Why Would The American Flag Be At Half Mast Today

Why Would The American Flag Be At Half Mast Today

Why Would The American Flag Be At Half Mast Today

The Meaning Behind the American Flag at Half-Mast

The American flag, a symbol of unity, pride, and freedom, is often displayed at half-mast as a sign of respect and mourning. This practice, observed on specific occasions and in honor of certain individuals, holds significant historical and cultural importance.

History of Half-Masted Flags

The tradition of lowering flags to half-mast originated in the maritime world. In the 17th century, ships would lower their sails as a sign of mourning when a captain or other high-ranking officer died. This practice eventually spread to land, where flags were lowered to honor fallen soldiers and other notable figures.

In the United States, the first official proclamation regarding half-masted flags was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861, during the Civil War. He ordered that flags be flown at half-mast on all public buildings to honor the Union soldiers who had fallen at the Battle of Fort Sumter.

Official Protocol for Half-Masting the Flag

The United States Flag Code provides specific guidelines for the proper display of the flag at half-mast. According to the code:

  1. Lower the flag to half-mast by first raising it to the top of the pole, then lowering it to the middle of the pole.
  2. Keep the flag at half-mast for the duration of the mourning period, which typically lasts from sunrise to sunset.
  3. Raise the flag to full-mast immediately after the mourning period has ended.

Reasons for Lowering the Flag to Half-Mast

The Flag Code specifies several instances when the American flag should be flown at half-mast. These include:

  • Death of a current or former U.S. President or Vice President
  • Death of a member of Congress
  • Death of a Supreme Court Justice
  • Death of a head of state or government of a foreign country that is a friend of the United States
  • National days of mourning (e.g., Memorial Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day)
  • Tragic events that result in a significant loss of life (e.g., mass shootings, natural disasters)

Exceptions to Half-Masted Flag Protocol

There are a few exceptions to the general rule of lowering the flag to half-mast. These include:

  • At military funerals where the flag is draped over the casket or urn.
  • On the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7th) when the flag is raised to full-mast at sunset.
  • If the flag is flying on a flagpole that is too short to allow for half-masted display, it is instead draped in black crepe.

Cultural Significance of Half-Masted Flags

Lowering the flag to half-mast serves multiple purposes:

  • Honor and Respect: It is a way to pay tribute to those who have died in service to the country or in tragic events.
  • Mourning and Solidarity: It provides a physical manifestation of grief and collective sorrow.
  • Awareness and Remembrance: It helps raise awareness about important events and individuals, ensuring that their memory is not forgotten.


1. How long should the flag be kept at half-mast?

Typically, the flag should be kept at half-mast from sunrise to sunset on the day of mourning.

2. What should I do if the flag is already at half-mast and I receive an order to lower it further?

Do not lower the flag below half-mast.

3. Can I fly the flag at half-mast to honor someone who is not mentioned in the Flag Code?

Yes, you can fly the flag at half-mast to honor individuals or events that are not specifically covered in the Flag Code. However, it is important to be respectful of the flag and to use discretion when making such decisions.

4. What happens if I accidentally raise the flag to full-mast too early?

If you notice that you have raised the flag to full-mast before the mourning period has ended, lower it back to half-mast immediately.

5. Can I fly a damaged flag at half-mast?

No, the flag should always be in good condition when flown at half-mast. If the flag is damaged, it should not be flown at all.


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