Half Staff vs Half Mast

Half Staff Old Glory September 21, 2020 Honoring RBG

Been seeing Old Glory flying in this position more frequently than I can ever remember during the last year. Curiosity not only about why, what people or events will prompt it, and for how long the flag will be flown this way was piqued.

When the flag is in this position I refer to The Google and type the following search question. “Why is the USA flag at half mast today?” The Google always offers the correct answer.

Upon further research into the subject for this post, my question has not been correct. The correct question is; “Why is the USA flag and half STAFF today?”

Today flags are at half staff to mourn the violent deaths in Washington DC last week. Flags in the USA will be at half staff in memory of Capitol Hill Police officer William Evans through Tuesday April 6, 2021.

Half staff duration is determined by who is being mourned:

  • 30 days from the death of the President or a former President
  • 10 days from the day of death for: Vice President; Chief Justice of the US or a retired Chief Justice of the US; Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • Day of death until interment for: Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; Secretary of an executive or military department; Former Vice President; Governor of a State, territory, or possession
  • Day of death and the following day for: Member of Congress

It is probably a quibble to discuss the difference between half mast and half staff. However, there is a positional difference between the two.

Half mast is a flag that is placed somewhere between the top of the pole and the bottom of the pole. It will be close to the mid point, but not necessarily directly in the middle of the pole.

Half staff means the position of the flag is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff.

Half staff is an exacting location, while half mast is a less disciplined positioning of the flag on the pole.

There is a procedure or, ritual if you will, for how to perform this duty as well:

The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.

I’m a little ashamed that it took nearly 60 years to learn these facts. It is also sad that the unfortunate frequency of half staff flags recently prompted my query. But…I’m glad that I did take the time to look into it.


Published by R Dub's Rub

Conversational BLOG writer and contributing writer for LocaLeben magazine. My BLOG entries represent observations that intrigue, amuse, inspire or stimulate my appetite.

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