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What is the '1700 U.S.A. Flag"?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: March 10, 2014 
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Hello, my first time to ask a question:

An U.S. active soldier has refused to: Salute the 1700 U.S.A. Flag (our current flag). Why?

The U.S.A. flag that was flying at the time, was our current 2014 flag.

There were several renditions of the U.S. flag …. so why label it the 1700 flag? What's the history of this?

Gem Hunley

* * *

Dear Gem Hunley,

Aside from that soldier's reference to it, this is the first time I have ever heard the term "1700 U.S.A. Flag" used—after more than 20 years in the Army National Guard. Whatever it is, it could not be a reference to the year—there was no United States of America in 1700.

As for the soldier's reason for hiding in her car during Retreat and (rather more serious) her boasting of doing so on the Internet, followed by claiming that she is not a disrespectful soldier, this is a current event, rather than history. Moreover, pending the inquiry that she had brought down on her dead, it is not clear why she did it, but she will undoubtedly get a chance to explain. Until then…well, Mr. History is not a mind reader. I can only say that if I was her senior NCO, I'd remind her that Retreat is a salute not merely to the flag but to all Army personnel killed in previous wars (including a whole lot of black soldiers from the Revolution through Afghanistan, in case she brings that matter up), and that her discourteous approach does not reflect the professionalism expected of a soldier. Moreover, since this is a volunteer army, my next recommendation would be that if she has some problem with that, there is nothing to prevent her from cutting short her enlistment, if she doesn't mind possessing an official discharge under other than honorable conditions.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
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3 Responses to “What is the '1700 U.S.A. Flag"?”

  1. 1
    chuck says:

    I think 1700 refers to the time retreat sounded not to the flag

  2. 2
    Mike H. says:

    I think Chuck just solved the question rather neatly. I'm also in agreement with you, Jon, in regard to the young female Servicemember (I cannot in good conscience call her a "soldier"), however this has , sadly, been a problem for many years, particularly among younger troops. I did 4 in the US Navy (1971-75), and I didn't dare try to dodge out on the 1700 Retreat Ceremonies. Same thing later on when I did 3 in the US Army (don't ask…) My feeling was always, "Would I wish the same courtesy to be given to me?" I saluted, even when it seemed to be nothing but a mild pain in the rear; because it was (and still is) my flag.

  3. 3
    Lyndon says:

    You don't have to go to a circus to find a clown.

    Has there been a resolution of this bizarre behaviour?

    Personally, if the person is guilty, I hope the C.O. will throw the book at whoever the culprit is.

    Love your column.

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