed Forces Day parade, (left… – NARA – 200222 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (Is that Eisenhower on the left?) (Update: Yep! From Wikimedia: Left to right, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, President Truman, Adm. William Leahy.

For example, this list of world-wide events at the first Armed Forces Day, in 1950, gives a good picture of four years into the Cold War, and would make a good warm-up exercise or even an entire lesson, or offer opportunities for projects:

The first Armed Forces Day came at a time of increased world tensions, political volatility and communist aggression. Some notable events that marked America’s first Armed Forces Week were as follows:

  • Bolivian police broke up “alleged” revolutionary communist-led general strike in LaPaz.
  • Two U. S. government buildings in Canton, China were taken over by the Chinese Communist Government. The buildings were U. S. property acquired prior to the Communist takeover.
  • The Burmese Army recaptured the city of Prome, a strategic communist-rebel stronghold.
  • Nicaraguans elect General Anastasio Somoza to a regular six-year term as president.
  • French and West German governments expected to talk shortly on the merger of the coal and steel industries of the two countries.
  • Communist China lifted the ban on daylight shipping along the Yangtze River due to the decline of Nationalist air activity.
  • Norway receives first US military aid in the form of two Dakota planes.
  • U. N. Secretary General Trygive Lie seeks West’s acceptance of Red China in the U. N.
  • Iran announced close range news broadcasts to the Soviet Union with $56,000 worth of Voice of America equipment.
  • Cuba celebrated the 48th anniversary of the establishment of its republic.
  • The Red Cross celebrated its 69th birthday.
  • Britain ended rationing of all foods except meats, butter, margarine, and cooking fat.
  • The U. S. Congress voted to extend the draft. “A Bill to extend registration and classification for the Draft until June 24, 1952 passed the House 216-11.”
  • The Allied Command announced it would “ease” the burden of occupation on Austria and would name civilian high commissioners to replace present military high commissioners.
  • Soviet authorities in Berlin withdrew travel passes of the U.S. and British military missions stationed at Potsdam in the Soviet zone of occupation.
  • The Soviets returned 23 East German industrial plants to East German authorities. The plants had been producing exclusively for the benefit of reparations to the USSR.
  • Twenty-eight Soviet vessels, consisting of tugs, trawlers, and supply ships remained in the English Channel as the Western Alliance prepared for air and naval maneuvers. Observers noted that many of them carried rollers at their sterns for trawling nets although no nets were visible.
  • Pravda denounced Armed Forces Day, calling it the militarization of the United States. “The hysterical speeches of the warmongers again show the timeliness of the appeal of the Permanent Committee of Peace Partisans that atomic weapons be forbidden.”
  • Western Powers renewed their promise to help Mid-Eastern states resist communism. They also announced an agreement to sell arms to Israel as well as to the Arabs.

Veterans Day honors veterans of wars, and those who served in the past; Memorial Day honors people who died defending the nation; Armed Forces Day honors those men and women serving today.  Service with two wars, in an “all volunteer” military, is a rough go, especially in times of federal budget cuts.  Say a good word about active duty military on Saturday, will you?

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Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 19, 2018 – fly your flag

May 19, 2018

2018 Armed Forces Day Poster from the Department of Defense, - President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

2018 Armed Forces Day Poster from the Department of Defense, – President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country. On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.
The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.
To download this poster, go here.

 

 

Americans celebrate Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday in May, by law as listed in the Flag Code. This year it’s May 19.

Fly your flag, if you haven’t been flying it all week to honor fallen police. Saturday is also the last day of National Police Week, during which flags are flown half-staff to honor fallen policemen. You may fly your flag half-staff on Saturday, too, if you wish; if your flag pole does not allow a half-staff position, fly it at full height.

President Donald Trump asked that flags be flown at half-staff through May 28, for the victims of the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18. If your flag pole does not easily fly a flag at half-staff, fly it full staff.

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Caption from the Chattannoga Times-Free Press: Students from Soddy-Daisy High School participate in the annual Armed Forces Day Parade by marching while holding a large American flag today on Market Street in downtown Chattanooga. Participants marched the length of Market Street as they were cheered on by crowds gathered on the sidewalk. Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Times Free Press.

Caption from the Chattanooga Times-Free Press: Students from Soddy-Daisy High School participate in the annual Armed Forces Day Parade by marching while holding a large American flag today on Market Street in downtown Chattanooga. Participants marched the length of Market Street as they were cheered on by crowds gathered on the sidewalk.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Times Free Press.


May 2018, flag-flying dates

May 8, 2018

"Early Morning on the Avenue in May 1917," Frederick Childe Hassam, oil on canvas, 1917; Addison Gallery of American Art

“Early Morning on the Avenue in May 1917,” Frederick Childe Hassam, oil on canvas, 1917; Addison Gallery of American Art.
Description from the Addison Gallery: “Early Morning on the Avenue in May 1917 belongs to a series of flag paintings that Frederick Childe Hassam created during World War I, between 1916 and 1919. Totaling nearly thirty canvases, the series constituted the artist’s last significant body of work. It demonstrates his vigorous brushwork, bright palette, and what the critics called his truly American interpretation of the French aesthetic of Impressionism.
“French Impressionists had recorded contemporary life, usually under bright, sunny spring skies. Hassam was also interested in capturing weather conditions: Early Morning on the Avenue is distinct in the series for its overall whiteness, the brilliancy of the hue transforming the cloudless blue sky to a pearly white and bleaching the buildings and sidewalks to opalescent tones. The flag paintings, however, were not just about weather and light. They were begun in response to the flag displays and parades that were organized in New York City as part of the war effort. Hassam was a patriot and an ardent Anglophile, and he used these paintings to demonstrate his support for the Allies. Color and light therefore took on a metaphorical significance, the pervasiveness of white in Early Morning on the Avenue suggesting purity and the righteousness of the Allied cause.”

May has three days designated for flying the U.S. flag out of the specific days mentioned in the U.S. Flag Code, three days designated in other federal laws,  and three statehood days, when residents of those states should fly their flags.

Interestingly, the three designated days all float, from year to year:

  • Mother’s Day, second Sunday in May (May 13, in 2018)
  • Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May (May 19)
  • Memorial Day, the last Monday in May (May 28)

Residents of these states celebrate statehood; South Carolina and Wisconsin share May 23:

  • Minnesota, May 11 (1858, the 32nd state)
  • South Carolina, May 23 (1788, the 8th state)
  • Wisconsin, May 23 (1848, the 30th state)
  • Rhode Island, May 29 (1790, the last of the 13 original colonies to ratify the Constitution)

In 2016 President Obama issued a proclamation calling on citizens to fly the flag on May 1, Law Day. It’s also Loyalty Day, which got a proclamation from President Obama calling for flag flying in 2016, and from President Trump in 2017.

May 8 marks the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, the day the Axis Powers in Europe surrendered at the end of World War II.  Some years that day is marked by a proclamation calling for flag flying.  (You may fly your flag then even if Congress and the President do nothing.)

In recent years President Obama proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, with flags to fly at half-staff. We might expect another such declaration in 2018, but we’ll see next week.

May 22 is National Maritime Day, under a Joint Resolution from Congress from 1933. President Trump may proclaim that day as a day to fly the flag, too.

Twelve events on fourteen days to fly the U.S. flag.  May could be quite busy for flag fliers.

  1. Law Day, May 1, AND
  2. Loyalty Day, May 1
  3. Victory in Europe Day, May 8
  4. Minnesota Statehood, May 11
  5. Mothers Day, May 13
  6. Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15 (half-staff flags; the law for Police Week calls for flags to be half-staff the entire week in which May 15 occurs, May 14-20 in 2017)
  7. Armed Forces Day, May 19
  8. National Maritime Day, May 22
  9. South Carolina Statehood, May 23, AND
  10. Wisconsin Statehood, May 23
  11. Memorial Day, May 28
  12. Rhode Island Statehood, May 29
US flag flying at the U.S. Supreme Court's west portico, suitable for Law Day, May 1. (But this photo was taken in June, 2012; Alex Brandon/AP)

US flag flying at the U.S. Supreme Court’s west portico, suitable for Law Day, May 1. (But this photo was taken in June, 2012; Alex Brandon/AP)

 

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May 1 is Law Day – fly your flags

May 1, 2018

Wait. You didn’t fly your flag today because you were waiting for me to tell you to do it?

Oh, you know Congress passed a resolution years ago encouraging flying the flag, even when the President of the U.S. doesn’t issue a formal proclamation, right?

President John F. Kennedy at the 1963 State of the Union Address, in front of the U.S. flag displayed in the chamber of the House of Representatives. Kennedy signed the law designating May 1 as Law Day, in 1961. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, White House, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Public Domain

President John F. Kennedy at the 1963 State of the Union Address, in front of the U.S. flag displayed in the chamber of the House of Representatives. Kennedy signed the law designating May 1 as Law Day, in 1961. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, White House, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Public Domain

President Trump declared May 1, 2018, as Law Day, and a day to fly the flag.

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims May 1, 2018, as Law Day, U.S.A.</3>

April 30, 2018

On Law Day, we celebrate our Nation’s heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under the law.  This heritage is embodied most powerfully in our Constitution, the longest surviving document of its kind.  The Constitution established a unique structure of government that has ensured to our country the blessings of liberty through law for nearly 229 years.

The Framers of our Constitution created a government with distinct and independent branches — the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial — because they recognized the risks of concentrating power in one authority.  As James Madison wrote, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”  By separating the powers of government into three co-equal branches and giving each branch certain powers to check the others, the Constitution provides a framework in which the rule of law has flourished.

The importance of the rule of law can be seen throughout our Nation’s history.  This year marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment to our Constitution.  The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits States from denying persons the equal protection of the laws or depriving them of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.  The commitment to the rule of law that led the country to ratify that Amendment was no less powerful than the commitment to the rule of law that led the country to ratify the original Constitution.

That commitment to the rule of law lives on today.  It drives the debates we see around the country about the growth of the administrative state and regulatory authority, and about the unfortunate trend of district court rulings that exceed traditional limits on the judicial power.  We also see that commitment in the people’s demand that their representatives comply with the Constitution, and in the Representatives and Senators themselves who take seriously their oaths to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower first commemorated Law Day in 1958 to celebrate our Nation’s roots in the principles of liberty and guaranteed fundamental rights of individual citizens under the law.  Law Day recognizes that we govern ourselves in accordance with the rule of law rather according to the whims of an elite few or the dictates of collective will.  Through law, we have ensured liberty.  We should not, and do not, take that success for granted.  On this 60th annual observance of Law Day, let us rededicate ourselves to the rule of law as the best means to secure, as the Preamble to our Constitution so wisely states, “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, in accordance with Public Law 87–20, as amended, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2018, as Law Day, U.S.A.  I urge all Americans, including government officials, to observe this day by reflecting upon the importance of the rule of law in our Nation and displaying the flag of the United States in support of this national observance; and I especially urge the legal profession, the press, and the radio, television, and media industries to promote and to participate in the observance of this day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-second.

DONALD J. TRUMP


April 2018: When do we fly our flags?

April 3, 2018

Schooner on Chesapeake Bay flies the 15-stripe/15-star flag that flew over Fort McHenry. Image from the Maryland Secretary of State's Office

Schooner on Chesapeake Bay flies the 15-stripe/15-star flag that flew over Fort McHenry. Image from the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office

Is April the cruelest month?

It’s cruel to people who want to fly U.S. flags often, but only on designated flag-flying dates. (April is also National Poetry Month, so it’s a good time to look up poetry references we should have committed to heart).

For 2018, these are the three dates for flying the U.S. flag; Easter is a national date, the other two are dates suggested for residents of the states involved.

One date, nationally, to fly the flag. That beats March, which has none (in a year with Easter in April and not March). But March has five statehood days, to April’s two.

Take heart! You may fly your U.S. flag any day you choose, or everyday as many people do in Texas (though, too many do not retire their flags every evening . . .).

Three dates to fly Old Glory in April, by the Flag Code and other laws on memorials and commemorations.

  • Easter, April 1
  • Maryland, April 28, 1788, 7th state
  • Louisiana, April 30, 1812, 18th state
April usually sees the opening of Major League Baseball's season -- some teams jumped into March in 2018. In this photo, U.S. Navy sailors assigned to the USS Bonhomme Richard practice for the San Diego Padres' opening day flag ceremony in San Diego on April 5, 2011. The ship sent nearly 300 volunteers to unfurl an 800-pound U.S. flag that covered the entire field. The Bonhomme Richard is in dry-dock for maintenance and upgrades. Defense Department photo via Wikimedia.

April usually sees the opening of Major League Baseball’s season — some teams jumped into March in 2018. In this photo, U.S. Navy sailors assigned to the USS Bonhomme Richard practice for the San Diego Padres’ opening day flag ceremony in San Diego on April 5, 2011. The ship sent nearly 300 volunteers to unfurl an 800-pound U.S. flag that covered the entire field. The Bonhomme Richard was in dry-dock for maintenance and upgrades. Defense Department photo via Wikimedia.

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Fly the U.S. flag in March 2018?

March 2, 2018

Members of the New York City Fire Department carry 343 U.S. flags honoring the 343 NYFD members killed on 9/11, in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. New York Post caption:

Members of the New York City Fire Department carry 343 U.S. flags honoring the 343 NYFD members killed on 9/11, in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. New York Post caption: “Despite the cold and gray morning, parade-goers turned out for St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate Irish heritage in New York City on March 17, 2014. FDNY members set the pace as they marched down 5th Avenue holding American flags for the annual event. SHANNON STAPLETON/Reuters”

I usually put up a post near the first of the month listing the occasions upon which U.S. laws urge us to fly Old Glory. March sometimes slips by without such a post.

No good reason, other than in most years, March offers no regular national commemorations upon which flag flying is urged. The odd year is when Easter comes early. Easter is one of the holidays the Flag Code says flags should be flown.

But, most years, Easter falls in April, as it does in 2018.

The Flag Code urges residents of states to fly the U.S. flag on the anniversary of their state’s entering the union, on statehood day. Those are the only dates in March, most years. In March, we have four statehood days in the first four days of the month. If I dawdle, we miss most of the dates.

Flag fly dates, for March (some already past, in 2018):

  • March 1, Ohio statehood (1803, 17th state)
  • March 1, Nebraska statehood (1867, 37th state)
  • March 3, Florida (1845, 27th state)
  • March 4, Vermont statehood (1791, 14th state)
  • March 15, Maine statehood (1820, 23rd state)

Many St. Patrick’s Day revelers and parade marchers display the U.S. flag, but it’s not an official U.S. observance.

I keep hoping, but I get little traction for a law urging flying the flag to observe Freedom Day, on the birth anniversary of the Father of the Constitution, James Madison (he was born March 16, 1751).

People gathered on the lawn of James Madison's home in Montpelier, Virginia, to display the U.S. flag in a card display, 2011. AP photo?

People gathered on the lawn of James Madison’s home in Montpelier, Virginia, to display the U.S. flag in a card display, 2011. AP photo?

Much irony, and great history, in the U.S. colors being shown so dramatically on St. Patrick’s Day, a day relatively uncommemorated in Ireland, and commemorated in the U.S. chiefly to help overcome bias against Irish immigrants.

Some irony in the unmarked birthday of the Father of the Constitution.

Sure, you may fly the U.S. flag every day in March. You need not wait for sanction from a Presidential Proclamation or a Congressional Resolution. You may fly the flag every day. (Just follow flag etiquette when you do.)

I’ll try to keep up better, next year. (I said that last year.)

U.S. colors led the St. Patrick's Day parade in Seattle, Washington, in 2014. Photo from IrishClub.org

U.S. colors led the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Seattle, Washington, in 2014. Photo from IrishClub.org

 

U.S. colors stood out in a field of green at the St. Paul, Minnesota, St. Patrick's Day parade, 2015(?). Photo from VisitStPaul.com.

U.S. colors stood out in a field of green at the St. Paul, Minnesota, St. Patrick’s Day parade, 2015(?). Photo from VisitStPaul.com.

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Fly your flag, a Valentine for Oregon and Arizona

February 14, 2018

From the Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers: A Stamp printed in 1959 for the Oregon Centennial shows a covered Wagon and Mount Hood Oregon

From the Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers: A Stamp printed in 1959 for the Oregon Centennial shows a covered Wagon and Mount Hood Oregon

Flags are flying in Oregon and Arizona on Valentine’s Day 2018?

It’s statehood day in both of those states.

Legally, nothing stops a resident from flying the U.S. flag following protocol on any day.  Yes, you may fly your U.S. flag on Valentine’s Day.

The Flag Code urges flying the flag on the day a state achieved statehood, too.

For Oregon and Arizona, there is an expectation that residents will fly their flags.  Oregon came into the union on February 14, 1859; Arizona joined the Republic as a state in 1912.

Taft signs Arizona statehood papers, February 14, 1912

President William Howard Taft signed the papers accepting Arizona into statehood, on February 14, 1912. He still finished third behind Democrat Woodrow Wilson and Bullmoose Party’s Teddy Roosevelt in that fall’s elections. Photo found at Mrs. Convir’s page, Balboa Magnet School  (Can you identify others in the photo?  Who is the young man?)

From TripSavvy: On February 14, 1912, Taft signed the proclamation making Arizona the 48th state, and the last of the contiguous states to be admitted to the union. It was the last of the 48 contiguous states to be admitted to the union.

Arizona’s state flag waves in the blue – From TripSavvy: On February 14, 1912, Taft signed the proclamation making Arizona the 48th state, and the last of the contiguous states to be admitted to the union. It was the last of the 48 contiguous states to be admitted to the union.

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Some of this material was borrowed, with express permission, from last year’s post at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.


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