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View Full Version : Flags: Half-staff vs. Half-mast.


HeyHomie
06-08-2004, 03:53 PM
Is there a difference between having your flag at half-staff vs. half-mast? Or are the two terms interchangeable? If the two terms are not interchangeable, then where should my flags be for the remainder of the period of mourning for Ronald Reagan, half-mast or half-staff?

silenus
06-08-2004, 04:08 PM
They are interchangeable.

muldoonthief
06-08-2004, 04:12 PM
And as an interesting bit of trivia from my Scouting days, the correct way to raise a flag to half mast is to first raise it to the top of the flagpole, then lower it to the halfway point. When lowering the flag at sunset, first raise it to the top of the flagpole again, then lower it and remove from the pole.

Bookkeeper
06-08-2004, 04:55 PM
"Half-masting" was originally a naval custom, and, as a man 'o war's mast was actually made up of several masts of diminishing sizes stacked on top of each other, "half-mast" meant halfway down the topmost mast (on early ships often a dedicated flagstaff). Translated to a flagpole on land, this traditionally means that the flag should be flown 2-3 flag widths below the top of the flagpole. Flags are now often commonly flown at the halfway height of the flagpole, however. This appears to be due to a mix of misunderstanding of what "half-mast" means, or in at least one case I came across, specific instruction to do this to make it clear that the flag was there on purpose, and not just carelessly raised to a point short of the top.

Either way is acceptable, but the halfway down usage is the most common and is now enshrined in numerous official directives (e.g. Heritage Canada, US Army). Choose the option that looks best to you. If the flag is on a staff attached to the side of a building, halfway down is the only correct position. As noted by muldoonthief, always raise the flag to the top before lowering it to the half-mast position and again when lowering it at night.

Flander
06-08-2004, 06:06 PM
I was going to say the same thing, muldoonthief. Bravo.

John Mace
06-08-2004, 06:21 PM
There is a difference: Half-staff is correct, while half-mast is not. However, language being what it is-- whatever people commonly agree on-- one might say that both are correct. But, technically, it should be half-staff.

Billdo
06-08-2004, 06:38 PM
There is a difference: Half-staff is correct, while half-mast is not. However, language being what it is-- whatever people commonly agree on-- one might say that both are correct. But, technically, it should be half-staff.

Nitpick: Half-staff is proper on land, but half-mast is proper afloat and on shore-based maritime activities (i.e. a naval base).

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