Here's Why The American Flag is Backwards on Military Uniforms

Here's Why The American Flag is Backwards on Military Uniforms

Posted by Hayley Adams on Jan 19th 2023

If you look closely, you may notice that the American flag appears to be “backward” on military uniforms, but that’s not technically the case. At first glance, this can be confusing for civilians who are used to viewing the American flag with the blue star field, or canton, in the top left corner rather than the top right. However, there is an important reason why the American flag has a reversed appearance on military uniforms.

Understanding the Reversed Flag

The flag is typically worn on the right shoulder of a military uniform, with the stars facing toward the front of the person wearing the uniform. One reason for this is because, when the flag is displayed this way, it appears to be "flying" as the troops march forward. To help visualize this, think of an American flag flying in the wind on a flagpole. The canton is always facing towards the front, with the stripes “flowing” behind.

So when the U.S. flag is displayed on any object that is moving, including a person in uniform, the field of blue must be displayed towards the front of the object to indicate the flag is always flying.

Additionally, American paratroopers wore “backward” flag patches on their uniforms to serve as a way to distinguish them from enemy troops. This was helpful since paratroopers often landed behind enemy lines and the flag patch allowed fellow service members to recognize them.

The History of the Reversed Flag

The history of the backward flag can be traced back to the Civil War. Even during these times, units had flag bearers who would carry the flag into battle. As they bravely marched forward, you could see the American Flag flying in the wind. This was a military symbol representing the courage and dedication of those who served and fought.

However, it wasn’t until 2003 that the military began slowly integrating the backward American flag military patch into the uniforms of all branches.

The Flag Code

It is worth noting that the rules for displaying the American flag are set forth by the U.S. Flag Code. and according to the Code, the American flag should be displayed with the union (the blue field with the stars) at the top left corner when it is displayed on a flagpole or in a similar manner. The flag code does allow for American flag patches on uniforms as part of the military, police, fire fighters, and other organizations of a patriotic nature.

The takeaway here should be that the American flag is a symbol of national pride and unity, and it is treated with great respect and reverence by the U.S. military and the American people. Whether it is displayed with the stars facing towards the front or towards the back, the flag is always displayed with the same level of respect and dignity.