30 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Flags
To those who fly them, flags have deep meaning and represent a vast array of things. Each flag has a story behind it, and I’m going to fill you in on some fun facts about a few of them.
Did you know…
1. According to the Flag Code, the American flag should never be used for advertisement purposes in any manner whatsoever.
Obviously this rule is often overlooked in as much as it violates the Constitution guarantee of free speech (expression)…
2. The Filipino flag is flown with the red stripe up in times of war and with the blue stripe down in times of peace.
3. The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance was published in magazines to sell American flags to public schools.
In 1892, James B. Upham had the idea of using the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas to bolster the sales of American flags to all schoolhouses. The magazine called for a national Columbian Public School Celebration to coincide with the World’s Columbian Exposition. A flag salute was to be part of the official program for the Columbus Day celebration being held in schools all over the nation. Thus, every school needed an American flag.
4. Each of the Apollo missions to the moon planted an American flag in the soil.
Buzz Aldrich planted the first flag on the moon, but it was knocked over by exhaust from the Lunar Module during takeoff. However, most experts think it is highly unlikely any of the Apollo flags could have endured the 45 years of exposure to vacuum, temperature swings that vary from around 242 F during the day to -280 F during the night, micrometeorites, radiation and ultraviolet light. Some believe the flags have all but disintegrated under such an assault from the environment.
5. American flags on airplanes and uniforms are often “backwards.”
On many planes, and on American soldiers’ uniform, the flag decal is positioned with the union (the blue area on the flag) closest to the front of the plane. On the plane’s left side, the decal is positioned as normal with the union at the left. On the plane’s right side there is a “right flag” or “reversed field flag” or “reverse flag,” with the union on the right. This is done so that the flag looks as if it is blowing in the wind that’s created by the forward movement of the plane. You can sometimes see this on cars, trucks, and military uniforms as well.
6. The first Olympic flag went missing for 77 years
After the 1920 Olympic Games, the Olympic flag went missing for 77 years. Finally, an Olympian revealed he’d had it in his suitcase the whole time. Hal Haig “Harry” Prieste (1893-2001) admitted that he took the flag as a dare at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium and took it home, only to keep it hidden it in a suitcase for decades.
7. The flag of Nepal is the only non-rectangular flag representing a country.
8. During truce talks between North and South Korea, both parties would try to bring a bigger national flag than the other to each meeting.
The battle of the biggest flags continued between North and South Korea until finally a special meeting was called to address the size of the flags, as they could no longer fit in the room.
During the flag rivalry, taller and taller poles were built until the North finally “won” with what is now known as the world’s tallest flagpole. It is 525-feet tall and the fabric for the flag alone is reported to weigh 600 pounds.
9. Lichtenstein and Haiti once had identical national flags.
Interestingly, no one realized that Lichtenstein and Haiti had identical flags until the two countries competed against each other in the 1936 Summer Olympics under the same flag.
In 1937, Liechtenstein altered its flag to include a prince’s crown to distinguish it from Haiti’s flag.
10. In 1906, Irish Olympic silver medalist Peter O’Connor climbed a 20-foot flag pole and waved the Irish flag when made to compete for Britain.
Meanwhile, Irish and Irish-American athletes fought off guards at the bottom of the pole.
11. Atomic blasts caused by the U.S. are represented on Bikini Atoll’s Flag
There is a little island called Bikini Atoll out in the Pacific Ocean which is about 2,650 miles southeast from the Hawaiian Islands. The appearance of its flag is similar to the USA flag but it has an especially unique story behind it.
The 23 white stripes on the flag represent the islands that make up Bikini Atoll. The three black stars in the upper right represent the islands that were vaporized by the March 1, 1954, 15 megaton hydrogen bomb that was fired by the USA. The two black stars in the lower right hand corner represent where the Bikinians currently live — Kili Island (425 miles to the south of Bikini Atoll) and Ejit Island of Majuro Atoll.
The Marshallese words running across the bottom of the flag, “MEN OTEMJEJ REJ ILO BEIN ANIJ” translate to “Everything is in the hands of God.” This statement represent the words spoken in 1946 by the Bikinian leader, Juda, to U.S. Commodore Ben Wyatt when the Americans went to Bikini to ask the islanders — on a Sunday after church — to give up their islands for the ‘good of all mankind.’ The U.S. intended on testing nuclear weapons on the islands.
The close resemblance of the Bikinian’s flag to the U.S. flag is to remind the people and the government of America that a great debt is still owed by U.S. to the people of Bikini.
12. Hawaii’s state flag features the Union Jack (flag of the UK) and is the only U.S. State flag to do so.
13. The Union Flag originated from the union of the crowns, not the union of the countries, so if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom, the Union Flag does not have to change.
14. When a foreign dignitary stays at the Blair House (which is essentially the White House’s guest house), their national flag is flown over the premises and the area is considered foreign soil.
15. The U.S. is the only country that does not dip its flag to the host country at the Olympics’ opening ceremonies.
When the U.S. flag-holder was asked to dip his flag for King Edward VII at the 1908 London games, he supposedly responded, “This flag dips to no earthly king.”
16. Texas is the only state where citizens also pledge allegiance to the state flag.
17. The Boy Scouts burn the most U.S. flags than anyone in the World
It turns out, the Boy Scouts are actually showing respect for the flag when they set it to flames. According to the Flag Code, burning is considered the most respected way to dispose of a worn out flag.
18. The Virginia state flag is the only U.S. state flag to feature nudity.
19. In Denmark, it is illegal to burn foreign flags but not illegal to burn the Danish flag.
20. Denmark’s flag is the oldest flag currently in use
Denmark designed its flag in 1219 and it’s remained unchanged ever since.
21. The flags of Australia and New Zealand are so similar that the Prime Minister of Australia was greeted with the flag of New Zealand on a 1984 state visit to Canada.
22. The words “Allahu Akbar” (translation: God is the greatest) are repeated 22 times on Iran’s flag.
23. At one point, the Nazi flag actually helped to save lives.
John Rabe, a member of the Nazi Party, prevented the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians at the hands of the Japanese by setting up a refugee zone under a Nazi flag.
24. The first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor earned it by protecting the flag.
In the Civil War, Sgt. William Harvey Carney refused to let the American flag touch the ground, despite being shot in the face, shoulders, arms, and legs. He later recovered from the wounds he received and earned the Medal of Honor for his vigilance.
25. The flag of Mozambique has an AK-47 on it and is the only flag in the world to display a modern weapon.
26. A Mexican city holds the title of having the largest flag flown from a flag pole.
On December 2nd, 2011, the city of Piedras Negras in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico flew a national flag measuring 34.3m x 60m (112ft 6.39in x 196ft 10.2in) — the largest flag ever to fly on a flag pole.
27. Libya’s new flag is actually retro.
Libya’s gone through many flag changes over the years, and, at one point, even had what many would consider the most boring flag in the world — a solid rectangle of green. Its newest flag is actually a throwback to the flag which originally represented the Kingdom of Libya. The Kingdom of Libya existed from 1951 to 1969 until a group of military officers led by Col. Muammar Qaddafi overthrew the government.
28. The Friesland flag in the Netherlands shows seven lily leaves.
The leaves on the Friesland flag represent the seven old Frisian sea lands as they existed from around the 8th until the 14th century:
29. The American flag’s red, white, and blue colors did not have significance when it was adopted in 1777.
Although the colors on the flag didn’t have specific meaning, those on the Great Seal did. When reporting to Congress on the Seal, Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, stated:
“The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, red, hardiness and valor, and blue, the color of the chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.”
30. It’s tradition to bury a war veteran with a flag.
War veterans are commonly buried with small flags, and if specially requested, they may be buried with his or her body wrapped in the flag.