October 14, 2004

Presidential Debate

At the Debate last night you might have noticed an eagle behind the two presidential canidates.

This eagle was pointing in the wrong direction!

Has the Eagle always faced the olive branch?

Yes, since the first die was cast, the eagle has always faced right and has held the olive branch in its right talon.

Presidential flags, seals (and coats of arms) showed the eagle facing left, towards the arrows, until 1945 when President Truman changed a number of items in the presidential flag and seal [Executive Order 9646].One of the changes was to have the eagle face right, towards the olive branch "This new flag faces the eagle toward the staff," Truman explained, "which is looking to the front all the time when you are on the march, and also has him looking at the olive branch for peace, instead of the arrows for war ... President Truman meant the shift in the eagle's gaze to be seen as symbolic of a nation both on the march and dedicated to peace. It has remained that way ever since.

Contrary to a popular myth, the eagle in the Presidential seal does not flip his gaze during times of war. Although when Truman and Churchill were looking at the new symbol on a train car, Churchill remarked that he thought the eagle's head should be on a swivel. That may be the origin of the myth. In any case, it is incorrect. The arrows and olive branches are always held in the same claws.


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