Backwards flags

Being American in T.O. points out a post that answers the “why do American soldiers wear the flag backwards” question.

I posted on this a couple of months ago, but still haven’t found out why the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, along with almost everyone else, wears “left” flags on the right shoulder of their uniforms.

UPDATE: Two seconds after posting this I googled and found the answer about the Boy Scout uniforms.

The [BSA National Uniform and Insignia] Committee determined that since the U.S. Code does NOT specifically address the direction the flag should be worn on an article of clothing, that the flag would be worn as if you are looking at that flag from afar, with the stars to the rear.

There you have it. I don’t agree with the decision, but the page also mentions that the Boy Scouts of America have no intention to change their minds.


  1. Here is your explaination: The flag is always to be represented as if it is flying freely. If the flag was on a pole(so to speak),on your right shoulder, being viewed from the right it would appear ‘backwards’. It is just being represented as if it is ‘free flying’. –Sgt D. USMC

  2. But what if the ‘free flying’ flag were posted where the wind blows the other direction? The fact of the matter is that the United States flag has the Union Jack in the upper left corner and that is how it should be presented. The Irish don’t reverse their flag — that’d be Cote d’Ivoire. The ‘backwards flag’ is a silly affectation that should be replaced with proper representation of the U.S. Flag.

  3. Think of the flag (mounted with the stripes closest the pole) being held by a standard-bearer charging on a horse. Now imagine looking at him head on. The ‘backwards’ flag always represents forward movement. never retreat…a good sensibility for a cavalry, don’t you think?

  4. The ‘backwards flag’ is no silly affectation. It is part of a well-planned and coordinated effort to subvert our national sovereignty. As pointed out, reversing the display of a nation’s flag can sometimes result in the flag becoming that of another nation. At any rate, it ceases to be a legally emblematic of the sponsoring nation. It is part of the body of the International Laws of Warfare that combatants not PROPERLY displaying the flag of their nation on their uniforms are not considered to be under the command and control of that nation. All this nonsense about a flag emblem sewn on a uniform not looking like a flag on a pole moving backwards is the most ridiculous and transparent non-reason that I can imagine to try to disguise the real intent. No rational 7-year old would buy such idiocy, but most adults will because they have had more years of government indoctrination. Because we are fighting a worldwide ‘War on Terrorism’, surrender of any and all of our rights, individual as well as national, is expected and will, almost universally, be gladly given. Martial law under a high-tech police state is just around the corner, folks. And when it arrives, it will give me no pleasure to say ‘I told you so’ to all those who, certain that ‘It can’t happen here in the land of the free’, invariably dismiss this horrific prospect. On that awful day, we will all find it much more difficult to maintain our lives, let alone our freedoms.

  5. As a bearer of the so called ‘backwards’ flag on my uniform, i would recommend all of you get a life and stop arguing how you think a flag patch should be flown on a uniform. It is in fact signified as a flag moving into battle with its bearer, blowing. Nothing more, nothing less. So you can all calm down now and take up some other rediculous fetish.

  6. Response to Nick: When I wore the uniform of the United States Air Force I never, absolutely never, saw an American flag displayed backwards on a uniform or anywhere else. The first ‘backwards flag’ I recall seeing was on the sleeves of our forces in Iraq in 2003. They were not on the uniform of those in the Gulf War of 1991 or any previous war. I recall that for a while I saw at least some uniforms with both the reverse flag on the right sleeve and the traditional flag above the left breast pocket. Now I understand that it is against regulation and subject to disciplinary action for anyone in a U.S. Armed Service to have any flag displayed other than the reverse flag. Why would the military outlaw the traditional American flag (the real one) to be worn by Americans in uniform? Would another 2 by 3 inch piece of cloth on a uniform bust the Pentagon’s half trillion dollar budget? It seems to me that if anyone is going out of their way and making excessive effort over something supposedly of no consequence, it is the military command. For reasons that to me seem utterly trivial if not indeed bizarre, they substitute a bogus reverse representation of the flag for the real one and then proceed to make the real one illegal. Think about it for a minute. We have a flag that has represented this nation for over two hundred years in war and peace, one that has acquired a great and honorable tradition as well as an exact code of display and ceremony. It has become known the world over in countless images. And I would suggest everyone who professes to love the flag and all it represents to go and look at what is surely the most famous image of all, the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. The flag is waving in the breeze and the blue field is to the left, damn it, not the right. No backwards flag! I’m not certain about the reverse flag in regard to the International Laws of Warfare discussed in a prior post, but I believe there may be something to it because I recall reading about some troops having to remove national insignia from their uniforms before they could be placed under United Nations command in a peacekeeping mission. I don’t know enough yet to be certain if the reverse flag is the product of sinister or merely uninformed motives, but I’m highly suspicious and will continue to search for the truth.

  7. I was just watching Jeff Ross’ Patriot Act comedy tour in Iraq, and his video showed pretty much EVERY soldier with a backwards flag on their right arms (when in BDUs) I might be wrong but I don’t recall seeing any normal flags. The first thing that came to mind was this. Maybe it’s harder for insurgents to get backwards flags like that so maybe commanders are like blow the S out of anything in a GI uniform and normal flag… Since that’s a problem over there nowadays. But back in 2003 when this was filmed? That was right when Uday and Qusay were killed, pretty early on. I dunno. Some soldiers out there have to know the real deal.

  8. During war time, the flag is displayed with the union (or the stars) facing the opposite direction as to simulate troops going into battle. During peace time, the flag may be returned to its correct position Cadet Edwards, Embry-Riddle Eagle Battalion US Army