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"Do's" For Displaying The U.S. Flag

Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'

"DO'S" FOR DISPLAYING THE U.S. FLAG

The basic Air Force guidance on flag etiquette is in AFR 900-3. According to Title 36, United States Code, Chapter 10, the following laws and regulations pertain to our National flag.

Hoist the flag briskly and lower it ceremoniously.

It is universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness. Each Air Force installation is limited to one illuminated flag staff.

The flag should be displayed on all days, especially on:
  • New Year's Day, January 1;
  • Inauguration Day, January 20;
  • Lincoln's Birthday, February 12;
  • Washington's Birthday, third Monday in February;
  • Easter Sunday (variable);
  • Mother's Day, second Sunday in May;
  • Armed Forces Day, third Saturday in May;
  • Memorial Day (half-staff until noon), the last Monday in May;
  • Flag Day, June 14;
  • Independence Day, July 4;
  • Labor Day, first Monday in September,
  • Constitution Day, September 17;
  • Columbus Day, second Monday in October;
  • Veterans Day, November 11;
  • Thanksgiving Day, fourth Thursday in November;
  • Christmas Day, December 25;
and such other days as may be proclaimed by the President of the United States; the birthdays of States (date of admission); and on State holidays.

The flag of the United States of America, when it is displayed with another flag against a wall from crossed staffs, should be on the right (the flag's own right) and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.

When flags of States, cities, or localities, or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States, the U.S. flag should always be at the peak. When the flags are flown from adjacent staffs, the flag of the United States should be hoisted first and lowered last. No flag or pennant may be placed above the flag of the United States or to the United States flag's right (Exception: On a US naval vessel at sea or underway, the church pennant will be flown from the jackstaff or halyard above the United States flag on Sunday during the period of divine services.)

When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right (the observer's left). When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. Here's a simple rule of thumb for keeping it straight: We always speak of the flag as the Stars and Stripes, never the stripes and stars. Therefore, when we look at the flag it should read, "Stars and Stripes," that is, the stars (in the blue field) should come first.

When the flag is displayed over the middle of the street, it should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street.

When used on a speaker's platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman's or speaker's right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience.

When the flag is suspended across a corridor or lobby in a building with only one main entrance, it should be suspended vertically with the union of the flag to the observer's left upon entering. If the building has more than one main entrance, the flag should be suspended vertically near the center of the corridor or lobby with the union to the north, when entrances are to the east and west, or to the east when entrances are to the north and south. If there are entrances in more than two directions, the union should be to the east.

By convention, the United States flag (and all other flags) are draped on the staff from upper left to lower right (from the observer's point of view).

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

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all people present except those in uniform should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Those present in uniform should render the military salute. When not in uniform, men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Aliens should stand at attention.

When the national anthem is played and the flag is displayed outdoors, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Personnel in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there. The same respect is shown to the national anthem of any friendly country when played upon official occasions.

When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.

When the flag of the United States is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at an angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff. When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope extending from a house to a pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.

When the flag is displayed in a manner other than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out. When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, that is, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. When festoons, rosettes or draping are desired, bunting of blue, white and red should be used, but never the flag.

When carried in a procession with another flag or flags, the U.S. should be either on the marching right; that is, the flag's own right, or, if there is a fine of other flags, in front of the center of that line. Crepe streamers may be affixed to spear heads of the flag-staff in a parade only by order of the President of the United States.

When painted or displayed on an aircraft or vehicle, the union is toward the front and the stripes trail.

The United States flag is carried on all occasions of ceremony in which two or more squadrons participate representing a wing, air division, numbered air force, MAJCOM or the Department of the Air Force. On these occasions, the flag is carried by a color guard. The position in line from right to left is the United States flag, Air Force flag, and individual flag or flags, if appropriate.


The "Mt. Rushmore flag" is 45' x 90'. It is hung on a 1 1/2 ton bar, hoisted by a crane, and held by 100 ton test ropes. It was first flown at Mt. Rushmore on July 2, 1989.
National Flag Foundation



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