The Service Flag of the United States
The graphic above showing the Service Flag is borrowed from
the National Archives Online Exhibit Hall about the
Poster Art of World War II.
The Service Flag History below is from the U.S. Naval Academy
The History of the Service Flag
The Service Flag is an official banner authorized by the Department of
Defense for display by families who have members serving in the Armed
Forces during any period of war or hostilities the United States may be
engaged in for the duration of such hostilities.
The history of the Service Flag is as patriotic and touching as the
symbolism each star represents to the families that display them.
The service flag (also known as "blue star banners" or "son
in service flags") was designed and patented by World War I Army
Captain Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry who had two sons
serving on the front line. The flag quickly became the unofficial symbol
of a child in service. President Wilson became part of its history when
in 1918 he approved a suggestion made by the Women's Committee of the
Council of National Defenses that mothers who had lost a child serving
in the war to wear a gold gilt star on the traditional black mourning
This led to the tradition to cover the blue star with a gold star on
the Service flag to indicate that the service member has died or been
The color of the stars is also symbolic in that the blue star represents
hope and pride and the gold star represents sacrifice to the cause of
liberty and freedom.
During World War II, the practice of displaying the service flag became
much more widespread. In 1942, the Blue Star Mothers of America was founded
as a veteran service organization and was part of a movement to provide
care packages to military members serving overseas and also provide assistance
to families who encountered hardships as a result of their son or husband
serving during the war.
Virtually every home and organization displayed banners to indicate the
number of members of the family or organization serving in the Armed Forces,
and again, covered those blue stars with a gold star to represent each
member that died.
In 1960, Congress chartered the Blue Star Mothers of America as a veterans
service organization and in 1966, the Department of Defense revised the
specifications for the design, manufacture and display of the Service
The Department of Defense specifies that family members authorized to
display the flag include the wife, husband, mother, father, stepfather,
parent through adoption, foster parents who stand or stood in loco parentis,
children, stepchildren, children through adoption, brothers, sisters,
half brothers and half sisters of a member of the Armed Forces of the
United States. The flag should be displayed in a window of the residence
of person who are members of the immediate family.
The Service Flag may also be displayed by an organization to honor the
members of that organization serving in the Armed Forces during a period
of war or hostilities.
How to Display the Service Flag
The Service Flag is an indoor flag and should be flown facing out from
the front window of the home or organization.
If the U.S. flag is also displayed with the Service Flag, the U.S. flag
should be of equal or greater proportions and should take the place of
honor above the Service Flag.
If a gold star is added to the Service Flag, it should take the position
of honor and be placed over the blue star that is positioned closest to
The gold star should be smaller than the blue star to create a blue border
surrounding the gold star.