By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
June 14th is Flag Day in America! The U.S. flag dates back to colonial times and has taken many forms over the past few centuries. Here’s a little flag history:
The flag was originally used as a rallying point for the troops of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. However, it had a different look and name – the Grand Union Flag.
The Grand Union Flag had 13 red and white stripes to represent the 13 colonies. In the left corner, it had the red cross of St. George of England, along with the white cross of St. Andrew of Scotland. It was the unofficial national flag on July 4, 1776 — Independence Day — and remained as such until June 14, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution approving the new U.S. flag.
The 13 red and white stripes remained on that one, but the crosses were removed and replaced with 13 white stars in a blue field to “represent a new constellation.” The resolution didn’t say how the stars should be arranged, though, so there were several variations — some flags had stars scattered on the blue field without any specific design, while others arranged them in rows or a circle, like the popular Betsy Ross Flag.
The flag was expanded in 1794 to include 15 stars and 15 stripes when Kentucky and Vermont entered the Union. That version, known as the Garrison flag, was official from 1795 to 1818, including during the War of 1812.
During the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814, Francis Scott Key saw the Garrison flag flying over Fort McHenry after a full day and night of bombardment by the British. He was so inspired by it and the country’s resilience that he wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Leaders eventually resolved to return to the 13 stripes to symbolize the original colonies. Stars would then be added when new states were admitted to the Union. That’s how we got to the flag we have today.
The first unofficial national Flag Day observance happened June 14, 1877, the centennial of the flag resolution.
Flag Day became so popular that it was officially established by President Woodrow Wilson on May 30, 1916; however, it wasn’t until Aug. 3, 1949, that President Harry Truman signed an act of Congress to permanently designate June 14 as National Flag Day.
The American flag has flown all over the world, from Iwo Jima and Vietnam to Grenada, Kuwait, Kabul and Baghdad.
In addition to representing our fighting spirit and the American way, the flag also represents those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. It is used to cover the caskets of the fallen as they come home from war, and it represents the oath that Americans swear to uphold the Constitution.
On this Flag Day, remember that oath and those who have died for the freedom that the U.S. flag represents. Be sure to fly your flag proudly!
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