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  #1  
Old 04-02-2003, 06:58 PM
miatachris miatachris is offline
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American flag direction on military uniforms

While watching the war on TV, I've been seeing a lot of General Brooks giving briefings out of Central Command in Qatar. I noticed that the orientation of the american flag on his uniform doesn't "seem" correct to me. I think that the flag on his uniform "should" have the union of stars toward the left, as you see the general on TV. Now, I am not going to stand here and accuse a Brigadier general of being out of uniform, but it does seem strange to me. I was watching the Braves game tonight and several players were displaying the flag on their warm-up jackets oriented the way that "seems right" to me. If the Army has a reason for everything, what is the reason for the flag orientation? Has it changed recently?
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  #2  
Old 04-02-2003, 07:05 PM
censored censored is offline
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The correct orientation in most cases is with the field of stars to the upper-left. However, on military uniforms, like General Brooks's, the flag is reversed with the field of stars to the upper right in order to give the impression that the flag is "flying in the wind."
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  #3  
Old 04-02-2003, 07:06 PM
brianmelendez brianmelendez is offline
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miatachris, this thread from earlier today will answer your question: Back to front US flags on US soldiers jackets
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  #4  
Old 04-02-2003, 07:15 PM
miatachris miatachris is offline
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Thanks, guys. If I had spent even 1/10 of the time searching GQ rather than Google I would have found it.
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  #5  
Old 04-02-2003, 09:36 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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A flag on anything which moves (planes, ships, people) is oriented so that the stripes are pointing to the rear, so as to be "blowing in the wind". Possible exception: Sailing ships might have the flag with stripes forward, but I'm not sure of this.
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  #6  
Old 04-05-2003, 01:06 AM
robby robby is online now
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Chronos, you are of course correct for any painted or embroidered flag.

For an actual physical flag flown from a vessel (which is referred to as the national ensign, in the case of a national flag), the flag is simply attached to the mast at the side of the flag with the field of stars (in the case of the U.S. national ensign), and like any other flag, the flag will be oriented at the whim of the wind. If the vessel is powered and moving rapidly, the flag will likely be blowing aft (toward the rear). In the case of sailing vessels with the wind from dead astern, the flag will likely be blowing forward.

In general, of course, there really is no "correct" orientation for flags on flagpoles or masts. Both sides are designed to be recognizable. A flag's orientation depends on the location of the observer and on which way the wind is blowing.
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  #7  
Old 04-05-2003, 09:30 AM
DreadLead DreadLead is offline
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I thought they were just too cheap to have two different flag patches made so that they would appear correct on both left & right shoulders.
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  #8  
Old 04-05-2003, 01:33 PM
robby robby is online now
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Quote:
Originally posted by DreadLead
I thought they were just too cheap to have two different flag patches made so that they would appear correct on both left & right shoulders.
If you think about it, the existing system actually does require a different patch for each shoulder. It would only be necessary to produce one patch if you always wanted the field of stars to appear in the upper left.

Not only do uniform suppliers produce full color patches in both orientations, they also produce subdued camouflage versions for use on field BDUs/utilities. I don't think the minimal cost involved enters into the equation.

There are pictures toward the bottom of this web page:
http://www.imsplus.com/ims25.html
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  #9  
Old 04-05-2003, 01:48 PM
Scruloose Scruloose is offline
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Many commercial airliners have done this for awhile. The US flags on the right side of the aircraft, will appear "backwards". Busses do it too.
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  #10  
Old 01-18-2011, 10:40 AM
jmac51 jmac51 is offline
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Why the stars lead the way

The reason that the flag on the right side appears backwards is that the stars always lead the way. If you have the stars in the rear, it is a sign of retreat.
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  #11  
Old 01-18-2011, 10:44 AM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmac51 View Post
The reason that the flag on the right side appears backwards is that the stars always lead the way. If you have the stars in the rear, it is a sign of retreat.
This thread is 8 years old, but I'll add anyway that your explanation always struck me as something made up after the fact to give it some sort of martial meaning. I'm sticking with "because it looks right".
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  #12  
Old 01-19-2011, 07:02 AM
mbh mbh is offline
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A similar convention occurs in medieval heraldry. Unless the blazon explicitly states otherwise, an animal is always depicted facing the dexter (bearer's right, viewer's left) side of the shield. So, when the shield is carried on the left arm, the animal appears to be charging toward the enemy.
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  #13  
Old 01-19-2011, 09:17 AM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chessic Sense View Post
This thread is 8 years old, but I'll add anyway that your explanation always struck me as something made up after the fact to give it some sort of martial meaning. I'm sticking with "because it looks right".
Well yeah, it is simply because it represents a flag and a flag can be viewed from both sides. If you take it that the flag is moving forward then when viewing the starboard side the flag will have the stars at the front. Other countries do the same thing and it actually annoys me that the flag that is painted on the aircraft I fly is NOT reversed on the starboard side. It seems that someone didn't know their flag etiquette when doing the decals.
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  #14  
Old 01-19-2011, 09:43 AM
Spiff Spiff is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Pearse View Post
Well yeah, it is simply because it represents a flag and a flag can be viewed from both sides. If you take it that the flag is moving forward then when viewing the starboard side the flag will have the stars at the front. Other countries do the same thing and it actually annoys me that the flag that is painted on the aircraft I fly is NOT reversed on the starboard side. It seems that someone didn't know their flag etiquette when doing the decals.
And I'm pleased that you have properly used "starboard" rather than "right side" to describe that side of an airplane (or airship).
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  #15  
Old 01-19-2011, 09:45 AM
Alessan Alessan is online now
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That's what you get for having an assymetrical flag. Work harder on that next time, guys.
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  #16  
Old 01-19-2011, 10:27 AM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spiff View Post
And I'm pleased that you have properly used "starboard" rather than "right side" to describe that side of an airplane (or airship).
Heh yeah. Using "starboard" is not something I normally do but I like to be careful about getting my thoughts across accurately in written form and "right" just seemed so ambiguous.
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  #17  
Old 01-19-2011, 11:01 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Chronos and robby are correct. Alas, some of the links have gone dead.

Air Force One; note the flag on the tail: http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/imag...._Rushmore.jpg

Continental Airlines, with the flag on both sides of the fuselage, oriented differently on each side so that it appears to be flying in the breeze: http://www.passportmagazine.com/blog...l-airlines.jpg
http://www.flightglobal.com/airspace...l-airlines.jpg

Greyhound bus: http://blog.su-spectator.com/wp-cont...yhound-Bus.jpg

U.S. Capitol police: http://images.travelpod.com/users/be...police-car.jpg

Of course it's possible to have too much of a good thing: http://www.automopedia.org/wp-conten...-policecar.jpg

Oddly enough, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts wear American flag patches on the right arm of their uniforms, but it's oriented so that the stars are to the rear:
http://www.cubpack242.com/graphics/uniforms.jpg
http://www.northernstarbsa.org/advan...cs/BSShirt.gif
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  #18  
Old 01-20-2011, 01:25 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is offline
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Spiff: The use of "starboard" and "port" in aviation is, at least in the US, an affectation or an anachronism. Left & right are the correct terms of art and have been for the 40-ish years I've been in or around the business.

I can't speak to correct usage in Australia where Richard Pearse lives & flies.
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  #19  
Old 01-20-2011, 01:30 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Certainly, the terms would be less needed in aviation, since people on an airplane generally don't move around much and are all facing the same direction. They're necessary on a ship, since on a ship, you might have to tell someone something like "go down that passageway and turn left", and it could be unclear whether "left" meant the ship's left or the person's.
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  #20  
Old 01-22-2011, 09:49 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is offline
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The issue still arises in aviation. The standard is that all references to left & right are from the airplane's point of view, ie. as seen by a person facing forward.

e.g. the left side of the aft exit tunnel is the side on the left side of the aircraft. Which would be on the user's right as they file aft through it to egress.

And yes, when dealing with blonde flight attendants one does need to doublecheck that they've done this mental rotation correctly when they describe where some problem is.
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  #21  
Old 01-22-2011, 04:12 PM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
Spiff: The use of "starboard" and "port" in aviation is, at least in the US, an affectation or an anachronism. Left & right are the correct terms of art and have been for the 40-ish years I've been in or around the business.

I can't speak to correct usage in Australia where Richard Pearse lives & flies.
Same as in the US I think. I've only heard it being used rarely and in a mock formal sort of way. Normally it's left/right.
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  #22  
Old 01-23-2011, 08:16 AM
Bookkeeper Bookkeeper is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbh View Post
A similar convention occurs in medieval heraldry. Unless the blazon explicitly states otherwise, an animal is always depicted facing the dexter (bearer's right, viewer's left) side of the shield. So, when the shield is carried on the left arm, the animal appears to be charging toward the enemy.
The "correct" standard depiction of the US and other asymmetric flags appears to be in accordance with this heraldic convention.
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