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Why is the Flag Backwards

capitol policeI’m sure you have seen the American flag displayed backwards in many places, like on cars, airplanes, and most notably on the right shoulder of soldier’s uniform.  Why is this?  Well it all has to do with the proper display of the flag.

When displaying the flag, the blue field of stars should always be in the highest position of honor.  So if you are displaying the flag on a wall (horizontally or vertically) the blue field of stars will always be in the upper left.  When displayed on a person or vehicle the FRONT is the highest position of honor.

Army Regulation 670-1 states, “the American flag patch is to be worn, right or left shoulder, so that “the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right, and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward.”army uniform

With a quick search on the internet you are sure to find some people who accept this explanation, but you will also find a handful of people who think there is only ONE way to display our flag – star field to the upper left corner – PERIOD… any other way is unpatriotic.  What are your thoughts on this?  Let us know in the comments below!

38 thoughts on “Why is the Flag Backwards

  1. Star field to the left of stripes to the right because we English speaking Americans always read left to right

  2. If the US Flag is displayed with the blue field of stars on the left when displayed on the right side of a person / object, that would signify “retreat”, and that will never happen…Hooah!

  3. I fall under the last group. When I was in the military, there was only one way to display the flag. I don’t know how old this 670-1 regulation is, but I know I’ve only seen the flag displayed this way in the last dozen years or so. The wording that you quoted in the article even seems to contradict itself. “the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right.” As you can see in the photo, the star field is NOT to the flag’s own right. To me, this is disrespectful. I would NEVER display the flag in that manner! In my mind, that patch, or a similar sticker, was only designed for one thing… to be displayed VERTICALLY… that way, the field is on the flags own right. It’s almost like the guy who made up this regulation saw millions of these patches sitting in the warehouse, and not knowing that it was made to be displayed vertically, thought to himself, “hmmm, what can we do with all these backward patches we have? I know, I’ll just write a new regulation”. The whole concept just sounds idiotic to me… flag blowing in the wind! So, what about when the soldier is standing still in formation, or sitting down eating a meal? The whole thing is stupid logic. Display the flag the right way, or don’t display it at all. The Union (or star field) is always displayed on the side of honor, that is, on the flags own right side.

    1. The proper way for displaying the United States flag when hung on a wall or from an overhead support either horizontally or vertically is for the blue field of stars to be at the upper left position. It is more than just tradition, it is federal law in the United States Code (36 U.S.C.173-178). So if the flag is meant to be seen with the blue field at the upper left, why has the U.S. military adopted rules, Army Regulation 670-1, requiring the flag on its uniforms, specifically the right sleeve patch, to be backwards with the blue field to the right?

      The stated reasoning for this is that the flag should be displayed on uniforms as it would appear if the wearer were carrying a standard flying the flag into battle with the wind blowing it back, which would show the blue field to the right. I find this reasoning suspect, but accepting it as valid then why not place the flag patch on the left sleeve instead of the right? This way it could be displayed, in fact would be required to be displayed according to the Army’s logic and regulations, with the field of stars to the left conforming with tradition and law.

      The only U.S Army personnel in uniform I have seen in the last several years in person, on videotape, or in photographs have without exception had a flag patch on their right sleeve, and in compliance with regulation the flag was backwards. If there is some compelling reason the flag cannot be displayed on the left sleeve of uniforms, or for that matter the front, instead of the right sleeve and displayed in accordance with tradition and law I would sure like to know what it is. To my thinking there is something seriously amiss when our military requires that the only way our flag can be displayed on its uniforms is backwards.

      1. Sir I love the USA and I so much love our flag. So I’m just wanted to say this when the flag is moving forward the stars are on the right and the strip’s are behind so what they’re saying is if the flag is on a car the Starfield is on the right as if the car was moving. Same as on a soldier’s shoulder the flag Starfield on the right as if the soldiers moving forward. I think that is what they are saying.

    2. I agree. This and all the news coverage shots lately. Depictions of flags blowing left, when camera angle could easily be adjusted for proper display, or simply await opposite gust.

      1. Check the “Flag Code” which is policy passed by Congress. The Union (Star field) is always shown in the forward direction.

    3. I agree! I was a 91B Medic for 10 yrs in the Army and never seen this…This has really been bothering Me to See … I have been trying to come up with reasons like the laying over the coffin of a fallen soldier but like You it should be verticle not Horizontal as(Doesn’t make sense)…I have a sweat shirt in the process of having the flag patch changed to correct postitioning as to Me its whats right

  4. I did not know that the flag should be shown with the field of stars facing forward when worn as above. Nice to know. I am just glad folks are wearing it!!!!

  5. If one is standing north of a flagpole and the wind is blowing from east to west, then the flag is ‘properly’ displayed. If one happens to be standing south of that same flag, then in should ruffle the feathers of those who are so ‘patriotic’. Those that start needless wars.

  6. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Unpatriotic would be with star field upside down when there is no distress.

  7. I think it is logical; and coming from the military, don’t you think they would know? Now, how do I convince some of my neighbors that it is incorrect to leave the flag “flying” in the night without a light shining on it, or leaving it up in the rain?

  8. I feel this article is written in good faith, accurately referenced, and provides a positive forum for constructive debate. Based on my experience as a Veteran of the United States Army, I agree with the view of this article and I think we should have more positive discussions about Old Glory.

  9. It’s a symbolic gesture on the part of the military to always be moving forward, if it motivates them, go for it. Many years ago a drill sergeant told us that, there is a right way, a wrong way, and a military way. Life is simple.

  10. Thank you for the thought provoking article/question. It is an honor to display the flag. Period. I presume the star field would be on the left side on the other side of the vehicle.

  11. When wearing the flag on your right shoulder, it is backwards because the stars are always closest to the persons heart. When worn on the left side, the flag is in the normal position because the stars are closest to your heart.

  12. I love this country,and I love and respect our flag.I’m a veteran.I just have one wish. Could congress please start doing the work they were sent there to do.And leave our flag ALONE.

  13. I’ve always been an American Flag buff, even bought a flag book on our flag, been aScoutmaster many times so I had to teach and test the Boyscouts on the flag. We did many flag ceramonies especially at Eagle Court of Honor etc. I also enlisted in the Army in 1969 and had to learn drill and ceremonies. While I was in Vietnam I had an American Flag as well as my 101st Airborne Division Patch made to face forward on my right shoulder which was because these colors never run or retreat, the reason was that I knew that to display the flag on an Aircraft’s Right the Flags field is displayed forward as it flies in the wind. Since 9/11’s Attack and our involvement in the Coalition in the Middle East each Country was represented by their Home Country’s Flag on the right sleeve of their Uniform. The Military has a history of people that are resistant to change, and to curtail the problem created by this, the powers that be, create better written regulations or clarification of them to smooth over the arguments.

  14. I was taught as a young child that the flags stars are always to be to the left. This “new” way of displaying popped up in not all that long ago. I’ve also seen it displayed upside down with stars to the right. I noticed it immediately on soldiers uniforms and thought to myself somethings up with that. I don’t think or believe it’s as innocent as it seems. And I’m not buying the “new” reasoning being given. Something is amiss as the other person stated!

  15. I think either way you wears a flag on your shoulder represent our country it shows the flag blowing in the wind if the stars are facing the back and the flag is facing the chest it is blowing no matter which way you face the flags on your shoulder it represent the United States of America and it speaks that we are strong and it shows our flag as it blows in the Wind either direction we are strong

  16. Wind or no wind, flag is a symbol, doesn’ t seem to need weather, perceived motion, or ?? , to alibi a motive for orientation…?? Original presentation by Betsy Ross would maybe be best…
    View from an UFO (perhaps ultimate consideration…?!) might deduce that we freedom thinking earthling creatures really like to ‘talk’ alot – and others get to click ‘money’ off it…yahooorah!

  17. Now a lot of screen printed flags on shirts … when on front or back print the stars should be in upper left. Most prints I see now are backwards.. which I disagree with, to me it is disrespecting our flag.

  18. I Agree….I was a Medic in the Army for 10 yrs. And I received a in Memory of Our Brothers & Sister Sweat shirt and when I saw the flag like it was on the right I got Mad and couldn’t figure out WTH?….I am now waiting on it to be returned with the Flag the Honorable way on the left Arm….

  19. This makes complete sense. The stars facing the right when on displayed on the right of a person or vehicle signify going forward, the same as America always is.

  20. On our aircraft, in the navy, the flag was on both side and the blue field & stars always was towards the front of the aircraft, always forward into battle.

  21. The star field should ALWAYS be displayed in the upper left hand corner of the flag.
    If you hang the flag from the rafters of a stadium so that the flag is visible from both sides, then 2 flags must be sewn together, so that the star field should ALWAYS appear in the upper left hand corner of the flag, on each side of the flag.
    If you install a decal on a window so that the flag is visible from both sides, the decal must show the flag in the correct orientation on each side of the decal, so that the star field should ALWAYS appear in the upper left hand corner of the flag.
    NO EXCEPTIONS. NO DEBATE.

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