I appreciated your article on the front page of the July 4 issue of the Port Washington News. Thank you for being concerned about the proper display of our flag and looking for information. Most of what you wrote is correct and the photograph of the flag, as shown, is correct; however, the photo does not show the entire flagpole. Therein lies the problem. At the masthead, which is not shown in the photo, is the official governmental flag of the Town of North Hempstead. This, in my opinion, and that of many others in town who served our flag, is incorrect and shows disrespect for our flag. The only thing that flies from a masthead of a gaffed pole is a yacht club burgee, a yacht club pennant, or the private signal of an ardent yachtsman.
We have come a long way since August, 2001, when the town replaced the straight mast flagpole with a gaffed flagpole at the southwest end of the Town Dock. When the new flagpole was installed it was 180 degrees wrong. In time the town rotated the pole, but still have not corrected the improper display of the American flag. I am hopeful that as a result of your article that might be corrected.
For your reference and review, and to substantiate my statements and opinions, I have enclosed the following:
1. Your Port Washington News article, July 4, 2002.
2. Facts about Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling by Charles F. Chapman that make it an authority.
3. Facts about Charles F. Chapman.
4. P/O Chapman's Flags, When and How to Fly Them.
5. P/O Chapman's Proper Way to Fly the Flag on All Poles.
6. Local photos of flags on poles.
7. Correspondence - National Flag Foundation.
8. Federal Flag Code.
9. Dettra's pamphlet about our flag.
10. P/O Flags of the World, 1917 edition, National Geographic Society.
Mr. Ziev correctly stated that the flag code does not address a flagpole with a gaff. The flag code is addressed to civilians and according to Mary Ellen Anderson of the National Flag Foundation, the flag code is not enforceable. Furthermore, flag etiquette has been in place long before the flag code and it is a regulation, not a tradition for the following:
US Navy, US Coast Guard, US Power Squadron, US Coast Guard Auxiliary, 99 percent of all yacht clubs in the country, ardent yachtsmen with a private signal, most US government offices.
To quote Mr. Chapman from his 1961-62 edition of Piloting, Chapter 22, pages 362-363, "To date there has not been a law passed in regard to a gaffed flagpole." In reference to flying the flag properly, "It has probably never been contemplated that a loyal citizen would do otherwise. Most yacht clubs and yachting organizations have flag regulations as part of their by-laws, thus making these regulations official as far as the particular organization is concerned." It further goes on to state, "Undoubtedly the first club to adopt flag routines was the New York Yacht Club. Probably 99 percent of all yacht clubs have lifted the NYYC regulations from their yearbook without change for their own." These being the regulations for that organization, NYYC = Chapman's flag etiquette.
Again, Mr. Ziev is correct when he states the American flag flies from the gaff, the point of honor for that type pole. However, thereafter we differ. The only thing that can be flown properly from the masthead when the pole has a gaff is a yacht club burgee, yacht club pennant or the private signal of an ardent yachtsman, not a flag of a government.
The Town of North Hempstead is a government, not a yacht club. It has the power to make laws, fine, imprison and the power to tax. A yacht club does not!
Last week I received my notice for the second half of my "dues" into the town's yacht club, but it was not a voluntary dues payment. It was my tax bill with no choice but to pay.
The fact is pure and simple, the town is a government, and a government which is subservient to Nassau County, New York State and especially the United States of America. Therefore, the official governmental flag, that of the Town of North Hempstead should be flown from the starboard yardarm at the Town Dock as would the county or state flag! If you go around Manhasset Bay, I believe all the marinas have straight mast or a straight mast with a yardarm and they fly the flag properly. The Manhasset Bay Sportsmen's Club, which has a burgee, still opted for a flagpole with a yardarm and not a gaff to eliminate confusion. They fly their burgee from the starboard yardarm and the American flag from the masthead.
In August, 2001 when the Town of North Hempstead replaced the straight flagpole with a gaffed flagpole the southwest end of the Town Dock, it was installed incorrectly, but that has since been corrected, and the American flag flew from the masthead. The flag, flying from the masthead looked beautiful both from land and sea, but the masthead is not the place of honor for the American flag on a gaffed flagpole.
It is my opinion, and that of many others in the town who served our flag, that the town should do the following so the American flag can be flown with reverence and respect:
1. Remove the gaff from the flagpole.
2. Fly the American flag from the masthead.
3. Fly the town flag from the starboard yardarm.
4. Install a light to illuminate the flag at night as done by the following:
Fire Department, Police Department, Sewer District, Water District, US Post Office, Manhasset Bay Sportsmens' Club, local marinas, The Landmark on Main Street, local residences and businesses.
If for some reason the Town of North Hempstead cannot do the above, then I, along with a few other people who served our flag and country, will be proud to volunteer our services to remove the gaff and install a light on the last southwestern light standard on the Town Dock. By so doing the flag will be returned to the place of honor which it deserves; and for the tens of thousands of Americans who have given their lives for that flag and the freedoms it gives us today.
Ms. Pierangelo, I'm a member of a family that has been in Port Washington over 130 years. I am not a "gadfly," just a former Navy "white hat" who served our flag and country in the late 1960s. I am also a former part-time Town Dock employee from the early 1960s and proudly raised the flag at 8 a.m. or lowered the flag at sunset. That is not the way it is done now. Now they raise and lower the flag whenever they feel like it! All I request is our flag receive the respect it deserves from our town government, especially in this time of war.
H. Reed Markham
USN - CVA 42, 1966-1970