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How To Properly Display Military Branch Flags

Written by
Rob Brittain
Published on
April 7, 2021 at 11:00:00 PM PDT April 7, 2021 at 11:00:00 PM PDTth, April 7, 2021 at 11:00:00 PM PDT

Just as the U.S. military forces conduct themselves in an orderly fashion, so too does a military flag display follow a strict set of rules and order. When flags from each military branch are carried in a horizontal line formation during a parade or flown from a five-flagpole display, the flags must be flown in a certain order. The proper military flag order was prescribed on October 31, 1977, by the U.S. Department of Defense Directive 1005.8. It states that from left to right, the prescribed peacetime military branch flag order is: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.


The Directive’s prescribed flag-flying order mirrors the order in which each military branch was created, with the lone exception of the Coast Guard. While the Coast Guard is technically the fourth oldest military service branch, with its origins pre-dating that of the Air Force by 157 years, the Coast Guard is excluded from this date-of-origin or “birthday” rule. This exception is due to the fact that during peacetime, the Coast Guard falls under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense. During times of war, the Coast Guard typically shifts its reporting structure from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Defense. When this transition occurs, so does the prescribed placement order of the Coast Guard flag. During wartime, the Coast Guard flag must be moved from the farthest right position to second from the right, between the Navy flag and the Air Force flag.


As a bit of related military branch trivia, below are the birthdays of each U.S. military branch:


  • Army Birthday: June 14, 1775
  • Marine Corps Birthday: November 10, 1775
  • Navy Birthday: October 13, 1775
  • Air Force Birthday: September 18, 1947
  • Coast Guard Birthday: August 4, 1790



Making Space for a New Military Flag


On December 20, 2019, the Department of Defense welcomed the Space Force as the sixth independent military branch which also added a sixth military branch flag to the U.S. military flag display. With the addition of the Space Force military branch and flag, there has been some confusion in the direction from the military about the placement of the new Space Force flag. On August 18, 2020, Air Force Instruction 34-1201 documentation stated, “2.22.6 When displayed with departmental flags of other United States military services, precedence is as follows: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Space Force.” Yet, in official Space Force event photos and at national events, such as the Super Bowl, the Space Force flag was placed between the Air Force and the Coast Guard flags in their military flag displays.


The Space Force flag is also unique in that it currently has two different flag designs. The official military Space Force flag (shown in the “Flag Flying Order” infographic below) can only be sold to customers with a website ending in .gov or .mil according to the licensed manufacturer. A different Space Force flag design is available to be sold to consumers. See the consumer design of the Space Force flag below to compare the two designs or you may click on the image to purchase the consumer Space Force flag.



Adding Other Flags into the Display Mix


When military branch flags are flown in conjunction with the American flag and/or a state flag, the prescribed peacetime flag order is, from left to right: U.S. flag, State flag, Army flag, Marine Corps flag, Navy flag, Air Force flag, Space Force flag and Coast Guard flag. During wartime, the Coast Guard flag should be moved between the Navy and Air Force flags. When the POW/MIA flag is added to the display mix, it should be flown to the right of either the U.S. flag and/or a state flag and to the left of the flags of the U.S. military branches.


As you put these military flag-flying rules of order into practice, Carrot-Top Industries welcomes the opportunity to meet your needs for any new or replacement flags. We offer a wide variety of American flags, state flags, POW/MIA flags and military branch flags that are available for order online. Please contact our Customer Care Professionals at 800-628-3524, shop online or send us your product needs either by email or through our Contact Our Team online form. We offer fast shipping on all of our in-stock American flag products.


Online Resources: United States Department of Defense Directive 1005.8, Air Force Instruction 34-1201 and United States Space Force.


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