JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
Headquarters Pacific Air Forces unveiled the new case to house “Old Glory” during a ceremony here Dec. 7.
Presided over by Maj. Gen. Mark C. Dillon, PACAF vice commander, the ceremony highlighted the history of the American flag that flew at Hickam Field, dubbed the Hickam Flag, during the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Hickam Dec. 7, 1941, as well as honored two Hickam survivors, former U.S. Army Air Forces Tech. Sgt. Durward Swanson and U.S. Air Force retired Col. Andrew Kowalski.
“It is a distinct honor to have these ironmen with us,” Dillon said. “Yes, we can never forget what they did, but because of Tech. Sgt. Swanson’s actions that fateful day, that same garrison flag is also here. Tech. Sgt. Swanson, we thank you for doing your duty that night and retiring our torn and tattered ‘Old Glory.’”
Swanson, who along with Sgt. Albert Lloyd, took the flag down at the end of the day following the attacks.
“We were just doing our checks,” Swanson recalled in a previous article. “We had security guards posted around the entire field. Then, it [was] night time, and I said to Lloyd, ‘Stud, the flag is still flying. We’ve got to take that down.’ We took the flag down and folded it the best we could as shattered as it was.”
Soon after the attacks, “Old Glory” was sent to Washington D.C. under the safekeeping of Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, chief of the Army Air Forces. It would also be displayed during war bond drives as a reminder of the events on Pearl Harbor and Hickam throughout the course of World War II. The flag was also prominently displayed on the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay during the signing of the surrender documents that ended the war. The Hickam flag eventually returned back to HQ PACAF in 1980.
According to Steve Diamond, HQ PACAF command historian, the brand new case was created in accordance with modern conservation standards since the former case provided inadequate protection, as it was not sealed properly, letting in humidity and bugs, and had poor lighting.
“We now have non-harming LED lighting and better glass to protect [the flag] from UV rays,” the historian said. “Overall, this is the type of case you would find in the Bishop Museum and the Air Force Museum.
“[The flag] is the most unique and symbolic artifact that’s a witness to what happened Dec. 7, 1941,” he continued. “Nothing like it exists anywhere -- it was here at the start of America’s participation [in WWII], and what’s very symbolic, it was also present at the end of the war.”
As for Swanson, he said he was happy to see the flag again.
“It thrills my heart,” he said. “[The case] is very nice … as long as the flag is up, that’s what matters to me.”
Due to damage the flag received on its “proper” display side, the only way to preserve and display it was to attach the protective backing onto the “proper” display side causing it to be displayed in reverse.