POW*MIA Flag - 2 Poles - Order Of Precedence "Problem"?

Discussion in 'US Flag Display' started by Robin Hickman, Nov 15, 2016.

  1. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member


    This past Veterans' Day (Friday, November 11th, 2016) the City of Springfield, Oregon and the Willamalane Parks & Recreation Department re-vamped, expanded, and re-dedicated a Veterans' Memorial. Using input from a number of Veterans and Veteran Groups, they did a FANTASTIC job in designing and putting the whole thing together, even including two 30-foot stainless steel flagpoles.

    I had stopped by the new Veterans' Memorial on Thursday, the day before the dedication ceremony, to check things out and see where my 17 Flags on flagpoles would be placed around the Memorial to help "dress up" the occasion.

    When I got into a discussion with a City official about how great the whole Veterans' Memorial was turning out, the subject of Flags came up. I asked about what Flags were going to be flown from the two 30' flagpoles that are part of the Memorial. The Memorial is at one corner of the park and one flagpole is closer to the street corner and is out in "front" of the Memorial, while the second flagpole is back "behind" the Memorial and is lined up with the first flagpole.

    When I asked what Flags they were intending to fly on the poles the city official told me the they were going to fly a 5'x8' American Flag on the "front" flagpole and on the "back" flagpole they were planning on flying a State of Oregon Flag and a POW*MIA Flag, with the POW*MIA Flag as the primary (upper) Flag and the Oregon Flag as the secondary (lower) Flag.

    While I was somewhat shocked at how far apart the two flagpoles were, the Memorial is designed to "grow" with the addition of more Veteran Elements that are to be added in the future. So, "OK", I thought, "that possibly makes some sense". However, with the placement of the POW*MIA Flag OVER the Oregon Flag on the back flagpole, that made no sense to me whatsoever! POW*MIA Flag OVER a State Flag?

    I told the official that I had learned over the many years that I've been handling Flags, that the "accepted" order of precedence of Flags here in the U.S. is: National, State, Military (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard), and then POW*MIA. I told him I thought that the POW*MIA Flag should be on the front pole and under the U.S. Flag, and that the Oregon Flag should be on the back pole by itself, or with either a City of Springfield Flag, or a Willamalane Parks Flag, or perhaps another POW*MIA Flag. Another alternative might be the U.S. & Oregon Flags on the front pole and the POW*MIA Flag on the back pole.

    I asked the city official why they had chosen to place the three Flags on the two flagpoles as they had. He responded by saying that the Memorial committee had talked to some of the area Veterans about it and that particular arrangement was what they came up with. He also said that he's seen something that showed that particular Flag arrangement (U.S. alone on one pole, and POW*MIA and State flags on the other). It wasn't clear to me if he'd seen it "on-line" or on paper. I pleaded my case as best I could that afternoon. When I showed up at the Veterans' Memorial Dedication ceremony the next morning for the Memorial's dedication ceremony, I saw that they had reached a "Flag Compromise": Big U.S. Flag on the front flagpole and a smaller Oregon Flag, by itself, on the back flagpole.

    I promised the city official that I would try my best to find the correct, or at least the "best", answer for this Flag Precedence and/or Placement "problem". So that's WHY I'm here with this.

    I'm pretty sure that the answer(s) are probably NOT in the civilian Flag Code. I seem to remember that the two largest Veterans Organizations here in the U.S. are the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I also "think" I remember that those two organizations have different orders of precedence when it comes to the Military Services Flags and the POW*MIA Flag - But I don't remember which is which. The POW*MIA Families organization (for whom the POW*MIA Flag was created back in 1972) have their own order of precedence when it comes to the POW*MIA Flag and other Flags.

    So that leaves the three military branches that I know have VERY specific regulations when it comes to the order of precedence; the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force.

    I know that there are supposed to be SIX (6) days each year when the POW*MIA Flag is supposed to be flown, and that Veterans' Day is one of those six days.

    Can anybody come up with at least two, maybe more, sources that, hopefully, agree on the correct placement of the three Flags (U.S., Oregon, and POW*MIA) on the two flagpoles. I don't care if I'm right or wrong (Gee! I sure hope I'm right!), but I promised that I would do my best to find an answer and be able to show "proof" for it. Whatever the answer might be, I want to be able to place it in the correct hands so that the solution can be applied, and they will have some kind of official "back-up" in case somebody complains (if you know what I mean...).

    HELP !!!

    Thank You!

    Robin Hickman
    "Your Friendly Neighborhood Flag Man" (In Need Of An Answer!)
    Eugene, Oregon, USA.
  2. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    Strangely enough, I might have found a "partial" answer to the POW*MIA Flag "Order Of Precedence" problem here in the forum. Alas, I think it might only be a "partial" answer, and not necessarily an "official" one at that because I was the one who wrote it in the following "Thread". The thread has a large photo that shows a number of Flags at a new Veterans Memorial in Pennsylvania.


    A partial quote :

    "I believe that the "Order Of Precedence" that is used by civilians (like me) here in the United States is/was developed from the applicable regulations of our Armed Forces, such as the Army, Navy, Air Force, etc.

    Unlike the other Flags shown flying in the photo, the POW*MIA Flag does NOT represent an official "public" entity such as a Nation, State, or an official Armed Service. It is, as a "non-governmental" Flag, the "least important" Flag flying in that group, and that is why it should be flown from the far-right (outside) flagpole. There are a few EXCEPTIONS (aren't there always?) to the "official" Order of Precedence, but private, non-public, use of the POW*MIA Flag is not regulated (to my knowledge).

    EXCEPTIONS : By an act of Congress (U.S. Public Law 101-355 - August 10th, 1990) the "official" (U.S. Government & Military) exceptions would be on Armed Force Day (3rd Saturday in May), Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW*MIA Recognition Day (3rd Friday in September), and Veterans' Day. On those SIX (6) days, the POW*MIA Flag would be SECOND in Order Of Precedence to the U.S. Flag. So, if the above picture was taken on one of THOSE six days, the POW*MIA Flag should be flown directly underneath the U.S. Flag on the taller center pole, the Pennsylvania State Flag on the far-left flagpole, the Army, Marine Corps, and Navy, Flags bumped one pole to the viewers' right, with the Air Force and Coast Guard Flags staying right where they're shown."

    I STILL need help putting together a good "answer" for our local Park and City Officials.

    HELP !!!

    Robin Hickman
  3. FlagAdvocate

    FlagAdvocate Member

    Hello Robin,
    For what it's worth, maybe we should consider that since this veteran's memorial is implemented by governmental entities and not by any particular veteran's organization, it might be fair to relate to the Federal Government's General Services Administration protocol for displaying the POW/MIA flag. Take a look at GSA Bulletin FMR 2008-B6 at
    Briefly, this bulletin recommends the POW/MIA flag is to be flown immediately below or adjacent to the US flag as second in the Order of Precedence, and flown on any day the US flag is flown.

    Also for your consideration, the Oregon State Legislature has enacted 2 laws pertaining to the POW/MIA flag in the year 2015.

    2015 ORS 186.110 at www.oregonlaws.org/ors/186.110 and
    2015 ORS 187.220 at www.oregonlaws.org/ors/187.220

    Hope this helps.
    Bill Jameson
    Vet & Flag Advocate
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2016
  4. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    Hello, Bill!

    Thank you for your input and the additional links!

    What I'm trying to come up with is some kind of "official" documentation regarding the "Order of Precedence" for the three Flags on the two flagpoles at the Veterans' Memorial at Willamalane Park in the City of Springfield. The documentation that I seek is meant to help the two governmental bodies (City and Park) use "official" procedures from other governmental agencies to help them produce their own Flag "protocols", including the "Order Of Precedence", for Flags they fly on their own properties. Right now it seems that the advice they're getting is of the "unofficial" and undocumented variety from well-meaning veterans.

    The order of precedence used by the local American Legion and VFW posts differ slightly and are for their own respective organizations. The order of precedence used by the Armed Forces are almost all exactly the same except for, perhaps, the wording used in their respective regulations. Peter Ansoff has posted links here in the USA-Flag-Site forums to at least two of the armed services' Flag Regs. I have those links and PDF files, but they're on my "old" computer that is no longer hooked up. I guess I'll just have to go through the various threads here until I find what I need. I was just hoping to save a little time but, apparently, that is not to be.

    Again, thank you for your assistance. I'll probably include the two "OregonLaws" links to help provide some "local" background.

    Robin Hickman
  5. FlagAdvocate

    FlagAdvocate Member

    The main reason I referred you to the GSA Bulletin FMR 2008-B6 is the "official" statement found in paragraph 4(f) which says:

    "What is the official protocol for displaying the POW/MIA flag? When displayed from a single flag pole, the POW/MIA flag should should fly directly below, and be no larger than, the flag of the United States. If on separate poles, the flag of the United States always should be placed to the right of other flags. On the six national observances for which Congress has ordered display of the POW/MIA flag, it is generally flown immediately below or adjacent to the flag of the United States as second in order of precedence".

    Since this paragraph appears in a GSA Bulletin, it is implied that this is an "official" protocol of the US GSA. If this Bulletin were accepted as an "official" governmental document by the City of Springfield and its park officials, then the POW/MIA flag would be placed immediately below the US flag on the front pole, and the Oregon state flag on the rear pole. This is also consistent with the how the National League of Families of POWs and MIAs would recommend the placement of the POW/MIA flag (immediately below the US flag regardless of what other flags are on display).

    I recognize that both of the Oregon State statutes which pertain to the POW/MIA flag do not prescribe where the POW/MIA flag should be placed among the US flag and the Oregon state flag. However, both statutes refer to the National League of Families which do recommend placement of the POW/MIA flag immediately below the US flag. Therefore, the Oregon state Legislature may have intended implementation to be guided by the National League of Families' recommendations.

    Those are my final thoughts Robin. I wish you well in helping the City and Park officials. Hopefully, you can recommend an arrangement everyone is comfortable with. Good Luck!

  6. FlagAdvocate

    FlagAdvocate Member

    It's me again Robin. This issue has me still seeking a definitive answer, so I did a little more research. House Bill 2892 of the Oregon State Legislature amended ORS 186.110 and became law effective Jan 1, 2016. It gives the Oregon Department of Administrative Services the authority to determine if there is sufficient infrastructure at public facilities to display the Oregon state and POW/MIA flags simultaneously with the US flag during the hours the US flag is customarily displayed. See www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/lawsstatutes/2015orLaw0185.pdf

    Since the new law gives the Oregon DAS that authority, I contacted the department's Facilities.Helpdesk@oregon.gov and asked if the POW/MIA flag should be displayed subordinate to, or superior to, the Oregon state flag. Mr. Bill Miller at DAS Enterprise Asset Management replied that "The POW/MIA flag is superior to the state flag and flies directly below the US flag". He can also be reached by phone at 503-373-2318

    I hope that finally answers your question. Regardless of what we know about the standard Order of Precedence and how that may be modified by various agencies and organizations, Mr. Miller's response represents how the state of Oregon intends to implement the new POW/MIA flag law.

    Bill Jameson
    Vet & Flag Advocate
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2016
  7. FlagAdvocate

    FlagAdvocate Member

    Well, this issue gets more and more interesting! On the same day I contacted the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, I also contacted Representative Sal Esquivel Rep.SalEsquivel@oregonlegislature.gov who originally introduced the new POW/MIA flag bill (HB 2892) and asked him the same question: Should the POW/MIA flag be displayed subordinate to, or superior to, the Oregon state flag? Interestingly, he replied "The POW/MIA flag should be subordinate to the state flag. I have a correction on the bill for this 2017 session and will see if I can clarify the order". I guess there may not be a definitive answer after all until, or if, the Oregon law (HB 2892) is amended to clarify the position of the POW/MIA flag when displayed with the Oregon state and US flags.
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016
  8. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    THANK YOU, BILL JAMESON, Vet & Flag Advocate!!!

    I'm still trying to put something together on paper that (hopefully) is not only "correct", but makes sense too!

    THANX !!!

  9. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    I'm not sure I have a definitive answer to this, but I thought it might help to recap the history of the POW-MIA flag with respect to precedence.

    The official use of the flag was directed by the 1998 Defense Appropriation Act. The House version of the Act contained a section titled "Protocol":

    "If flying the flag from ONE POLE, the POW/MIA flag is flown directly below the National Colors and above any state flag. If flying National, POW/MIA and state flags from TWO poles, the POW/MIA flag should be flown from the same pole as the National Colors, and beneath the American Flag, with the state flag flying from the pole to the left. If flying flags from three poles, the National Colors occupy the place of prominence (the right), with the POW/MIA flag immediately to the left of the US Flag, and the state flag to the left of the POW/MIA flag."

    However, when the final version of the DAA was adopted by Congress, (Public Law 105-85) the protocol section was omitted. This caused some confusion, because the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia web site posted the house draft rather than the final version, which gave the mistaken impression that the above protocol had actually been adopted. (It's since been removed.) The language that did pass in the 1998 Act is in 36 USC 902. It prescribes dates for display, but not the actual protocol.

    The General Services Administration published Bulletin FPMR D-249 in March 1998, which basically repeated the language from the Act. In 2008 they replaced it with FMR 2008-B6, which clarified several issues and also provided a paragraph on protocol which Flag Advocate quoted above. This bulletin is applicable to certain federal installations in the Washington DC area, which are enumerated in the bulletin. For completeness, language dealing with protocol is:

    "When displayed from a single flag pole, the POW/MIA flag should fly directly below, and be no larger than, the flag of the United States. If on separate poles, the flag of the United States always should be placed to the right of other flags. On the six national observances for which Congress has ordered display of the POW/MIA flag, it is generally flown immediately below or adjacent to the flag of the United States as second in the order of precedence."

    Unlike the House language from back in 1997, the GSA bulletin did not make any mention of state or other flags. The obvious reason for this is that the bulletin addressed usage on specific federal installations that do not fly state flags. [Prior to the advent of the POW/MIA flag, most government installations flew either the US flag alone, or the US flag and the applicable departmental or organizational flag.] Within the last few years, veterans' organizations have latched on to the GSA Bulletin, and used its "second in the order of precedence" language to insist that the POW/MIA flag should take precedence over state flags. As shown above, this stretches the intent of the bulletin beyond its original scope, both in term of the locations it covers and the other flags to which it refers.

    The US Air Force, which seems to have the most up-to-date set of military regs concerning flag display (AFI 34-1201), carried the idea one step further. The AFI contains a detailed list of flag precedence, from the US flag on down. The 2006 version of the AFI stated that "The POW/MIA flag will always be the last flag in any display." The 2013 version, however, says:

    "The POW/MIA flag will always be the last flag in any display, except on the six national observances for which Congress has ordered display of the POW/MIA flag. On these days, it is flown immediately below or adjacent to the United States flag as second in order of precedence (however, it still would be flown after other national flags). The six national observances are National POW/MIA Recognition Day (third Friday of September), Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day." [those are the same 6 days specified in the USC and the GSA bulletin.]

    The bottom line is that the protocol section of the GSA bulletin has been taken rather far out of its original context, especially with regard to state flags. My personal view is that a state flag should still take precedence over the POW/MIA flag, since the state flag represents an official entity and the POW/MIA flag does not. However, veterans and others are likely to get emotional over that. One option, I suppose, would be to follow the Air Force Instruction: give the state flag precedence except on the 6 holidays enumerated in the US Code.

    Again, just my two cents . . .

  10. FlagAdvocate

    FlagAdvocate Member

    I am so glad you have contributed to this thread. You have shed a great deal of light on the subject going way back to www.usa-flag-site.org/forum/threads/order-of-precedence.2476/ initiated Apr 29, 2008. I have learned so much from your knowledge, expertise and wisdom. I especially agree with you that when it comes to the POW/MIA flag and its placement, "veterans and others are likely to get emotional".

    When Robin began this thread, he explained that on Veterans Day (2016), the city of Springfield and the Willamalane Parks & Recreation Department re-vamped, expanded, and re-dedicated a Veterans Memorial, using input from a number of veterans and veterans groups. Therefore, since this site is a Veterans Memorial designed with input from veterans and veterans groups, it might be prudent to ponder just how "helpful" one can be without causing an emotional outcry from the veterans involved, those for whom the Memorial is dedicated.

    Peter, the problem with the option you proposed, to give the state flag precedence over the POW/MIA flag except on the six holidays enumerated in the US Code, would most likely be too impractical and confusing to implement.

    Maybe there is a compromise. Robin explained that the Veterans Memorial flag display consists of two 30 ft flagpoles, one behind the other. As we know, the Order of Precedence can be expressed by flagpole placement (front to back or left to right) when dealing with flagpoles of equal height, and by elevation, either with flagpoles of descending height or by simply placing subordinate flags visibly below superior flags. Therefore, if the "front" flagpole were to fly the US flag, and the "back" flagpole were to fly the Oregon state flag at the same elevation as the US flag, that display would satisfy the correct Order of Precedence for those two flags. Additionally, if the POW/MIA flag were attached to the same halyard below the US flag, it would be visibly below the height of the state flag behind it, thus seen as subordinate to the state flag, and at the same time be in the position most vets are accustomed to seeing the POW/MIA flag when flown with just the US flag on one flagpole. That arrangement might just satisfy most veterans.

    Note: This post went through several edits over several days. I hope those of you who are following this thread were not too confused. I apologize.

    Good luck with all this Robin,
    Bill Jameson
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
  11. FlagAdvocate

    FlagAdvocate Member

    I was curious what the current flag display looks like, so I contacted the Willamalane Parks & Recreation Department. The attached photo was sent on December 30, 2016. Currently, only the US and Oregon State flags are displayed. The photo was sent by Bill Kunerth, Public Affairs Mgr.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  12. FlagAdvocate

    FlagAdvocate Member

    On June 23, 2017, Bill Kunerth was kind enough to send this updated photo of the veterans memorial which now flies the POW/MIA flag below the US flag. Mr. Kunerth is the Public Affairs Manager for the Bob Keefer Center for Sports & Recreation in Springfield, Oregon.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  13. FlagAdvocate

    FlagAdvocate Member

    Hi Robin,

    It has been awhile since you posted this as a goal of yours. What have you concluded and did you get back in touch with the Springfield official you initially spoke to? Just curious....

    Bill Jameson
    Vet & Flag Advocate
  14. Robin Hickman

    Robin Hickman Well-Known Member

    Hello, FlagAdvocate!

    I have done nothing further with this. I've pretty much put it on the "back burner".

    My "solution" is simple: Fly the U.S. Flag on the "outer" (closest to the street corner) flagpole, fly the State of Oregon Flag on the "inner" flagpole, and fly a POW*MIA Flag under each (BOTH) of them.


Share This Page