why is one US flag patch backwards on mil uniforms?

The flag is to be displayed vertically or horizontally with the stars in the upper left corner. So, on military uniforms, why is there a “backwards” US flag on the shoulder?

I think this has actually been answered here. Anyway, the answer is that the flags are both to appear to be waving to the back as the soldier moves forward. The right shoulder patch then has to have the blue star field on the right, so that it can “flap” to the rear.

If the soldier were carrying a flag, the flag would appear “backwards” when viewed from the soldier’s right. Thus, the right side patch is backwards. It’s the same reason that the flag is painted backwards on the right side of airplanes and other vehicles.

As stated above, if you were holding a flag and advancing that is how it would appear. Displaying it on the uniform that way shows that we do not run away.
I see the flag on uniforms so much that it is now the “right way” to me. The “normal” way looks odd now.


This question has indeed come up before:
Backward flags on US soldiers?
Military Insignia
Backwards flags on troops shoulders-why?
Ranger backward flag patches
Backwards flag on US uniforms
American flag patches on soldiers’ uniforms
American flag direction on military uniforms
Back to front US flags on US soldiers jackets
Flag Patch on Uniforms

And just for good measure:
Why is the American Flag Backwards on Plane Tails?

For what it’s worth, on the Boy Scouts of America uniform, the flag is also on the right shoulder (the place of honor), but the flag has the blue field on the left.

I guess Boy Scouts don’t charge into battle. :slight_smile:

Since the OP has been answered, hopefully no-one will mind if I engage in a mild thread diversion (Does it count as a hijack if the topics are vaguely related? :smiley: )?

In a lot of movies and TV shows (notably Fargo ) you see police officers in some US States (primarily northern ones, bordering Canada, from what I’ve seen)with US flag patches on their shoulders.

What if someone with Dual Citizenship was a police officer in that State? Would they have to wear a US Flag on each shoulder, or could they have a US one and one from whatever country they were from as well?

I’ve always wondered that, but never found anyone who might be able to give me an answer… :cool:

Of course, some of us got around the problem by having a flag that is horizontally-symmetric. :slight_smile:

This is a WAG, but I doubt dual citizenship would have anything to do with it. Since the uniform is dictated by the state in which they are employed–which is part of the United States–I see no reason for there to be any flag of any nation other than the US on the uniform. Maybe the jurisdiction would allow the wearing of a pin representing the other nation as a personal choice by the employee. But the state-sanctioned uniform would only carry US flags.

Do you have a cite for this?
If you’re correct, it is contrary to the U.S. Flag Code: http://www.bcpl.net/~etowner/flagcode.html
which states that the blue field shall always be to the right of the flag and to the left of the viewer.

Right, but as has been said before in this thread, the right-side shoulder patch is viewed from the “back” of the flag. The “front” of the flag being visible on his left shoulder.


The US flag code applies to flags. The patchs on soldiers’ uniforms are not flags.

(pssst. You’re saying the same thing. “Upper left corner” from the perspective of the viewer is, indeed, “to the left of the viewer.”)

That sounds strangely like a Bushism! Since the U.S. Flag Code addresses other representations of the flag, such as bunting, it seems to me that the patches qualify as U.S. Flags and must comply w/ the code.

The Boy Scouts tell each other, “May the wind always be at your back,” which works well with the stream of silly fart jokes that dominate Boy Scout conversations. :wink:

From your link:

If those patches were actual flags, soldiers would have difficulty following other parts of the code, like not displaying the flag at night, not displaying it during bad weather, or not touching it to the ground.

And of course, the biggie violation of the Flag Code that US Military personal tend to perform on a regular basis is displaying the flag in colors other than Red, White, and Blue (instead using shades of green, tan, and grey, depending on which patches you aquire). Then again, the Flag Code isn’t a law that they have any kind of punishments for, and in the case of people who regularly get into firefights, the color thing is easily overlooked.

I just had a phone conversation with Chouinard Fan, and he confirmed that even in the U.S. Army, the reality is that regulations get enforced when someone who cares enough complains enough to someone who cares enough with authority enough to cause trouble.

He’s currently in “traditional” cavalry hats and even spurs (yes, real spurs, gold in his case, after being in “combat”). This is from an “order” from his CO. The reality is, though, that people whose direct evaluation do not come from this particular officer (his does) are ignoring the technically non-standard order. The CO wants this look, but it’s technically outside the text of the army regs, and discipline is uneforcable for those lower ranks who choose to ignore it. Apparently, almost everyone in this infantry brigade (or whatever it is) is ignoring this order, because the colonel ordering it can’t bring them up on court-martial charges for not wearing non-standard uniforms. But CF gets his eval from this guy, and has chosen to play along so as not to incur the wrath of said CO. This, from a guy who really in his heart wants to play in Green Day.

The point being that some units do things their way: in particular, he says, the Special Forces (Green Berets) and the Rangers. They have their own corner of the army, and they don’t care much for answering questions about which way their patches face, or if their laces are the right color, etc. It builds an elitist attitude for them to dress differently, and their commanders are fine with that. It gets overlooked.

A few years back, my home guard unit was part of a region with this heraldic symbol: Mailed fist with sword Notice anything slightly odd ? Obviously, when using this symbol, you’ll want the sword facing forward (presumably towards the enemy). Here’s the problem: If you put a right hand holding a sword on the left shoulder of a uniform, the thumb and fingers are visible. No problem, that actually looks good - dynamic, sort of. Now use the same symbol on the right shoulder or the right side of a vehicle: Either show the back of the fist and leave the fingers visible - which looks completely different - or use the shown version of the shield, which - regrettably - shows a left fist defiantly wielding a sword.

That just shows that you guys are such badasses, that you charge into battle with TWO swords at once! :smiley: