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The Flag of the United States Army: What it Symbolizes

Before 1956, the United States Army was the only branch of the military without an official flag to decorate it.  In 1955, the Secretary of the Army noticed that the Army was facing a problem during joint service ceremonies without a flag to celebrate, which led to the creation of the United States Army flag in 1956, approved by President Eisenhower. 

The center section of the Army flag is occupied by the Seal of the United States Army, which prior to 1947, it was known as the War Office Seal.  The Army Institute of Heraldry defines the Seal in this fashion:

                In the center is a Roman cuirass below a vertical unsheathed sword, point up, the pommel resting on the neck opening of the cuirass and a Phrygian cap supported on the sword point, all between, on the right an esponton and, on the left a musket with fixed bayonet crossed in saltire behind the cuirass and passing under the sword guard. To the right of the cuirass and esponton is a flag of unidentified designs with cords and tassels, on a flagstaff with spearhead, above a cannon barrel, the muzzle end slanting upward behind the cuirass, in front of the drum, with two drumsticks and the fly end of the flag draped over the drumhead; below, but partly in front of the cannon barrel, is a pile of three cannon balls. To the left of the cuirass and musket is a national color of the Revolutionary War period, with cords and tassels, on a flagstaff with spearhead, similarly arranged above a mortar on a carriage, the mortar facing inward and in front of the lower portion of the color and obscuring the lower part of it; below the mortar are two bomb shells placed side by side. Centered above the Phrygian cap is a rattlesnake holding in its mouth a scroll inscribed "This We'll Defend." Centered below the cuirass are the Roman numerals "MDCCLXXVIII."




In the quote above, the Army Institute describes a “Roman cuirass”, which is a chest plate traditionally made of strong metal plates strapped together, and they were used as early as the Roman era, but more so in the mid-1800s.  This is the central component of the seal, which is supposed to represent the strength and defense of the Army.  The armor was a typical dress in the early Army times.  On the neck opening of the cuirass, there is a sword and a Phrygian cap on the tip of it, with a snake and a banner that reads “This We’ll Defend”.  The Phrygian cap is a conical-shaped cap with a small droop at the top.  It is supposed to represent freedom.  The symbolic purposes of it were expressed as early as the second century (AD).  The sword represents strength, and swords were used as secondary weapons.  “This We’ll Defend” is the motto of the Army.  In the Army Institute quote, they reference weapons such as a mortar, a musket, a cannon, three cannon balls, and two bombshells (a cannonball without gunpowder).  At the time the War Office Seal was created, these weapons were basic implements, or tools, of the Army.  Muskets were primary weapons for infantrymen and remained primary from 1775 to 1833.  The flags on the Seal include a Stars and Stripes flag and a “…flag of unidentified designs with cords and tassels…”, according to the Army Institute description.  The Roman numerals “MDCCLXXVIII” (1778) represent the time in which the seal was created.



When the War Office Seal was created, it was originally used to validate official documents of the Army.  The words on the seal, “War Office”, remained until 1947 when the phrase was changed to “Department of the Army”.  Today, it is displayed on the United States Army Flag with minor adaptions and changes (such as removing the Roman numerals).




Campaign streamers were first used during the American Civil War for the Army.  The Army has streamers for each military campaign carried out.  Before the Army Flag was created, soldiers on the battlefield flew streamers from long wooden poles displaying each campaign the regiment fought.  After the adoption of the Army flag, streamers were then flown with the flag instead of poles.  According to the book American Military History, as of 2003, the flag displays 175 streamers.  More information regarding the streamers can be found here.

In conclusion, the United States Army Flag was a flag created for show during ceremonies, as the Army was the only branch of the U.S. Military that did not have a flag to present.   Our beautiful handcrafted United States Army flag is a great addition to any home, whether you support the Army or serve.  You can purchase an amazing 3D rendition here.



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