Proper Military flag disposal ceremony

Discussion in 'American Flag Disposal' started by USMC_Color_Sergeant, Jul 12, 2008.

  1. USMC_Color_Sergeant

    USMC_Color_Sergeant New Member

    I'm a US Marine and the Color Sergeant for my Battalion. A few of our National Ensign need to be properly disposed of. I have reviewed the all the order and directives that I know of and I cannot find how to properly dispose of them. I know that you must separate the Field of Valor from the Stripes, burning the strips first and then the Field of Valor but other than that I have no idea has to how the ceremony goes. My battalion SgtMaj wants to gather the Battalion and properly dispose of the National Ensign and has left it up to me to figure out the proper way to do it. He knows it can and has been done but he too is unsure of how. Now I now has Marine we should know how to do this but this is not an everyday event and very little is written on the subject, what orders and directives that are written that I have found are very vague in this area. Please help point me in the right direction.
  2. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Greetings, and welcome to the forum! It's always good to have the Marines on board.

    The relevant reference (which you are probably aware of already) is the USMC Flag Manual, MCO 10520. Section G.4.c says:

    "Flags determined not to have historical value will be destroyed by the parent organization, privately by burning, with no suggestion of irreverence to its military or national significance, unless its retention as a display memento is desired by the organization."

    "Privately" would imply that the destruction should not be a public ceremony. Obviously, the burning should be conducted with dignity.​

    You wrote: "I know that you must separate the Field of Valor from the Stripes, burning the strips first and then the Field of Valor . . ."​

    To my knowlege, there is nothing that says you "must" do this. Many individual organizations, such as the American Legion, have created their own ceremonies for flag-burning, but there is no law or regulation on the subject. The civilian flag code (which is codified in 4 USC 1) just says:

    "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."

    Personally, I don't like the idea of cutting the flag into pieces -- it sounds more like some kind of pagan ritual rather than the dignified retirement of a national symbol. (That's just my opinion, of course!)

    I hope that this information is useful. Again, welcome!

    Semper Fi,

    Peter Ansoff
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2008
  3. hello there!!

    as Peter siad - there isn't mreally an official way to retire the flag... no set ceremony but the flag code does suggest burning the flag- but this leaves the matter of ceremonies out in the open...

    basically it is doing what you would find to be a respectful end to the flags duties.
    you COULD cut the flag into pieces and burn each piece seperatly - but myself persoanlly i dont like this method.. i dont like to see the flag get mutilated before it is burned...

    i had one flag to retire not long ago...and i just happened to spot a small outdoor incinerator in my boyfriends back yard.. so i took the flag and i kissed it and then put it inside there and i just stood and watched for a while and we decided to sing 'America the Beautiful' before leaving it be to finish off

    but that was just my way of doing it

    with several flags it would be beat to either have an open fire - or better yet have a fire in an oil drum or similer can

    this is one of several retirement videos there is on youtube
    YouTube - American Flag Retirement

    this one features the military burning some flags - by doing 3 flags at a time by 3 men into 3 oil drums- the flags are folded when they are put into the cans and after they are dropped in the 3 men salute.

    please let us know how you get on!
  4. garyzreiter

    garyzreiter New Member

    Thank you for the information on "other" military flag disposal. When I was a scout leader, several organizations gave us their worn or old American flags to dispose of by burning. We had a prepared reading to recite during the flag retirement ceremony, (proper burning). When I left the scouting program our troop was making a trip to Cheyenne,WY to present a proper ceremony to the State Legislature for "retiring" the Wyoming State Flag with dignity.
  5. nobody666

    nobody666 New Member

    USMC Sargent
    Your Military training is correct the field of Valor IS to be separated from the stripes thus a razor in the Trunk of the Flag Pole. As a Boy Scout Commissioner, and Disabled Veteran (Army) Many have died for that flag and I will not disrespect them. PS. the US Army has a Field Training Manual on flag use and disposal. Taps is to be played publicly or privately.

    Interesting fact: Government Buildings are always numbered... on any government post Building #1 is the Flag pole itself.
  6. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Interesting fact: Government Buildings are always numbered... on any government post Building #1 is the Flag pole itself.

    This is certainly *not* true at the Washington Navy Yard, which I frequently visit. WNY Building 1 is the original Commandant's Office, which has recently been beautifully restored. There is more information on the WNY web site here: Washington Navy Yard: Building 1

    Peter Ansoff
  7. pvtires

    pvtires New Member

    Hey everybody, I am a Army Junior ROTC Cadet. I am a senior also, my senior project is going around my town and approaching local businesses in a professional manner and offering to retire their flags out front and buy them a new one and put it up. All of this done within Army regulation of course. Would anybody link me or show me a sight where I can find the Army regulation on flag retirement so I can discuss how I will get my 20 hours of community service in my letter of intent that gets reviewed and either pass/or failed by my school board. Would be very much appreciated!
  8. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hello, pvtries -- welcome to the forum!

    The relevant Army Regulation is AR840-10. Section 2-12 of this Reg deals with disposition of US and other flags. US flags are dealt with in paragraph c of this section, which states that if the flag has no historic value, "it should be destroyed privately, preferably by burning, shredding or some other method that does not show irreverence or disrespect to the flag." That is basically it -- there is no prescribed ceremony, and, in fact, the Reg says that the disposal shall be done in private. Interestingly, the original 1923 version of the civilian Flag Code said substantially the same thing, although the "in private" reference was dropped in later versions.

    The other branches of the Armed Forces have similar regulations. For example, the Marine Corps Flag Manual, MCO P10520.3B, says: "Flags determined not to have historical value will be destroyed by the parent organization, privately by burning, with no suggestion of irreverence to its military or national significance, unless its retention as a display memento is desired by the organization."

    I hope that this gives you something to work with on your project. Again, welcome aboard!

    Peter Ansoff
  9. Mike actkinson

    Mike actkinson New Member

    I have a flag from from my uncle's casket, he was killed on June 8, 1944, in Normandy. He is buried in Normandy. My mom was presented her brother's flag and kept it in a trunk in her attic for many many years. My mom passed away and I inherited the flag. As a kid, we would take it out and look at it, we thought it was cool with 48 stars. I didn't know what to do with the flag so I contacted a boy scout troop and they agreed to perform a flag burning ceremony on their next campout. I got to looking at the flag and noticed that one side has all white stars and the other side has all gold stars. This was interesting so I researched the reason behind the different colored stars and stumbled onto this flag forum. One post said they had this exact same flag and someone else said it was a very rare flag. If the flag is rare, I really don't want it burned. Anyone have an idea the rareness of this flag? I am not selling, I think my uncle would look down from heaven with scorn if I made money from his sacrifice. If it is rare, maybe a museum would be interested.
    Any insight on this matter would be appreciated.
  10. NAVA1974

    NAVA1974 Active Member

    Hello Mike,
    Do NOT have your Uncle's 48-star flag burned. The American Flag should only be disposed of in this way when it is unfit for display. Having fewer than 50 stars is NOT a reason for disposal. That flag should be passed down to family members to honor the memory of your uncle. As far as the different colors of stars on the obverse and reverse, I am a strong proponent of the idea that it is just discoloration of the stars on one side. Why one side and not both? Your uncle's flag actually has 96 stars. 48 stars on one side were initially cut into a 5-pointed star shape from a piece of cotton that had been treated with a chemical to make them slightly stiffer, as if starched. They were then lightly glued onto the front of the blue canton in the standard 6x8 pattern. Then un-starched white muslin was placed on the back side of the canton where the stars were to go. The stars were then sewn on both sides at the same time, and the non-star area was cut away from the reverse, leaving 48 stars on the back. As the stars on the back were not chemically treated they did not discolor like the starched stars on the front were.

    If no one in your family wants the flag I am sure you could find a flag collector who would appreciate it. Most museums shy away from flags as they take up space to store, and take up a LOT of space on display, so unless the flag was related to a person or event that was very important to the museum, they are not likely to need it. I belong to the North American Vexillological Association and we accept donations of flags that we do auction to members, but the auction proceeds go towards the restoration of historic flags, like Civil War Battle Flags, and other historic relics.

    Nick A
    Columbia Maryland
  11. Mike actkinson

    Mike actkinson New Member

    Thanks for the quick response.
    I have changed my mind about having the flag ceremoniously burned. I've always liked it, the 48 stars and its large size are interesting to me.
    I've read about the different color of the stars and the theories about treated and untreated stars. The gold stars on the back seem to be a stiff backing for the white stars on the front, which led me to think that this flag was made to be displayed only on a casket and not to be flown from a mast. I have not heard that theory yet. There are no manufacturer markings anywhere on the flag.
    Thanks for your suggestions. I think I will hold on to the flag.
    Until a few days ago, I never knew the word vexillology.

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