Flag Observances for May
Note: For flags that cannot be lowered to half-staff (such as those displayed flat on a wall, on a staff in a church or office, or on a gaff from a porch), the American Legion recommends the following:
For a flag which cannot be lowered on a gaff or staff, affix to the top of the gaff or staff a black ribbon the width of one stripe and the length of the flag.
For a flag displayed flat, a black bow should be affixed to the centre of the flag.
The flag should be displayed on all days, but the US Flag Code (Title 4 Chapter 1 Section 6, Paragraph d, Times and Occasions for Display) notes it should especially be flown on the following days in May:
Loyalty Day (Federal observance – Not in Flag Code but see below): May 1
Victory in Europe Day (VE Day – Not in Flag Code but see below): May 8
Mother’s Day (Federal holiday): Second Sunday in May (May 12 this year)
Peace Officers Memorial Day (Federal observance - Not in Flag Code but see below): May 15, Half-staff all day unless the same day as Armed Forces Day
Armed Forces Day (Federal observance): Third Saturday in May (May 18 this year)
National Maritime Day (Federal observance – Not in Flag Code but see below): May 22
Memorial Day (Federal holiday): Half-staff until noon, Last Monday in May (May 27)
Loyalty Day was first observed in 1921, during the First Red Scare. It was originally called “Americanization Day,” and it was intended to replace the May 1 (“May Day”) celebration of the International Workers’ Day, which commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago.
During the Second Red Scare, it was recognized by the U.S. Congress on April 27, 1955, and made an official reoccurring holiday on July 18, 1958 (Public Law 85-529). President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1, 1955, the first observance of Loyalty Day. Loyalty Day has been recognized with an official proclamation every year by every president since its inception as a legal holiday in 1958.
VE Day marks Nazi Germany’s surrender at the end of World War II.
Though Peace Officers Memorial Day is not in the US Flag Code, it was designated by a joint Congressional resolution signed into law on October 1, 1962 by President John F. Kennedy (75 Statute 676). Additionally, Public Law 103-322 (36 USC 175) designated the day as a half-staff day in 1962. Each President since then has issued an annual proclamation designating Peace Officers Memorial Day and encouraging people and governments to hold appropriate observances. Peace Officers Memorial Day falls in the same week as Police Week. You can read about Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day at the Website below:
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed an amendment to Public Law 103-322, codifying Peace Officers Memorial Day as a half-staff day every year.
National Maritime Day, Pub. L. 105–225, as revised Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1260.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Public Law 105-225 designating May 22 as National Maritime Day in 1933.
On this date in 1919, the steamship SS Savannah set sail on the first trans-Atlantic voyage entirely conducted under steam power. The day is marked in law to recognise that event, and fallen mariners in the United States Merchant Marine. The date is a full-staff day.
NS Savannah (the world’s only nuclear-powered merchant ship, named after the famous steamship) is currently docked in Baltimore, MD., where events marking the day will take place.
All government agencies are directed to fly the flag on National Maritime Day. All ships and boats registered under the American flag should dress ship. All citizens are encouraged to fly the flag on National Maritime Day.
Memorial Day is to honour those who fell in combat in service to the nation in the Armed Forces. (Armed Forces Day celebrates active duty and reserve personnel, Veterans Day celebrates all veterans of the Armed Forces.)
Observances started during the Civil War in both the North and South, on various days. In 1868, General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (the Union veterans organisation) declared May 30 to be the day to honour Civil War dead. In 1871, Michigan became the first state to officially declare May 30 as Decoration Day, with the rest of the northern states quickly following suit.
In the South, the Ladies Memorial Association took up the practice of decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers, and are largely credited with the idea of decorating the graves of fallen soldiers today. Confederate states originally picked days from April through June for the practice. Those dates were gradually merged into the Northern date.
Decoration Day was the preferred name of the holiday until the end of World War II, and the name was not changed to Memorial Day until 1957. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 moved Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May, beginning in 1971. Since 2002, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War have advocated for returning Memorial Day to May 30, arguing the holiday should not simply be more than a long weekend and the beginning of unofficial summer.