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Biden removes military flags from Oval Office on first day as president

Former Vice President Joe Biden. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
January 21, 2021

President Joe Biden removed the U.S. military branch flags from the Oval Office on Wednesday, a staple in the office during Donald Trump’s term.

The missing flags were first reported by the Washington Post, who noted the absence of the flags that had been on the left side of the office near the window for years.

Most modern presidents have kept just two flags in the Oval Office — the American flag and the presidential seal typically displayed behind the Resolute Desk. However, Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon all kept military battle flags in the office during their terms.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who fought as a five-star general in World War II, displayed the Army flag alone across from his desk.

Also among Biden’s changes to the Oval Office was the removal of a portrait of former-President Andrew Jackson. The first Democrat to become president, Jackson has faced condemnation for his connections to slavery, as well as Native American oppression, Fox News reported.

According to the White House Museum, presidents throughout history have made changes to the Oval Office, but a number of features have remained the same.

“Each president has decorated the Oval Office to suit his tastes. Among the features that remain constant are the white marble mantel from the original 1909 Oval Office, the presidential seal in the ceiling, and the two flags behind the president’s desk—the US flag and the president’s flag,” the museum’s website stated.

One of the constants in the Oval Office is the Resolute Desk. Made of wood from the HMS Resolute, Queen Victoria of England gifted the desk to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880.

While the desk itself has stayed put, two presidents made small changes to the famous desk.

“The desk has twice been modified. Franklin Roosevelt requested that the kneehole be fitted with a modesty panel carved with the presidential seal (he preferred people not see his leg braces and often placed a waste basket in front of his desks), but he did not live to see it installed,” the White House Museum website said. “However, President Truman liked the eagle motif and had it installed when he came into office in 1945. Since this was prior to Truman’s decision to turn the head of the eagle in the presidential seal to face the olive branch of peace, the eagle in the Resolute‘s modesty panel faces the arrows of war.”