Pontifically Approved: The Flag of the United Nations

unflagThe coordinators of the original United Nations Conference that met in San Francisco immediately after the end of World War II (1945) sought an emblem that could be easily used to identify delegates as they arrived to attend the proceedings. United States Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, Jr. realized that this temporary design would very likely become the permanent insignia of the United Nations, so he astutely formed a committee headed by architect Oliver Lundquist specifically for the purpose of creating an appropriate logo that would endure in time. The actual design of the flag, which was approved on October 20, 1945, is a result of the creative talents of another architect, Donal McLaughlin – who very carefully thought out the symbolism behind the familiar image that is now known around the world.

The Flag of the UN is White on a Blue Background

The Flag of the UN is White on a Blue Background
Photo credit: ¥§•ªˆ¨ˇ© LOVE © ˇ¨ˆª•§¥ / Foter.com / CC BY

McLaughlin, who passed away on September 27, 2009 at the age of 102, was the chief of the graphics presentation branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which later became known as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). “It was my good fortune to be assigned the problem of designing a lapel pin for conference identification,” he later recalled in a 1995 publication entitled “Origin of the Emblem and Other Recollections of the 1945 U.N. Conference.” After his graduation from the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in 1937, he was able to acquire employment with the National Parks Service – but eventually established an architectural career in New Your City, designing things such as 2 pavilions at the New York City World’s Fair and the interior of Tiffany and Co.’s flagship store, which is now recorded as a building of prominence with the National Register of Historic Places. Following its establishment on June 13, 1942, McLaughlin took up employment with the OSS, helping to create wartime visual designs for the presentation of material that could be easily understood and implemented, including the courtroom that was used in the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals.

Working with a team of fellow designers, McLaughlin came up with a total of 9 different designs from which to choose, with the task of fitting the image on a circular pin measuring 1/6th of an inch in diameter. Having written a thesis on circular design while studying architecture, he fell back on that experience, drawing the planetary globe as an azimuthally equidistant projection with all the nations of the world fitting into a circle. “The hardest part of the project was fitting the design and copy onto the small, circular pin,” he recalled in July of 2008 – adding that the main intention “was to represent one world through this projection.” One year after the group submitted their final representation, “the map was turned a quarter to the left so the east and west were in balance” McLaughlin also remembered. Olive branches surround the tilted map, in an obvious visual reference to world peace and the unity of humankind. When applied to the adoption of the UN flag, the emblem created by McLaughlin was imbedded as a white design on a blue background. Although the exact shade of the color used in the flag has never been specified by the United Nations, the background is blue because it is considered to be the opposite of red, which is the color of war. The exact shade now used on UN flags that fly around the world is Pantone 279. It is considered to be a protective sign for all UN personnel on peace keeping missions, as dictated by the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which has now been ratified by 91 states around the world. Nevertheless, statistical records kept on UN peacekeeping efforts since 1948 demonstrate that over 3,000 UN personnel have given their lives in an attempt to bring peace to a variety of locations in the world.

The Secretary General of the UN Greets Pope Benedict XVI

The UN Greets Pope Benedict XVI
Photo credit: United Nations Photo / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

One would think that a banner honored by the Pope should be held in high esteem by all nations of the world, but at times this reverence has been tarnished – even by the United States. While appearing at the UN General Assembly on April 18, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI reached out to touch and bless the UN flag – as he delivered very pointed words of warning to political leaders around the globe. “Countries that act unilaterally on the world stage undermine the authority of the United Nations and weaken the broad consensus needed to confront global problems,” he said. In some respects, the Pope’s words seemed leveled directly at the United States, which acted in disregard for UN Security Council Resolution 1441 when it invaded Iraq in 2003. What would it take for this disrespect for the UN to disappear, and for the UN flag to be considered in the same light as Pope Benedict proposed that day? If

aliens from outer space were to attack the world, would humanity put down its violent differences and finally unite to confront a common enemy? Is it possible that terrorism would disappear from the earth long enough to ensure the defeat of this common enemy?  Such an occurrence would require a respect for the common things that bind us together as humans, rather than a violent obsession with the superficial qualities that make us different from each other – but the proponents of this web site believe it is possible. Apparently, Pope Benedict XVI does too! Take a chance on humanity and light one candle in the midst of darkness, would you? Sign the petition you can reach by clicking the link below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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They Came in Peace: The Beirut Memorial

marineIn the fall of 1983, Lebanon was notorious as one of the most violent countries in the world. The fundamental reason for this well-deserved reputation was a bloody civil war, which had prompted Israel to invade the country as part of “Operation Peace for Galilee” – a military effort intended to support the President of Lebanon, with the full blessing and overt military support of the United States. The object of this invasion was to provide a “buffer” between the various warring factions involved in the conflict, including Maronite Christians on one side and Lebanese Muslim communities on the other. Other countries had joined Israel in similar respects throughout 1982 and 1983– involving the deployment of the U. S. 32nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) to Beirut as part of a joint multinational force (MNF) with France and Italy, which together had contributed 2200 troops to peacekeeping efforts in the war. Muslim adherents in the bloodshed had already come to perceive this MNF as unfairly siding with Maronite Christians, but this feeling escalated sharply when the U. S. ordered a naval bombardment of Muslim insurgents on September 19, 1983, followed by a similar French air strike on September 23. By early October, most Muslim forces failed to see the neutrality of the peacekeeping forces present in Lebanon – thereby setting the stage for one the most tragic terrorist attacks in U. S. history.


The Marines Were Part of a Peacekeeping Force
Photo credit: Someone Funny / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Early on the morning of October 23, 1983, the 1st Battalion 8th Marines, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gerlach, was housed in a building located at the Beirut International Airport. A subordinate element of the 32nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU), much of the battalion was sleeping when a truck resembling those that delivered water to the compound drove into the parking lot, circled briefly, and then increased its speed as it crashed through a separating fence into the main building. The driver, an Iranian national named Ismael Ascari, detonated about 21,000 pounds of TNT that had been rammed into the truck – setting off an explosion that collapsed the whole building and killed 241 U. S. servicemen. Another related attack on the garrison housing the French 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment was additionally responsible for the death of 58 elite paratroopers – making the day a very costly one for the multinational peacekeeping force.  Rescue efforts to recover survivors that were possibly buried alive underneath the rubble of the explosion went on for almost one week, involving Lebanese construction companies, medevac helicopters, and the frantic removal of debris. Approximately 128 wounded U. S. military personnel were pulled from the site, and the overall impact of the horrific event led to the withdrawal of the multinational peacekeeping force in February of 1984.

The Marine unit participating in the peacekeeping efforts that day, now re-designated as the 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU), is based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where the event is memorialized by a monument. Located just outside the front gate of the military training facility there, it is the result of efforts led by the Jacksonville Beautification and Appearance Commission, which organized a design competition through the North Carolina State University School of Design. Built on 4.5 acres of land presented to the effort by Camp Lejeune itself, the monument was a community effort that involved donations from across the United States. Students at Northwoods Park Middle School in Jacksonville, taught by Mrs. Martha Warren, took it upon themselves to write letters to the families that had lost loved ones in the tragedy and raise money for the purchase of memorial trees to be planted as part of the overall monument. One ninth grade student auctioned off her Cabbage Patch Doll for $1500 dollars, and eventually one tree was planted for each lost serviceman as part of a project that was officially dedicated on March 24, 1984. The monument itself was completed 2 years later and received its official dedication on the third anniversary of the bombing in 1986.

The completed memorial is in the form of two broken walls, representing the crumbled remains of the compound after the explosion, with a pedestal in between supporting a statue depicting a Marine in a peacekeeping pose. Inscribed on the memorial are the words “They Came in Peace,” along with the names of the 273 military personnel that died as a result of the terroristic act. Although some entities have contested the claim, the United States has officially designated the destruction of the barracks as an act of terrorism, rather than an event of war. Ceremonies are held annually at the site as a commemoration, and on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy in 2011 the Gold Star Mothers – an organization of mothers that have lost a child serving in the military – placed an honorary plaque at the site.


The Statue of a Marine at the Beirut Memorial
Photo credit: The Uprooted Photographer / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

There is perhaps no other memorial that better captures the curse terrorism represents to the human race, because the bombing of the Marine barracks encapsulates all aspects of a vicious, diabolical cycle. First, religious intolerance, poverty, cultural narrow-mindedness, and racial hatred mingle with political violence – ripping the fabric of a peaceful society into shreds. Next, an outraged international community reacts through military intervention, but the long range effect is the deepening of the violent concoction already in place. In the midst of this, a new generation of terrorists is born for future attacks, which sometimes take place thousands of miles away as retaliation for a previous event in time – such as with the infamous 911 tragedy. Terrorism will never abate unless this cycle is broken, and this must begin with proactive measures. Those that have personally suffered the sting of terrorism, such as June Clark of Texas, are profoundly aware of this fact – as are the families of those that died in Beirut that day. Join us in making the whole world aware of this need by signing the petition to which this website is dedicated.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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