When to Lower the American Flag to Half Mast

I have noticed that since former president Gerald Ford passed away, flags have been at half staff. It has been about 3 weeks so it got me wondering how long they need to stay at half staff. Also, how do people who have flags know when to lower them, how much to lower them and how long to keep them lowered?

I found that there are 4 instances in which the flag is to be lowered to half staff. These include: Memorial Day, Peace Officers Memorial Day, at the direction of the President of the United States, at the direction of the state government. There is one exception to that. If Peace Officers Memorial Day falls on the third Saturday of May it then falls on the same day as Armed Forces Day. In that instance, the flag should be flown at the peak instead of half staff.

So what is the time frame that the flag should be flown at half staff for each occasion? For Memorial Day and Peace Officers Memorial Day a single day at half staff is called for. With the death of any member of congress the flag should be at half staff for the day of and day after the death. For an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the Secretary of an Executive or Military Department, a former Vice President, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession of the United States the appropriate time for half staff flag is from the day of the death to the day of the internment.

As you get higher up in office rank the half staff period gets longer. For the sitting Vice President, any sitting or former Supreme Court Justice or the speaker of the house of representatives the appropriate half staff time frame is 10 days from the death. The President or former President gets 30 days from the death. That would explain why I am still seeing flags at half staff.

There are occasions when the President of the United States will instruct the American people to hold the flag at half staff. This can be for situations such as September 11, 2001 or the death of any well respected person from this country or out of respect for a leader of another country. A good way to find these updates out is to go to the official website for the White House. www.whitehouse.gov.

I have also found out some information about the way in which you are supposed to raise and lower a flag to half staff. You always briskly raise the flag all the way to the peak of the pole and then slowly lower to half staff. At noon time you are supposed to again raise the flag all the way to the peak of the pole and then slowly lower down to half staff. Then at the end of the day you are supposed to once again raise the flag to the top of the pole and then slowly lower but this time all the way to the bottom.

I never really realized how much thought went into having a flag. I think it is really interesting. It makes me appreciate that much more all of the people that take the time and effort to wave our nations flag.

11 thoughts on “When to Lower the American Flag to Half Mast

  1. Aaron Nimocks

    I am in the US Navy and everytime we need to have the flag at half mast there is a message sent out saying when, why, and how long. Never thought all of that went into it though.

    Reply
  2. Ken Savage Post author

    Hey Aaron, I subscribe to your blog. Glad to see ya here.

    Yea there should be a place to officially be notified of when to raise and lower the American flag. I’ll keep looking and keep me posted if you see anything online.

    thx

    Reply
  3. Matt Keegan

    I seem to recall that flags stay at half mast for thirty days following a president’s proclaimation that they be lowered in the first place. I am not sute when President Bush made that order, but it probably happened within one day of President Ford’s death on December 26th.

    Reply
  4. Brad

    You should keep the flag down until you stop invading countries for their resources and stop torturing people. You know… as a mark of respect to the death of the principles your country was founded on.

    cheers,
    The World

    Reply
    1. Jake

      Brad — stop trolling your “I hate America” trash. Get off your egotistical pseudo-intellectual soapbox! The principals upon which this country was founded on? You mean freedom from a tyrannical dictator? Hmm… seems like you need a history lesson. Invading countries for their resources? You mean like the Mexican-American War in 1846? What about the invasions into Canada in the War of 1812? Sounds like you *really* need to learn your history. If you are so concerned about American imperialism, DO SOMETHING! Sitting behind a computer screen posting a comment on a blog does nothing to counter the supposed evil of America. In fact, you are only adding to the evil, since you see America as evil and you do nothing but sit and talk.

      Reply
  5. Evelynn Spivey

    I work at an elementary school. In the evening the janitor lowers (yanks down the flag, either throws it on the ground (even in the rain) and/or over his shoulder. It is very disrespectful. There will never be more than one individual to lower/raise the flag. What is the proper way to raise and lower our nation’s flag when there is only one person available? This seems to be an ongoing problem within this type of situation. I’m so disgusted.

    Reply
  6. Jerry

    I have measured my flag pole and trying to determine once I find out the half way point, do I place the top or bottom of the half way point

    Reply
  7. Jerry

    have measured my flag pole and trying to determine once I find out the half way point, do I place the top or bottom of the half way point when placing the flag at half mast.

    Reply
  8. Ed

    The Flag is simply lowered enough so that an “invisible Flag of Death” can be flown above the existing flag. It does not have to be “Half-way-down-the-flagpole” or “half-staff”. That is a generic term used to denote the width of a flag that would ordinarily be flown a shor mast/staff onboard a Naval vessel
    The flag can be properly lowered to a height equal to the width of the existing flag.

    Reply
  9. cgoofies

    I have seen the flags on base flying high when it was a civilian half mast day. I am not sure who gives the order over the military, but I would rather it be flying high than half. Besides, when it is, I have no idea why and I have been searching online for 7/26/2011.

    Reply

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