Seven Historical Military Flags
You have likely seen many of these flags. You might know that they pay homage to the military but you might not be aware of the history behind them.
When you see historical flags for sale, you are not just buying a piece of cloth. It's part of a legacy that was built on sacrifice.
1. Flag of the USMC
In 1775, the Continental Congress passed a resolution to create two battalions of 'marines'.
A few months later, a force of over 200 marines and sailors led by Captain Samuel Nicholas launched an amphibious assault on the British Port at Nassau. Thus began the story of the famed and feared USMC.
From the Halls of Montezuma...
It is easily one of the most recognizable military flags. However, it has undergone several changes over the years.
Captain Samuel's marines were believed to have carried the Grand Union Flag into the battle that day.
The current flag features a white and gold emblem on a scarlet backdrop. It was adopted as the official flag in 1939.
2. The Gadsden Flag
You have likely seen the Gadsden Flag at military parades, rallies, and other events. Despite its importance among historical American flags, many people don't know the whole story behind it.
You might even recognize it simply as the yellow flag with the 'don't tread on me snake' on it. It's a battle cry for unity and courage in the face of tyranny.
Let's take a closer look at the story behind one of the most historic patriotic flags.
Join, or Die.
The timber rattlesnake is a venomous pit viper that can be found throughout much of New England. He drew one that cut into eight pieces, representing New England and seven other colonies. Underneath the image was the phrase, "Join, or Die."
Published in the Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9th, 1754, it is credited as being the first political cartoon to appear in an American newspaper.
Variations of the flag were carried into numerous Revolutionary War troops. This includes Commodore Esek Hopkin's naval forces and the Fusiliers of Providence.
3. The Whiskey Rebellion Flag
Americans have a long history of defying an abusive authority, In 1790, Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, believed the US government needed a solution to their growing debt.
Their solution was to create an excise tax on domestically distilled spirits. This was the first time the US government taxed a domestic product.
Not surprisingly, this angered many citizens of the young nation. They considered it a form of tyrannical abuse.
Give Me Whiskey...
In 1794, the feds began to issue warrants for distillers who refused to pay this new tax. On July 16 of that year, a force of over 600 rebels led by Revolution War veteran, James Mcfarland amassed at Bower Hill.
Many of them bore what became to be known as the Whiskey Rebellion flag. It boasts an eagle with a red and white banner over a navy blue backdrop.
Macfarland was slain in the battle and many rebels were arrested. Two men were sentenced to hanging, although they were eventually pardoned.
4. POW/MIA Flag
The National League of Families POW/MIA flag (or simple POW flag) is one of the most meaningful of them all.
The year was 1971 and America had been at war with Vietnam for several years. By this point, tens of thousands of American soldiers had lost their lives.
Over 2,000 soldiers were taken prisoner by the Vietnamese military or had gone missing altogether.
Gone But Not Forgotten
In 1972, the design for the POW/MIA flag was created. It features the silhouette of a captured soldier surrounding by barbed wire with a watchtower in the back.
Underneath the logo are the words "You Are Not Forgotten".
Our bravest men and women answer the call of the duty in a heartbeat. Sadly, many of them never come home. This nobles organization is dedicated to helping the military family finds closure.
5. The U.S. Navy Seabees
You can have the bravest and most skilled soldiers, but any major military operation is doomed to fail without the proper infrastructure. Sometimes, much of the planning goes out of the window once the shots begin.
It's easy for armies in foreign territories to get stuck, cutoff, or both. This is where the US Naval Construction Battalion comes in.
The Construction Battalion (affectionately called Seebees) are mostly known for their heroic services in the Pacific Theater of World War II. As the US Marines took part in brutal warfare with Imperial Japanese troops, they often found themselves facing unexpected problems.
The Pacific Islands feature landscapes unlike any they had seen before. This made any operation extremely difficult. Not to mention, the Japanese troops were well dug in and often fought down to the last man.
The Seabees were the original problem solvers but they also fought when necessary. Their heroics at the Battle of Wake Island are well documented. Their logo features a busy worker bee toting a Tommy gun, a hammer, and a wrench.
6. Come and Take It
If there is one thing that Americans don't appreciate, it is being told what to do. There have been many occasions when Americans relied on bravery to face a more powerful opponent.
In the American Revolution, Colonel McIntosh responded to British demands to surrender Fort Morris with the message "COME AND TAKE IT".
Several years later during the Texas Revolution, Texans received a small bronze cannon to use to defend the town of Gonzales. After the Mexican military tried to capture the cannon and failed. In defiance, the town's defenders hoisted a flag that features a cannon, the Lone Star, and the phrase COME AND TAKE IT.
7. The Betsy Ross Flag
Known as one of the first official flags of the United States, the flag designed by Betsy Ross features 13 stripes and 13 stars arranged in a circle. Each one represents one of the original colonies.
The flag looks quaint and rustic. But remember, it was once known as the 'Rebellious Stripes' and was carried into battle by the original American Freedom Fighters.
It is the precursor of the flag we know and love today.
A Flag is Worth 10,000 Words
At a quick glance, a flag is little more than a piece of fabric with a design. However, once you know the story behind the flags, it makes you appreciate their importance.
Historical military flags remain to tell us about the times when we decided that individual liberty and justice was worth fighting for. Countless men and women have given their lives in strange lands to ensure we could enjoy cookout and fireworks.
Visit our blog for more articles about American military traditions and history.