These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

A military unit losing its colors is pretty humiliating — maybe even as bad as losing a battle. But it probably feels pretty good to be the one who captures those colors. And American troops have captured a lot of enemy flags over the years.

While the Geneva Convention demands all POWs be allowed to keep their personal belongings and protective gear, a “war trophy” like a captured flag doesn’t really apply.

But even if troops decide not keep trophies like an enemy flag, that doesn’t mean they can’t snap a quick photo – just as many have before and will likely do for many wars to come.

1. Civil War

Union soldiers pose with Confederate flags that they captured in battle, each of whom were awarded a Medal of Honor for the capture, 1865

Union soldiers pose with Confederate flags that they captured in battle during the Civil War. Each was awarded a Medal of Honor for grabbing the enemy’s flag.

2. United States Expedition to Korea

U.S. Marines with a captured Korean flag from the Korean conflict with the Joseon Dynasty of 1871

U.S. Marines with a captured Korean flag from the Korean conflict with the Joseon Dynasty of 1871.

3. Spanish-American War

U.S. troops capturing Spanish guns at Malate Fort in Manila, Philippines (U.S. Army photo)

U.S. troops capturing Spanish guns at Malate Fort in Manila, Philippines. (U.S. Army photo)

4. Philippine-American War

An American soldier with Filipino weapons and flag in Ocampo, the Philippines ca. 1901

An American soldier with Filipino weapons and flag in Ocampo, the Philippines ca. 1901.

5. U.S. Intervention in Nicaragua

U.S. Marines holding the Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto César Sandino's Flag. Nicaragua, 1932. (Marine Corps photo)

U.S. Marines holding the Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto César Sandino’s Flag in Nicaragua, 1932. (Marine Corps photo)

6. World War II

U.S. soldiers with a surrendered Italian flag at Paestum, Italy. (U.S. Army photo)

U.S. soldiers with a surrendered Italian flag at Paestum, Italy. (U.S. Army photo)

 

U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima with captured Japanese flags (U.S. Army photo)

U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima with captured Japanese flags. (U.S. Army photo)

 

American Paratroopers pose with a captured Nazi flag after landing in Normandy. (U.S. Army photo)

American Paratroopers pose with a captured Nazi flag after landing in Normandy. (U.S. Army photo)

7. Korean War

enemy flag

U.S. troops with a captured North Korean flag during the Korean War. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

8. Vietnam War

enemy flag

Sailors from SEAL Team One captured this flag during the Vietnam War, circa 1970. (NARA photo)

9. Invasion of Grenada

1st Platoon, B Co, 1st Ranger Battalion with a flag from Cuban barracks captured during the invasion of Grenada, 1983. (photo by Bryan Staggs, who captured the flag and is standing in the front row, right)

1st Platoon, B Co, 1st Ranger Battalion with a flag from Cuban barracks captured during the invasion of Grenada, 1983. (photo by Bryan Staggs, who captured the flag and is standing in the front row, right)

10. Invasion of Panama

U.S. troops during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama in December 1989 (photo by Ron Busch)

U.S. troops during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, in December 1989. (photo by Ron Busch)

11. The Iraq War

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rod Coffey holds the flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq, precursor to ISIS in Diyala Province, Iraq, 2008. (photo from Rod Coffey)

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rod Coffey holds the flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, in Diyala Province, Iraq, 2008. (photo from Rod Coffey)

There are, of course, many other photos of American troops with captured enemy flags that we can’t post here. There are photos depicting joint U.S.-Afghan forces taking down a Taliban flag. Photographer Scott Nelson also took a photo of U.S. troops with a captured Iraqi flag during the 2003 Invasion.

If you do decide take a battlefield souvenir, be sure to fill out your DD Form 603-1.

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