Why are Military Flags Backward? – Backward Flag Meaning

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

why are military flags backward

Flags are national symbols that should be respectfully displayed at all times, so why are military flags backward on military uniforms? Most civilians tend to assign backwards flag disrespectful acts.

However, this flag reversal is actually both meaningful and intentional. The reason why soldiers wear the flag backwards is so that the field of stars in the US flag would be at the highest position of honor.

So, when soldiers wear the flag on their right shoulder, the field of stars is on the upper right, making the flag reversed. Read the following sections to know more.

Backward Flag Meaning

Military flags mounted on the right side of moving objects, such as vehicles or people, are reversed in order to create the image of the flag flying forward, with its stars (on the blue square background) located at the highest position of honor.

This practice came about way back during the civil war. Read more about its history and the reservations of the practice in the following sections.

What if the Flag Wasn’t Reversed?


When viewed from the right-side perspective, if the flag weren’t reversed, its stars would be facing the back side. This image replicates the image of a flag seemingly waving in retreat.

This image contradicts the military’s high regard for courage, bravery, and patriotism. So to remedy this, flags are then reversed so their stars are always facing forward to symbolize a flag charging forward.

Are the military flags always on reverse? No, military flags are not always backward! This actually depends on the location of the flag. The highest position of honor for the field of stars should also be observed.

When on the right side of mobile objects like military personnel or vehicles, the flag patch is always on reverse to ensure that the field of stars is forward or in the highest position of honor.

Meanwhile, when placed on the left of mobile objects, the flag patch does not have to be put backwards as the field of stars are already on the front.

For military uniforms, however, the flag patch is mandated to be worn on the right shoulder, so you will always find a reverse flag on them!

Frequently Asked Questions


The origin of flags backward

During the period of the Civil war, military troops designate a flag bearer to carry the flag in battle. Along with the charging flag bearer, the flag would sway behind, making it look reversed.

Additionally, during this period, a black and white backwards American flag was used to emphasize resistance and as a clear opposition to surrender, commonly associated with waving a white flag.

Given these symbolisms, an American flag backwards is actually a symbol of the brave men charging forward in battle. If the flag wasn’t reversed, it would look as if the flag is waving in retreat, something the military refuses to embody.

When did the military start wearing the flag backwards?

Beginning in 2003, the army flag uniform began to be reversed when placed on the right shoulder of uniforms. By 2005, it became mandatory to be used in all military uniforms, as stipulated in Army Regulations.

The US flag backwards became a permanent part of all types of military uniforms, including the battle dress uniform, the cold-weather uniform, the field uniform, and more.

At present, other patriotic institutions have also worn the flag patch backwards on their uniforms. The flag patch can be seen on police uniforms and on firemen’s apparel as well.

Modern uniforms feature a reversed flag in the neutral colors brown and army green instead of its usual bright yellow, red and blue colors, to aid in the camouflage purposes of the uniform.


With the knowledge on why are military flags backward, hopefully you are better attached to the history and importance of this practice. It truly is amazing how such a small detail actually holds so much significance especially in the endeavor of instilling patriotism and love for one’s country.

This also sparks an admiration for the men and women in the service that put their safety on the line just to protect the nation.

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