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I have read in various places that all U.S. flags, once official, are always valid regardless of the number of stars. As an example, a Betsy Ross (13 stars), Star ...
  1. #1
    Pocketman Guest

    Default Flag Expired Based Upon Number of Stars?

    I have read in various places that all U.S. flags, once official, are always valid regardless of the number of stars. As an example, a Betsy Ross (13 stars), Star Spangled Banner (15 stars), WWII (48 stars) and the current 50-star flags are all considered U.S. flags and treated accordingly. Is this part of the flag code or some other document?

    When multiple such flags are in use, in which order should they be displayed?

  2. #2
    Peter Ansoff is offline USA Flag Site Admin
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    Default Re: Flag Expired Based Upon Number of Stars?

    Hi, again!

    I have read in various places that all U.S. flags, once official, are always valid regardless of the number of stars. As an example, a Betsy Ross (13 stars), Star Spangled Banner (15 stars), WWII (48 stars) and the current 50-star flags are all considered U.S. flags and treated accordingly. Is this part of the flag code or some other document?

    Well, sort of. Executive Order 10834 was signed by President Eisenhower in 1959 when Hawaii became the 50th state. Here is what it says about the issue:

    "Sec. 25 .. . . all national flags and union jacks now in the possession of executive agencies, or hereafter acquired by executive agencies under contracts awarded prior to the date of this order . . . shall be utilized until unserviceable.

    "Sec. 31. The flag prescribed by Executive Order No. 10798 of January 3, 1959, [the 49 star flag] shall be the official flag of the United States until July 4, 1960, and on that date the flag prescribed by Part I of this order [the 50 star flag] shall become the official flag of the United States; but this section shall neither derogate from . . . section 25 of this order nor preclude the procurement, for executive agencies, or flags provided for by or pursuant to this order at any time after the date of this order."

    Strictly speaking, the 50-star flag is the only "official" flag in accordance with Sec. 31. However, it is customary (and reasonable) to give older versions the same respectful treatment as the current version, because they are symbols of our heritage. This is not covered in the flag code -- yet another of the many omissions and inconsistencies that should be fixed if the code is ever revised.

    The obvious intent of Sec. 25 was to say that agencies didn't have to discard the flags that they were currently using, but could keep using them until they wore out. Some people try to misinterpret this to say that earlier versions of the flag are still "official" -- but that is not what the words actually say.

    Of course, Executive Order applies only to flags procured and used by the executive branch of the government, which includes the military. Most commerically-sold flags deviate from the specifications of the order in one way or another. The most common deviation is in the proportions: The E.O. says that they should be 10:19, but most commerical flags are 3:5 or 4:6. Again, we treat such flags with the same respect as other US flags, even though they are not "official."

    When multiple such flags are in use, in which order should they be displayed?

    I don't think that there's any established guidance on that subject. When I fly multiple versions, I give the precedence in reverse historical order. One of my earlier postings here in the forum shows the flags that we flew on the 4th of July: 50, 15 and 13 star from the viewer's left to right, and the Contiental Colours behind them on the carport pole.

    Best,

    Peter Ansoff

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