The Department of Defense has effectively banned the Confederate flag from personal use on US military installations and housing, as per a memo released on July 16 by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
As per Esper’s orders on Thursday, the use of unauthorized flags are no longer allowed on military installations, though the order was rather vague.
“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors,” Esper wrote in the memo. “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”
Flags that are approved include US military flags, state flags, flags of NATO partners and other exceptions.
“The public display or depiction of unauthorized flags in museum exhibits, state-issued license plates, grave sites, memorial markers, monuments, educational displays, historical displays, or works of art, where the nature of the display or depiction cannot reasonably be viewed as endorsement of the flag by the Department of Defense, is not prohibited,” the memo states.
Given that the Gadsden Flag -the yellow banner bearing a rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me”- is an early Continental Marines flag and has variants currently in US Navy use, it is unlikely that it was encompassed in the ban.
However, one thing remains certain, the modernized variant of the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is out.
Despite being controversial, the banner does play a part in 20th Century military history in curious ways.
In 1945, US Marines who took Shuri Castle in Okinawa ensured that the first banner raised over the fortress was the “Stars and Bars,” and was recorded in Marine veteran Eugene Sledge’s account of the Pacific War, titled With the Old Breed.
“Earlier in the morning [of May 29, 1945] ,” an excerpt reads, “Marines had attacked eastward into the rains of Shuri Castle and had raised the Confederate flag. When we learned that the flag of the Confederacy had been hoisted over the very heart and soul of Japanese resistance, all of us Southerners cheered loudly. The Yankees among us grumbled.”
Eventually, the flag was replaced with the Stars and Stripes.
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