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Military Emblems

US Army Flag
US Army Emblem

On June 14, 1775, the Second Continental Congress formed an army to preserve the “liberties of America.” Since then, the United States Army has become a technologically-advanced strategic force that has served Americans both in peacetime and in war.

The official emblem for the U. S. Army bears a Roman cuirass (armor representing strength and defense) resting below a vertical unsheathed sword, called an esponton. The sword, musket and other military implements represent the readiness of the Army to defend. An early American flag faces the Army flag, emphasizing their role in the establishment of the United States. The helmet is known as a “Phrygian Cap”, or “Cap of Liberty.”

Even the colors of the emblem represent the Army’s mission. Blue stands for loyalty and truth, red for courage, white for deeds worth remembering, and black for determination. The gold in the seal reflects the army’s core values of achievement, dignity and honor.


US Navy Flag
US Navy Emblem

The original Continental Navy was established on October 13, 1775 when Congress required two armed crafts to search for ships supplying arms to the British Army. By the end of the Revolutionary War, the Naval fleet had grown to over fifty ships, and established itself as an integral part of American defense.

Several naval emblems represented this nautical branch of service, until Executive Order 10736 was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on October 23, 1957 designating a single Navy emblem.

The design was produced by a board of heraldic experts and historians, and displays a three-masted ship with a “Luce-type” anchor, an American bald eagle, clear skies and peaceful seas. The use of sky, land and water in the design symbolizes the Navy’s ability to support operations in the air and land, as well as a well-deserved reputation for dominance at sea.


US Air Force Flag
US Air Force Emblem

On August. 1, 1907, the U. S. Army Signal Corps established a small Aeronautical Division to take "charge of all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines and all kindred subjects." The next several decades saw vast improvement in flight technology and the established need for a branch of the military dedicated to air defense and combat. The National Security Act of 1947 created the Department of the Air Force.

The U. S. Air Force emblem, newly designed in 2000, retains the distinctive wings and star which honor Air Force hero Hap Arnold and the Army Corp heritage, respectively. The wings, called “stripes of strength,” honor the men and women of the Air Force; the sharp angles emphasizing swiftness and power. The sphere and star represent the modern challenges of vigilance around the globe and into space. Three diamonds signify the core values of integrity, service and excellence. The modernized design elements blend to form an eagle, a valiant symbol of America’s greatness.


US Marine Corps Flag
US Marine Corps Emblem

Even before America was a country, the Marine Corps was formed and had a crest. The "foul anchor" (an anchor with a wrapped chain) that labeled Marines in the Revolutionary War remains part of their emblem today. Many versions of the emblem were worn until June 22, 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an Executive Order approving the official seal for the United States Marine Corps.

The globe of the Marine Corps emblem displays the Western Hemisphere, which together with the American bald eagle, symbolizes a dedication of service to the American people. On the very top of the emblem are the words that denote Marines all over the world, "Semper Fidelis", meaning “Always Faithful”.


US Coast Guard Flag
US Coast Guard Emblem

The United States Coast Guard first began maritime duties in August 1790 when Congress passed Alexander Hamilton's "Revenue Act." Known originally as the Revenue Cutter Service, the Coast Guard gradually assumed the responsibilities of four other agencies: the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, and the Lifesaving Service.

An official emblem for the organization was established in August 1799, when Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott announced that the distinguishing ensign would consist of "16 perpendicular stripes, alternate red and white, the union of the ensign to be the arms of the United States in a dark blue on a white field." The 16 stripes symbolized the number of States in the union when the emblem was adopted.

Today’s Coast Guard is a “military, multi-mission, maritime service” protecting the American public, environment and economic interests. The modern emblem bears the color red to signify the sacrifice of blood, blue for justice and white to symbolize the unending quest for purity and integrity.


The Service Flag

The white rectangle with the blue star and red border is commonly referred to as "The Service Star" or "Service Flag".

First used unofficially in World War 1 by private citizens, the flag symbolized the fact the family using it had as many of its numbers in the armed forces as there were stars in the flag. In 1918 Massachusetts had issued specifications for 10 different kinds of stars to indicate "lost in action" and other conditions. The only one that ever found much favor "died in service". In 1942 and 1968, the United States government prescribed regulations for use of similar serves or "production" flags by business and other groups whose members were in the service.

Typically, service flags were made of paper or cloth though other materials were also used.

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This page last updated: 17 October 2011

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