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American War Mothers (U.S.)

Last modified: 2015-04-25 by rick wyatt
Keywords: american war mothers | service flag |
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[American War Mothers flag] image by Dave Martucci, 19 July 2009

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I've been in Washington for many years and never knew about the flag described below. Previously mention of it may have gotten mixed in to the recurring discussion of the U.S. "service flag." The report is in an information sheet published by the U.S. General Services Administration (the government's general-purpose housekeeping organization), which I found at

The American War Mothers is a national organization chartered by Congress with its headquarters in Washington, DC. Its members are mothers whose sons and daughters have served or who are serving in the Armed Forces. Its objective is to aid the serviceman or veteran and his family, including those who are hospitalized.

According to records in the Office of the Architect of the U.S. Capitol, the American War Mothers flag was purchased by them and first flown over the U.S. Capitol, always below the American flag, on Armistice Day, November 11, 1926.

The authority for flying that flag over the U.S. Capitol on this occasion and in subsequent years has been granted annually by written permission of the Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Provision for the ceremony was further recognized when the flagpole on the east front, after the extension of 1960, was installed with two halyards.

Traditionally the flag has been raised at 11 minutes after 11 a.m. by a detail from the Capitol Police . The flag flies until sundown, although originally it flew only for three hours. A bugler selected from one of the armed services plays taps. Brief memorial services are held in connection with the ceremony. These services have been accommodated on the east and west front steps or in Statuary Hall and permission to hold them is generally granted in the same letter that permits the flag to be flown.

The act of July 1, 1882, regulating the use of the Capitol Grounds vests the Vice President and the Speaker with the authority to grant this privilege.

The American War Mothers flag is kept in a safe at the U.S. Capitol. The present flag, first used in 1970, replaced the original woolen flag of 1926. It is of a synthetic fabric, 47 x 72 inches in size, consisting of a white field with a red border 11 inches wide. At the top is an 11-inch blue star for the 4,695,039 who served in World War I. These figures are 2 1/2 inches [high] in blue. Across the center in 4-inch letters are the words "United States Service Flag." Below is an 11-inch gold star for the 60,672 who gave their lives. These figures are 2 1/2 inches high in gold.
Joe McMillan, 26 July 2002