Flying the American Flag at Half-Mast: A Comprehensive Guide

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the proper protocol and etiquette for flying the American flag at half-mast, a practice steeped in tradition and respect. Our aim is to provide you with a wealth of information so that you can confidently and respectfully display the flag during times of mourning, remembrance, or national significance.

Understanding the Significance of Half-Mast

Flying the American flag at half-mast is a solemn and poignant gesture that signifies mourning, tribute, or respect. The lowering of the flag to half-mast is a tradition that dates back to the early 17th century and is deeply ingrained in American culture. To properly honor this practice, it is crucial to understand the occasions and reasons for which the flag is lowered.

Occasions for Flying the Flag at Half-Mast

  1. National Tragedy: The flag is lowered to half-mast to commemorate national tragedies, such as the loss of significant public figures, acts of terrorism, or natural disasters that result in substantial loss of life.
  2. Presidential Proclamation: The President of the United States has the authority to order the flag to half-mast to mark significant events or tragedies.
  3. Memorial Day: On Memorial Day, the flag is flown at half-mast until noon to honor and remember those who have died in military service.
  4. State or Local Tragedy: Governors and local authorities may order the flag to be flown at half-mast within their jurisdictions to honor local figures or events.

Proper Half-Mast Display Protocol

To ensure that your flag is displayed respectfully and in accordance with established guidelines, follow these essential steps:

1. Verify the Occasion

Before lowering the flag, confirm that there is a legitimate reason to do so. Check for official proclamations or announcements from relevant authorities.

2. Hoist the Flag to Full Mast First

Raise the flag briskly to the peak of the flagpole before lowering it to half-mast. This action symbolizes unity and resolve.

3. Half-Mast Position

The flag should be lowered to a position where it is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the flagpole. Ensure that it is not touching the ground or any other object.

4. Duration of Display

The duration for which the flag should remain at half-mast varies based on the occasion. Refer to official guidelines or proclamations for specific timeframes.

5. Lighting

The flag should be illuminated during the hours of darkness to ensure it is visible at all times.

Flag Etiquette and Considerations

1. Handling the Flag

Always handle the flag with care and respect. Do not let it touch the ground, and fold it neatly when not in use.

2. Other Flags

When displaying the American flag with other flags, it should always be in a position of prominence and flown higher than other flags.

3. Raising and Lowering

Raising and lowering the flag should be done slowly and ceremoniously. If you are unable to do so, consider seeking assistance.

4. Disposal

When a flag is no longer fit for display, it should be retired with dignity. There are specific ceremonies and guidelines for flag disposal.


In this guide, we have explored the rich traditions and protocols associated with flying the American flag at half-mast. By following these guidelines, you can demonstrate your respect and honor for significant occasions in our nation's history. Remember that displaying the flag at half-mast is a solemn act, and it should be carried out with the utmost care and reverence.

By adhering to these time-honored practices, you can ensure that your display of the American flag is not only a symbol of remembrance but also a testament to your commitment to upholding the values and traditions of our great nation.

Sep 9th 2023

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