Why Some American Flags Have Fewer Than 50 Stars
As you've probably heard by now, the American flag flying over Veterans Memorial Park in Lake Charles was missing somewhere between five to ten stars. The city has stated it was sent a defective flag and wasn't aware of the issue until a local resident brought it to their attention. Matt Young, the city's Public Information Officer, said that old flag has been retired and returned to the manufacturer, and a new flag with the correct number of stars is being raised in its place.
But would a manufacturer ever intentionally make flags without the right number of stars or stripes? The short answer is yes.
The reason is down to the US Flag Code, which states that the flag should only be displayed from sunrise to sunset, or illuminated if left raised overnight. Because of this, manufacturers do, in fact, intentionally make and sell flags that don't have the correct number of stars to allow a way around this issue.
The Flag Code states:
It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed twenty-four hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
The most famous example of these phony flags are those flying over Main Street, U.S.A. at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida. With the exception of the large central flag located near the park's entrance, which is taken down at 5:00pm every day, the other flags lining the park's buildings only have 45 stars - thereby exempting them from the flag code and allowing them to be left flying 24/7.
It's therefore possible that, while the city was accidentally sent one of these fake flags, it might not have technically been defective.