meaning of half mast until noon

Discussion in 'Half Mast / Half Staff' started by M'Lynn, May 25, 2009.

  1. M'Lynn

    M'Lynn New Member

    What is the meaning of raising the flag to full mast, then returning it to half mast until noon, and then raising it to full mast until sunset on Memorial Day? Help me I need to explain this in the a.m.
     
  2. bill505

    bill505 New Member

    I also would like to know why the flag is flown at half mast on Memorial day only untill 12 noon.
     
  3. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    What is the meaning of raising the flag to full mast, then returning it to half mast until noon, and then raising it to full mast until sunset on Memorial Day?

    This is a very good question. The closest thing to an explanation that I know of was in the original version of the "flag code" that was adopted in 1923: "On Memorial Day, May 30, the Flag is displayed at half-staff from sunrise until noon and at full staff from noon until sunset; for the Nation lives and the Flag is the symbol of a living nation." The last clause might be interpreted as saying that the pre-noon half-staff period was to honor the dead, and the post-noon full-staff period was to symbolize that the Nation lives on.

    However, the custom of half-masting the flag until noon on Memorial Day was around long before it was written into the flag code. This description is from a book published in 1906, which quotes then-current military regulations:

    "On Memorial Day, May 30, at all army posts and stations, the national flag will be displayed at half-staff from sunrise till mid-day, and immediately before noon the band, or field music, will play some appropriate air, and the national salute of twenty-one guns will be fired at 12 M. at all posts and stations provided with artillery. At the conclusion of this memorial tribute, at noon, the flag will be hoisted to the top of the staff and will remain there until sunset. When hoisted to the top of the staff, the flag will be saluted by playing one or more appropriate patriotic airs. In this way fitting testimonial of respect for the heroic dead and honor to their patriotic devotion will be appropriately rendered."

    Clearly, the idea was that the moment of noon ("12 M." was short for "12 Meridian") would be the focus of the symbolic tribute to the fallen. However, the specific reason for raising the flag to full mast at noon was not spelled out. (The modern US Army instruction on "Salutes, Honors and Visits of Courtesy" says basically the same thing as the 1906 language.)

    One more good research topic for us vexillologists!

    Peter Ansoff
     
  4. YCHistorian

    YCHistorian New Member

    Peter,

    On Memorial Day, US Navy ships and bases fly the US Ensign at half-mast untill 12:20 PM. Navy ships and bases equipped with saluting batteries fire a 21 "minute-gun" salute starting at 12:00 noon, with one round being fired every minute until the last round is fired at 12:20 PM. at which point the flag is hauled to full staff position. As an aside, for the past 7 years, I have coordinated a synchronized 21 minute -gun salute each Memorial Day at the yacht club I belong to, along with two neighboring clubs. We use 10GA signal guns in our salute and synchronize the timing of our cannon shots using the time display on hand-held GPS receivers. I must say that it is impressive to hear. -YC
     
  5. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Thanks, YC -- I didn't know that! I looked it up in NAVREGS and what do you know -- it says (1284.2):

    On Memorial Day, each saluting ship and each naval station having a saluting battery shall fire at noon a salute of 21 minute-guns. All ships and naval stations shall display the national ensign at half-mast from 0800 until the completion of the salute or until 1220 if no salute is to be fired.

    It's interesting to compare this with the 1906 Army regs that I quoted earlier. They say that there will be only one salute, fired at noon, and that the flag will be raised immediately at "meridian."​

    The current Army regulation says the following:​

    On Memorial Day, the national flag will be displayed at half staff from reveille until noon at all Army installations. Immediately before noon, the band, if one is available, will play an appropriate musical selection, and at 1200 hours the national salute (21 guns) will be fired at all installations provided with the necessary equipment for firing salutes. At the conclusion of the salute, the flag will be hoisted to the top of the staff and will remain there until retreat. When hoisted to the top of the staff, the flag will be saluted by playing appropriate patriotic music.

    Which is basically the same as the 1906 regulation. It's curious that none of the modern sources say anything about the symbolism of this procedure.

    Peter Ansoff​
     

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