Thursday, January 20, 2011

The U. S. President’s Flag

Over the years, the President of the United States has used many different flags. Sometimes there were two versions of the presidential flags displayed during the same period, one for the Army, one for the Navy. The basic design of each incorporated the President's seal that itself was based on the Great Seal of the United States ( In 1916 President Woodrow Wilson adopted one Presidential flag for use by both the Army and the Navy. On the center of a blue field the flag displayed the President's seal then in use. It differed from the Great Seal in several ways. The constellation of stars of the crest, rather that being shown in a burst of glory, are displayed on rays of glory streaming out from behind the eagle. The bald eagle from the President's seal was depicted with white or silvery feathers, and the bird faced to its own left and the arrows held in the left talons. The bald eagle on the Great Seal has golden brown feathers and faces to its own right and the olive branches of peace. Perhaps Wilson intended this to represent the President's war powers as Commander-in-chief. The President's military position was symbolized on the 1916 flag by four stars, one in each corner. The flags of the top Generals and Admirals at the time also displayed four stars denoting their military rank. Then during World War II, American Four Star Generals appeared to be outranked by European Field Marshalls that existed in allied armies. The rank of Field Marshall did not fit with American military tradition, so Congress created a new rank, General of the Armies and Admiral of the Navy to rank equally with the Field Marshalls. The new rank insignia consisted of five stars. The flags displayed by newly minted Generals of the Army also showed five stars, one more star that included on the Presidential flag. Franklin Roosevelt did not want it to appear as if his top Generals and Admirals out ranked their Commander-in-chief. So, he instructed that a new design, with more stars, be prepared for the President. The new design was not ready until after Roosevelt's death, and so President Harry S. Truman issued a Presidential Proclamation authorizing the new flag. The four stars, one in each corner, were dropped and replaced by a ring of forty-eight stars, one star for each state. With the admission of Alaska and Hawaii the the number of stars in the ring increased to fifty. Does this mean the President is a fifty star General? No, but he is the Commander-in-chief of our National Union of fifty states. But now, the bald eagle is golden brown and faces to the right talons and the olive branch. It is this Presidential flag we see in the Oval Office when the President Obama addresses the nation. It has grown to represent not only the President's miliary authority, but also his role as the leader of the nation.

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