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The War Mothers Flag was first flown over our Nation's Capitol on Armistice Day (now known as Veterans Day), November 11, 1926. That first flag was purchased by the American War Mothers, and authority for flying the flag annually on November 11th is granted by written permission of the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. (The act of July 1, 1882, regulating the use of the Capitol Grounds vests the Vice President and Speaker with the authority to grant this privilege.)
The flag now used to replace the original woolen flag of 1926 is a synthetic fabric flag measuring 47" x 72" and consisting of a white field with an 11" wide red border. At the top is an 11" blue star for the 4,695,039 Americans who served in World War I. At the bottom of the flag is an 11" gold star for the 60,672 Americans who died in that war. Across the center of the flag, in 4" blue letters, is the text "United States Service Flag".
Preserved in a safe at the US Capitol, this flag is hoisted every Veterans Day at 11 minutes after 11 o'clock, and flies beneath the National Colors until sundown.
American War Mothers
In 1917 Army Captain Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry designed and patented a simple flag to reflect the World War I service of two sons. The appeal of this flag quickly caught on, and on September 24, 1917, an Ohio congressman read into the Congressional Record:
"The mayor of Cleveland, the Chamber of Commerce and the governor of Ohio have adopted this service flag. The world should know of those who give so much for liberty. The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother -- their children."
Three days later the American War Mothers organized in Indiana, and that organization quickly grew in other states. It was a close-knit group, composed of women with one thing in common...a child at risk because of their choice to answer their Nation's call to military service. Throughout the war, these mothers displayed a flag with a blue star in their window, denoting the service of a son or daughter. These mothers also sought other ways to serve the military community, whether by direct services to men and women in military service, or by promoting important causes to the war, such as the National Government's call for food conservation.
When World War I began claiming the lives of many of these young Americans, a new flag developed. When a son was killed in action a GOLD star was sewn over the blue one, completely covering it. In May 1918 the Women's Committee of National Defenses suggested to President Woodrow Wilson that those mothers who had lost a family member in the war should wear a black band on their upper-left arm, adorned with a gold star. In a letter affirming his support for this proposal, President Wilson referred to these women as "Gold Star Mothers". It was the beginning a a new tradition of patriotic support for those who serve our Nation in uniform.
They also serve who watch and wait!
By 1924 the American War Mothers organization had 23,000 members and an official magazine: The American War Mothers Magazine. On February 24, 1925 the U.S. Congress granted the American War Mothers a national charter. The first National President of AWM was Alice French. (The charter was later amended in 1942, and again in 1953, during the periods of World War II and the Korean War.) The following year, Armistice Day 1926, the American War Mothers saw their flag raised for the first time over the Capitol.
In the years that followed the War Mothers Flag continued to be flown every Armistice Day, usually for three hours. In 1970 the original woolen flag was replaced with the new, synthetic fabric flag we use today. Along the way the practice was changed to keep the flag flying beneath the National Colors until sundown.
Gold Star Mothers
World War I mothers of sons and daughters in service displayed their BLUE STAR flags with both pride and concern...knowing their children were in harm's way. The blue star represented both their pride, and their hope. A large part of the program was to initiate whatever efforts they could to some day bring their children safely home.
For more than 60,000 mothers of World War I veterans, hope was shattered. The gold star came to represent the sacrifice their sons made on behalf of freedom. The organization became a rallying point for a support group of grieving mothers, long before anyone had ever heard the term support group.
While many Blue Star Mothers, upon the safe return of their children, could get on with their lives, the Gold Star Mothers could never forget the losses incurred in the war. On July 4, 1928 a group of 25 mothers in Washington, DC began plans for a national organization to be known as the AMERICAN GOLD STAR MOTHERS, INC. They incorporated the following January 5th with 65 charter members.
Eleven years after the end of World War I, the United States Congress took an unprecedented step in the history of warfare, giving unusual recognition to the mothers of those killed in that war. In 1929 a law was passed authorizing the Federal Government to disburse funds for these Gold Star Mothers and Widows (whether they belonged to the organization or not), to travel to the battlefields of Europe to visit the burial sites of their loved ones. On February 7, 1930, First Lady Lou Henry Hoover pulled 54 envelopes out of a large silver bowl in the Red Room of the White House. Each envelope contained a card with the name of a state or US Territory. The first state to be drawn was the State of Nebraska, and as each subsequent card was drawn it was handed to the Quartermaster General for disposition.
On May 7th of that same year the first 231 Gold Star Mothers and Widows boarded the S.S.
America in New York to visit the sites where their sons or husbands had made the supreme sacrifice for freedom. Over the following 3 years, a total of 6,692 such pilgrimages were made.
It was an unprecedented gesture by a grateful Nation, in recognition of the sacrifices on the home front.
On June 23, 1936 the Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 (49 Stat.1895), further recognized the sacrifice of these Gold Star Mothers when it set aside the last Sunday in September of each year as Gold Star Mothers Day, and authorized the President to issue a proclamation in observance of that day.
Blue Star Mothers
World War I was often called The War to end all Wars. Had this proven true, Gold Star Mothers would have continued to grieve their loss, but there would have been no more Blue Star Mothers. Instead, World War I was followed by World War II.
Sixteen million American men and women served in the United States military in Europe, the Pacific, at home in support of the war, and other regions of the world. One month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on January 22, 1942, Army Captain George H. Maines printed an article in a Flint, Michigan newspaper requesting information about children serving in the armed forces. On March 8, 1942 more than 600 mothers organized the BLUE STAR MOTHERS OF AMERICA, INC. Quickly, chapters formed around the Nation, and the blue star flags of World War I reappearing in the windows of American homes once again. It was not at all unusual for a window to display more than one flag (or a single flag with multiple stars), for a star was displayed for each son or daughter in service. Indeed the big house at 98 Adams Street in Waterloo, Iowa displayed FIVE Blue Star for the five sons of Tom and Alleta Sullivan who had joined the Navy together to serve on the USS Juneau.
The BLUE STAR FLAG again became a symbol of love, pride, hope and grave concern. It also became a symbol of what Americans at home could do to increase a mother's chance of seeing her son's safe return: rationing, working in factories building needed materials, and even reminding all at home that "loose lips sink ships". The Blue Star Flag, often quickly visible from the windows of many houses up and down any given street in America, symbolized a pride in the commitment of America's youth and a reminder of the gravity of the entire war effort.
Blue Star Mothers also dedicated themselves to personal efforts, creating and mailing the care packages that mean so much to a soldier away from home, working with or supporting U.S.O. programs to build the morale of their loved ones abroad, and even visitation and care for returning wounded soldiers in area hospitals.
Indeed, the blue star was as much a symbol of pride as it was a show of concern, but the tragedy was that each blue star had an all too strong a potential to change its color. As the war continued, it was an almost daily occurrence to see a black sedan drive slowly down a Blue Star lined street, pull to the curb at a house, and bring a mother the news she had dreaded hearing.
During World War II it was not uncommon to see one or more of each color star in a living room window. Incredibly, the tragedy of one blue star turning gold, could not keep a brother from answering the call to duty. In January 1944 the five Blue Stars in the home of Tom and Alleta Sullivan....were ALL replaced with Gold Stars.
Since World War II
Though the War Mothers Flag has continued to fly over the Capitol every Veterans Day, the practice of the Blue Star and Gold Star Flag displayed in the windows of American homes during time of war did not see wide-spread recognition during the Korean War or the Vietnam War. Combined however, those two wars resulted in more than 100,000 Gold Star Mothers or widows being added to the ranks of the grieving, and while membership in both organizations today is quite low, there are current members from even Desert Storm.
In recognition of the many American men and women in harms way now, we are pleased to provide a printable BLUE STAR FLAG for the mothers of our servicemen and women currently serving in the war on terrorism. You are encouraged to print and place one in your window.
The BLUE STAR FLAG is a wonderful American tradition to revive. We only pray that there will be no need for a GOLD STAR FLAG.
If you have a son or daughter
currently serving our Nation in Uniform
We invite you to print and proudly display
THE BLUE STAR FLAG
Click on the graphic at right to open a larger, printable
BLUE STAR MOTHERS' FLAG
In a separate window.
Below are variations for Multiple Children In Service
GOLD STAR FLAG
If you would like to read the story of Tom and Alleta Sullivan, and their FIVE SULLIVAN BROTHERS from our Brotherhood of Soldiers at War series, click on the button at left.
RELATED WEB SITES:
American Gold Star Mothers
Blue Star Mothers of America
Our Flag, Joint Committee on Printing, US Government Printing Office
Mattie Jenkins Papers, American War Mothers Records, 1918-1988, Louisville, KY Library
Blue Star Mothers Offer Constant Care, American Forces Press Service
Gold Star Mother's Day Proclamation, White House, 9/17/2001
American Gold Star Mothers
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HomeOfHeroes.com now has more than 25,000 pages of US History for you to view.