Military flags in the United States have a long and colorful history, and perform services well
beyond symbolism. Each branch of the military – Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps,
and Navy – all have distinct, individual flags, as well as a large assortment of identification
streamers and guidons. Beyond that are in-service banners and flags, as well as a special
POW/MIA flag and distinct Merchant Marine and Civilian Service flags.
Military flags are important parts of many ceremonies as well as somber events such as funerals.
Color guards often have joint displays of military flags, and there is a formal precedence of
placement. The national colors are first, followed by the flags of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy,
Air Force, and Coast Guard. The exception is any period when the Coast Guard is operating as
part of the Navy, then the Coast Guard flag precedes the Air Force flag.
The highest ranking officers in all parts of the military have personal flags denoting their rank,
thus the terms “flag officers” or “flag rank” for generals and admirals.
Through the centuries, there have also been battle flags and naval ensigns and battle ensigns.
Surprisingly, the official military flags in use today are the products of final designs in pre- and
post-World War II