Harvard Librarian Ensures Flag Preservation

Employee Prods City Council to Replace, Maintain Symbol of American Patriotism

Thanks to the perseverance of a Harvard librarian, the flag at Cambridge's historic Flaggstaff Park will no longer hang in tatters.

In response to a series of letters and telephone calls from D. Alan Diefenbach, senior reference librarian at the Law School's Langdell library, the Cambridge City Council voted last week to develop a policy to maintain the flag, which is located on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Garden Street.

"Patriotism," said Diefenbach in an interview yesterday, " is a common property of us all; it is not the exclusive property of the right wing."

Diefenbach said he was shocked last July when he saw the flag, which stands on the site where George Washington first took command of the Continental Army, in shreds just before Independence Day.

In his letter, Diefenbach said that the flag has been especially meaningful to him because of his time in the foreign service. During the 1960's, he was stationed in Indonesia, where massive anti-American protests were occuring. Two Indonesian employees risked their lives to keep the flag flying, Diefenbach said.


The neglect of the flag, said Diefenbach in a letter to Vice Mayor Sheila T. Russell, was particularly offensive "in a city of a state which prides itself as a source of American tradition."

In a telephone interview yesterday, Russell said she was grateful to Diefenbach for raising the issue. "It means a lot for many people...the least we can do is keep the American flags in good shape."

Diefenbach, a former Navy and Foreign Service officer, said in an interview yesterday, "I have never been in a place where an official flag has been in such a state."

Diefenbach contacted City Hall to request that the flag be properly maintained. The flag was replaced, but Diefenbach said in a letter to Russell that he has bad to petition the city on several occasions since then.

City Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55 responded to a letter written by Diefenbach on February 21 by placing his appeal on the agenda for the March 6 meeting of the City Council.

The Council passed a resolution requesting the City Manager Robert W. Healy to maintain the flags at Flaggstaff Park.

Russell said it is likely that the Fire Department or the Department of Public Works will be assigned the responsibility of overseeing the display of the flag.