Why Are Flags Half Staff Today? They’re Lowered in Memory of Pearl Harbor

flag half staff

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Why are  United States flags flying at half-staff today on December 7, 2020? U.S. flags are lowered at government buildings across the country through sunset today, December 7, in honor of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Here’s what you need to know about the flags flying at half-staff today.


Flags Are Flying Half-Staff in Memory of Pearl Harbor Day

Flags are flying half-staff today in memory of Pearl Harbor Day 2020.

President Donald Trump signed a proclamation for today in remembrance of Pearl Harbor. Read it in full below:

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Imperial Japanese forces ambushed the Naval Station Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Tragically, 2,403 Americans perished during the attack, including 68 civilians. On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we solemnly honor and uphold the memory of the patriots who lost their lives that day — “a date which will live in infamy” — and we reflect on the courage of all those who served our Nation with honor in the Second World War.

Seventy nine years ago, Imperial Japan launched an unprovoked and devastating attack on our Nation. As torpedo bombers unleashed their deadly cargo on our ships and attack aircraft rained bombs from above, brave members of the United States Navy, Marines, Army, and Army Air Forces mounted a heroic defense, manning their battle stations and returning fire through the smoke and chaos. The profound bravery in the American resistance surprised Japanese aircrews and inspired selfless sacrifice among our service members. In one instance, Machinist’s Mate First Class Robert R. Scott, among 15 Sailors awarded the Medal of Honor for acts of valor on that day, refused to leave his flooding battle station within the depths of the USS CALIFORNIA, declaring to the world: “This is my station and I will stay and give them air as long as the guns are going.”

Forever enshrined in our history, the attack on Pearl Harbor shocked all Americans and galvanized our Nation to fight and defeat the Axis powers of Japan, Germany, and Italy. As Americans, we promise never to forget our fallen compatriots who fought so valiantly during World War II. As a testament to their memory, more than a million people visit the site of the USS ARIZONA Memorial each year to pay their respects to the Sailors entombed within its wreckage and to all who perished that day. Despite facing tremendous adversity, the Pacific Fleet, whose homeport remains at Pearl Harbor to this day, is stronger than ever before, upholding the legacy of all those who gave their lives nearly 80 years ago.

On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we recall the phrase “Remember Pearl Harbor,” which stirred the fighting spirit within the hearts of the more than 16 million Americans who courageously served in World War II. Over 400,000 gave their lives in the global conflict that began, for our Nation, on that fateful Sunday morning. Today, we memorialize all those lost on December 7, 1941, declare once again that our Nation will never forget these valiant heroes, and resolve as firmly as ever that their memory and spirit will survive for as long as our Nation endures.

The Congress, by Public Law 103-308, as amended, has designated December 7 of each year as “National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 7, 2020, as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. I encourage all Americans to observe this solemn day of remembrance and to honor our military, past and present, with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I urge all Federal agencies and interested organizations, groups, and individuals to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff in honor of those American patriots who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
fourth day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.


States Are Lowering Their Flags in Honor of Those No Longer with Us

In addition to Pearl Harbor Day, some states may also have individual proclamation in place to honor those who are no longer with us.

Arkansas: Flags are flying half-staff at state facilities through December 8, the day of the interment/burial of North Little Rock Police Sgt. J.L. “Buck” Dancy. He died in the line of duty at the age of 62 on December 2 because of COVID-19 complications.

Illinois: In Illinois, flags are flying half-staff at state facilities in honor of those who have died from COVID-19.

New York: In New York, the statewide half-staff order ended on November 9. However, New York City’s mayor is still ordering flags at city facilities to fly half-staff in honor of those who died of COVID-19.

Pennsylvania: In Pennsylvania, flags are flying half-staff at state facilities to honor those who have died from COVID-19.

South Dakota: From sunrise to sunset today, flags at the state capitol will be flying half-staff in honor of former State Senator Theresa Two Bulls, who was in the state senate from 2005 to 2008.


Flag Half-Staff Traditions

It’s customary to only display the American flag from sunrise to sunset, unless the flag is well illuminated overnight. In those cases, the flag might be displayed 24 hours a day. A number of holidays call for the U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff every year. In addition, the President of the United States may order a proclamation for the flags to fly half-staff when someone of prominence dies or when there is a national tragedy. State governors may also call for national flags to be flown at half-staff in their state when a present or former government official passes away.

If you’re wondering about the term half-mast vs. half-staff, in the United States half-mast refers to flags being lowered on a ship, while half-staff refers to a pole on a building. However, outside the United States, the more commonly used term is actually half-mast. The terms tend to be used interchangeably in common vernacular.

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