Flying the U.S. Flag at Night

One of the most asked questions we receive at Mr. Ed’s Flagpole Co. is about displaying the U.S. Flag at night—specifically if the flag needs to be illuminated.

The short answer is ‘yes’. If you’re flying the U.S. Flag at night it should be lit. Illumination is out of respect to the Flag of the United States and to be able to view the stars and stripes in the dark from a distance.

Here is some additional insight we found in researching this question.

Cornell University Law School has a web site that includes U.S. Code regarding the proper display of the U.S. Flag. Quoting from that site, here is the specific language of the code on this topic:

“It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.”

Proper illumination of your U.S. Flag should be installed and aimed near your flagpole if you intend to display the flag at night.

There is some unique historical perspective to this question. In 1970, a disabled veteran named Philip Daigneault wrote President Richard Nixon regarding a display of patriotism by flying the U.S. Flag on a 24 hour basis till the Vietnam War came to an end. His letter was forwarded to the Adjutant General of the time in the Department of the Army. Major General Kenneth G. Wickham wrote back to Mr. Daigneault and included this response in his letter:

“On behalf of President Nixon, I am replying to your letter of 27 April 1970 regarding display of the flag of the United States twenty-four hours a day…

“Those who fly the flag day and night should insure that it is made of material strong enough to withstand such wear and that it is replaced promptly when it begins to show signs of wear. While it would appear appropriate to illuminate the flag after sunset so that passerby will be aware of its display, the Code does not require that it be illuminated and its display without illumination is not considered an impropriety.”

While an interesting reply, we don’t know if the Major General’s advice is considered to be an authoritative interpretation of the U.S. Code today.

If you intend to fly the U.S. Flag on a house mount pole you may have more leeway regarding how to light your flag at night. According to the web site ‘americanflags.org’, you can utilize the encompassing light at night from other sources:

“Flags on a residential porch may require only ambient lighting, such as a porch or street light. The reasonable distance criteria still applies.”

References:
http://americanflags.org/docs/etiquette.
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode04/usc_sup_01_4_10_1.html

Posted in U.S. Flag Etiquette
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