Pentagon Bans Confederate Flag on Military Bases Without Mentioning It by Name

Confederate battle flags fly outside the museum at the Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek, Ala.
In this July 19, 2011 photo, Confederate battle flags fly outside the museum at the Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek, Ala. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

After two services and a handful of commanders created their own policies banning the Confederate flag on military installations, a new Pentagon memo now blocks its display on Defense Department bases worldwide.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday signed a policy specifying the flags that are cleared to be displayed publicly on military installations. The Confederate flag is not on the list of those cleared to fly.

"With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation," Esper wrote.

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Military leaders have been pressing Esper to put in place a DoD-wide ban on the Confederate flag, The Associated Press reported Friday. President Donald Trump has expressed support for all Americans' right to fly the flag, which is why the policy doesn't mention the Confederate flag by name, the AP reported.

One official told the outlet that the workaround is a creative way to ban the Confederate flag in a manner that may not raise the president's ire. Trump previously said he would block attempts by the Army to rename bases that honor Confederate leaders.

Flags are powerful symbols, especially for the military community, Esper wrote in the new guidance.

"We must always remain focused on what unifies us: our sworn oath to the Constitution and our shared duty to defend the Nation," he wrote. "I am committed to fielding the most powerful military force the world has known by strengthening the bonds of our most valuable resource -- our people.

"The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline," Esper added, "treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols."

In addition to the U.S. flag, those cleared to be displayed on military installations include:

  • Flags for U.S. states, territories and Washington, D.C.;
  • Military service flags;
  • General or flag officer flags;
  • Presidentially-appointed or Senate-confirmed civilian flags;
  • Senior executive service and military department-specific SES flags;
  • The Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag;
  • Flags of other countries, for which the U.S. is an ally or partner, or for official protocol purposes;
  • Flags of organizations in which the U.S. is a member, such as NATO;
  • Ceremonial, command, unit or branch flags or guidons.

The guidance applies to any public display or depiction of a flag by service members or Defense Department civilians in workplaces, and public or common-access areas, the memo states. That includes in office buildings, naval vessels, aircraft, government vehicles, hangars, breakrooms, restrooms, open-bay barracks, schoolhouses and outside any government-operated housing.

Unauthorized flags will be allowed in some areas, including in museum exhibits, grave sites, and on state-issued license plates. The Mississippi state flag featured a Confederate emblem for more than 125 years, but lawmakers there recently voted to change it.

Esper's new guidance followed closely the rules the top Marine general put into place in June.

The Marine Corps was the first service to ban the Confederate flag, and the Navy announced last month that it would also be moving toward a similar ban.

Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger told in March that the Corps, as a combat organization, can't afford any breakdowns in trust or unit cohesion.

"Things that divide us are not good," Berger said.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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