Honor our Heroes on Veterans Day (Nov. 11)

Veterans Day Parade

Veterans Day Parade

Veterans Day is a United States federal holiday which is celebrated on November 11th. It was put into place in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson to honor all military members, past or present. The date, November 11 is significant because it is also the date that the Armistice was sign which ended World War I.

Today Veterans Day is celebrated with parades, flying flags and mini flags placed on memorials and military graves. There are many ways you can honor veterans on November 11th and every day of the year. These brave men and woman have risk their lives and many perished to protect our freedom. It is important that we never forget the sacrifices they have made so that we can have the quality of life that we do today as proud Americans.

American Flags Placed on Memorials

American Flags Placed on Memorials

Here are a few things you can do to make a difference in the lives of our Veterans:

• Visit a Veteran and ask to hear their story

• Write a Veteran or military member, tell them what your freedom means to you

• Visit a military spouse or family

• Visit a Veterans memorial, decorate with mini US flags or flowers

• Prepare a care package to be sent to military members who are currently serving
There are many organizations that send packages over seas to deployed troops. Check out AnySoldier.com

• Pray for those who are serving or reflect on the sacrifice that has been made

• Visit a VFW post

• Volunteer at a shelter

• Donate to disabled Veterans organizations

• Wear or display your yellow ribbons

• Attend a memorial parade or celebration. Check out vetfriends.com to search for an event near you

• Fly your American, military and support our troops flags!

There are many company and organizations for offer free meals and discounts for Veterans. Don’t forget to support your local companies that offer these benefits to our military members. Some of the 2009 companies that offered military discounts include:

Veterans Day Ceremony

Veterans Day Ceremony

Applebees

• McCormick & Schmick’s

Golden Corral

• Home Depot and Lowe’s

• Outback Steakhouse

Check out: military.com to get a list of companies that are offering discounts in 2010.

Veteran’s Day only happens once a year but support is needed year-round. Don’t forget that you can show your appreciation any time of the year. Visit Flag Expressions for all of your Veterans Day and American Made products!

History Behind Semaphore Flags

Optical “telegraphs” or signaling devices have been traced back to ancient times (using torches) and were the fastest systems to convey messages over long distances. These “telegraphs” could have since been in the form of torches, smoke signals and eventually semaphore towers.

Semaphore towers used large blades/paddles to convey messages. These messages were decoded based on the fixed positions of these arms and could transmit signals up to 150 miles in two minutes using multiple towers.

The semaphore tower/semaphore line design was first thought up by Robert Hooke in 1684 and submitted to the Royal Society. The system was not implemented though due to military concerns. However, this did lead to Claude Chappe developing the first visual telegraph in 1792 – eventually covering much of France via 556 stations. In France, this was the primary source of communication for military and national applications, until it became more widely used in the 1850’s. Designs varied between using shudders open and closed to holes being open and closed, but Chappe’s design became the most widely used semaphore design.

Chappe’s design used large towers that had a single crossbar with large pivoting “arms” at the ends and were spaced as far as part as the eye could see. The crossbar could be used in 4 different positions while the arms could be in 7 different positions each, for a combination of 196 (4x7x7) characters. These 196 characters could be combined to create a multitude of messages and phrases. Some have estimated that there were as many as 9,999 different “codes” created.

Many other takes of semaphores became created, including the naval signaling code flags which are still used today. These flags could be used in combination to become different words and messages and thus not have to spell out each word since messages were usually needed to be displayed quickly. This system however proved to be slow during battle since these flags were hoisted to the top of the ship for display.

Even Napoleon used one design to communicate to his army strategies and locations of his enemies. These semaphore stations were so successful that the French government rejected Samual Morse‘s first proposals of the electrical telegraph, citing that its design was flawed by wires being able to be cut easily.

These visual messaging systems eventually led to semaphore flags. These flags were used in the same way that the arms were used on the semaphore towers – different fixed positions mean different messages. Semaphore flags were primarily used for naval applications to communicate message between boats. It proved to be a very useful tactic during battles, most famously the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars.

Today these flags have become smaller and are usually mounted to small dowels or poles to allow them to be seen easier. Maritime use flags are red and yellow (or the OSCAR) flag and while in land use, the flags are blue and white (or the PAPA) flag. Even though they are not in use much anymore, they still serve for some boats and ships.

So why did we get rid of them?

Well, there were two critical downfalls of all the systems:

  1. They had no secrecy. Everyone within visual distances could see the message and therefore react to it. This proved to be one of the design’s most fatal wartime attributes.
  2. They were practically invisible at night time and during heavy fog and rain.

Both of these reasons lead to the electrical telegraph and Morse Code, both “invented” by Samuel F.B. Morse.

So, the next thing you know, we went to electrical telegraphs, pony express, telephone, radio, television, computers, fax machines, satellite televisions, cellular phones and the internet. What is next to come in communication? I for one can not even begin to imagine all of the amazing devices we will see in the future. The one thing I do know is that ultimately semaphore flags and towers inspired all designs since. To see how basic letters are signaled with semaphore flags, please check out this video:

My Trip To Pearl Harbor and Tour of USS Arizona

This January, I got the chance to take the vacation I always wanted to go on…to Hawaii. Despite a solid week of tourist-packed trips, events, and food; one thing I had to see  before I left was Pearl Harbor. If you ever get the chance, please take it. I had no idea what to expect.

I have read about Pearl Harbor and seen the movies but you don’t really understand the sacrifices made on December 7th, 1941 until you are there, staring out into the Harbor with memorials scattered across the water. My gallery of pictures:

*Numbers inside of brackets refer to the order of the gallery

This first shot (1) in my gallery below is looking out the harbor to the USS Arizona and the white bouys in the water are where other ships were sunk. All of these ships held thousands of men and were not small by any means. This kinda gives you a small understanding about the size of the loss that morning. There is also a submarine (2) in the harbor which was the USS Bowfin which was a submarine launched on December 7th, 1942 and eventually set up as a memorial to show the layouts and history of the US submarines.

When you arrive, there are many things to see while you wait to go out for the USS Arizona tour, which is by far the most popular attraction. Throughout the walking area are many markers (can see in the bottom of #2 picture) giving thanks and remembrance to ships, submarines, and lives that have been lost in wars throughout America’s history. There is a submarine museum, gift shop, many photo locations, places to eat, etc. It is well organized and the premises were spotless.  They definitely take pride in the location.

There are many different parts of the ships and subs at the harbor that offer an understanding of how things were located on the ships at the time of attacks. The Conning Tower (3) internals show how tight the inside of the Conning Tower (5) actually was. The conning tower of a submarine is where the steering was done as well as where the missiles were launched from. (4) is a picture of the Polaris A-3 Submarine launched ballistic missile. This missile had a range of 2,880 miles! It was launched by a gas launch system and when it reached the surface, the rocket motor ignited and became airborn.

(8) is a picture of yours truly looking out through a replica periscope that was used on the subs of the time. The distance of the periscope could be adjusted via controls on the side. From the view I was looking out, I could see the Arizona over the Conning Tower in picture (5).

(9) “Kaiten” torpedoes were Japanese suicide torpedoes. The Japanese modified these from their pre-existing torpedoes to allow them to be controlled by the “pilot”. The first ones made allowed the pilot to escape but the ones afterwards trapped the pilot inside. Only two ships were sunk by these torpedoes though due to extremely difficult steering and a near impossibility to see.

(10)40 mm quad turret which armed almost all major battleships for US. These turrets were mainly anti-aircraft and could fire a 2 lb. shell 33,000 feet at 120 rounds/min! These turrets were controlled by two men, one on each side. I couldn’t imagine how scary it would be to fight from these being extremely open to fire from the enemy.

As you can see, there are quite a few things to read about and look around at before you go out to the Arizona Memorial which is the main attraction. I tried viewing everything but it would literally take you a full day to take all of it in.

Reading about all of the history of the war and ships really helps you understand how the attack took place and helped me understand more about the Arizona before going out on our USS Arizona tour.

The Arizona tour starts with a 15-20 minute movie showing the ship and harbor before the attack and setting the stage of the War and why the attack took place. I learned more through the movie than anything else. It really gives you a lot of the lost details of the war, both on the American side as well as the Japanese side.

When entering the theater, everyone received a card with a soldier on it who died on the ship that morning. The cards told us about that person’s hobbies, family, lifestyle, hometown, etc. It did a great job of making you understand that 1000’s of people just like you and I died that day.

See, before going to the harbor, I thought of that day as a group of people died. After coming back from the harbor, you realize that 1000’s of individual people died. People who had families, people who had hobbies, people who wrote home to their family, people who loved our country, people just like me and you…died that day.

Following the movie, you set out on a small ferry to the Arizona memorial. Above the memorial is an Amerian flag…(11)

I took 10 pictures of the memorial going out on the ferry. It was just a breathtaking sight and the picture by no means does it justice. Before I tell you more about the memorial, please check out picture (24) to understand the layout of the memorial over the actual wreckage. The parts of the ship in brown are the parts still visible today.

One thing about December 7, 1941 that I didn’t know before the trip was that on that morning, most of the soldiers on the ships were either inside cleaning up or washing the deck. Also, the reason for the sinking was because of a Japanese vertical bomber (which means a plane dropped a bomb that traveled straight down) which dropped a bomb which landed in the front magazines. The bomb caused much of the ammunition (over 1,000,000 lbs.) to errupt, instantly killing the ship and its men alike. Over half of all of the fatalities that day came from the USS Arizona.

1,177 people died on the ship. Only 105 people were able to be removed from the wreckage following the sinking.

Up to that point in time, the single bomb killed more people at one time than any other single event in the history of the world…

(12) This picture shows oil which is still coming up from the ship today. I had read that oil was still rising before I got there but I was shocked to see exactly how much oil was in the water. In some places, it is estimated that in 2009 there were still 500,000 gallons of oil remaining in the hull. The water surrounding the memorial had traces of oil…very creepy though to think that the ship is still “alive” in a sense. Many of the survivors say that the oil will continue to rise until all survivors have passed away.

(13) The most visible remnant of the ship is the front gun turret. These heavy turrets could pierce any ships armor but do to the quick movement of the airplanes, became nearly obsolete that morning.

(14)(15)Both of these pictures show what is remaining of the flag pole that flew over the Arizona. I am unsure of how high this climbed, but I can imagine by the size of the pole that it must have been extremely tall.

(16)Shows the names of many of the men who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. 1,177 people passed away that one day on the USS Arizona alone.

(17)A list of men who survived the attacks but have since passed away. These men returned to have their ashes buried with the Arizona to be buried with their fellow soldiers.

(18)”Mooring bitts”. When docked, these posts held the ropes that kept them in port.

(19)A concrete landing that was built after the ship sunk.

(20)Plaque announcing official memorial. This memorial was built in 1958.

(21)Flags on the memorial.

(22)Inside of memorial. This shot is taken as you first step in the memorial. Looking at the picture, the turret and flag pole is on the right side, through the slit in the back is the list of names, and on the left is the mooring bitts and landing.

(23)The white buoy shows the end of the tail of the ship. Overall, it was over 600 ft. long. What you see in the water is the remnants of the 2nd gun turret.

(24)Layout of memorial over ship. Brown parts are visible still today.

(25)Plaque giving thanks for contributions to the memorial.

Overall, you will spend around 15-20 minutes on the memorial and it is quite the sight to see. Since going to the Harbor, I have to say that I give more thanks for our current soldiers both overseas and in the states as well. I am extremely grateful for the chance to see all of the history and I highly recommend trying to take the trip if possible. You can make a whole day out of the trip if you have the time…there is just so much to take in. Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and please comment with anything that will add to the blog!

Side Note: Now at Flagexpressions, we have totally recreated the site to make it more friendly for you, our customers. We are also adding in new flags every single day. Check out our new customizable support flags!

Where did the POW/MIA flag come from?

POW MIA Logo

POW MIA Logo

The Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action symbol is one of the most distringuished designs in American history. It was formed to honor and give thanks for the brave men and women of the US military who have been captured and held by enemy forces in the times of battle.

During the Vietnam War, Mary Hoff, a wife of a Missing In Action soldier and member of the National League of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, decided that there was a great need for a symbol to honor the approximately 1,350 POWs and approximately 1,200 MIA soldiers who had been injured yet whose bodies had not been recovered. She contacted the Annin Flag company, the United States’ largest flag company, who in return contacted Newton “Newt” Heisly, an artist in the National League of Families to help with the design.

Newton Heisley was a former pilot in WWII and father of Jeffrey Heisly, a Marine soldier who eventually went, fought, and returned home from Vietnam. At the time of design, Jeffrey had just returned home from Basic Training before his departure for Vietnam and had been suffering from a case of hepatitis, emaciating his body and face. At the sight of his son, Newton imagined what the POWs overseas must look like. Jeffrey became the silohuette for Newton’s design. He then added a watch tower and barbed wire to the background which were characteristics of the many prisoner camps during Vietnam.

For the slogan “You Are Not Forgotten”, Newton remembered the feeling he had as he was flying a mission over the Southeast Pacific during World War II and thought that he could end up being “taken prisoner and being… forgotten”. He designed the slogan to let soldiers know that despite their circumstances, they were not forgotten and the National League of Families would dedicate their mission to the rescue and return of these heroes.

Newton had originally drawn the design out with pencil only and was going to add in color later, presumably a deep purple, but by the time he could get back to add it in, Annin had already begun printing and distributing the white and black designed flags. The black and white logo stuck and became the official design of the National League of Families.

The POW MIA flag has intentionally never been copyrighted due to Newt’s belief that it is everyone’s flag. It was designed to give thanks to the many men and women we may never see, many we may never be able to give thanks to, many we will forever be greatful for. It acts as a symbol of hope for soldiers, a symbol of dedication for civilians, and a symbol of duty for our government.

On September 16th, 1988 on POW/MIA Recognition Day, the flag was proudly flown over the White House for the first time ever. Later on March 9th, 1989, the same flag was raised on the Capitol’s Rotunda and is still the only flag every flown in the Rotunda.

Today, give thanks for the many Prisoners of War and soldiers of whose fate are unkown. Hope that their families heal and that time eases the pain. Be proud to be an American and don’t ever look at the POW/MIA flag without saying thank you for these sacrifices. From everyone at Flagexpressions, we give thanks and salute all of our soldiers, POWs, MIAs, and families of these brave men and women.