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Unidentified Flags or Ensigns - Part 1 (2009)

flags submitted in 2009

Last modified: 2010-07-30 by
Keywords: ufe | unidentified flags |
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Below is a series of images of flags that have been provided to FOTW; some we have recognized, and some we have been unable to recognize. If you can help us identify any of these flags, please let us know! Contact the: .

Identification Key:

Unidentified Flags located on this page

  1. Six Red and White Striped Flag
  2. New Zealand Blue Ensign
  3. Yellow over Black Short Pennant
  4. Japan Merchant Marine College-like Flag
  5. Red-Green Lapel Pin with Yellow Cross
  6. Vertical Banner with V
  7. Flag in European Port
  8. White over Yellow Pennant with "e"
  9. Egyptian Flag (1946)
  10. Egyptian Military Flag
  11. Red and White Striped Flag
  12. Red-White-Black-White-Red Striped Flag
  13. Eleven Blue Stars on a Red Field
  14. Henry Hudson Flag in The Economist
  15. Man's Head on Flag in Lucerne, Switzerland
  16. White Star on Blue, with Red Border
  17. Flag in Georgian Parliament
  18. Two Flags from the Confederacy
  19. Red-White Striped Flag on Stick-pin
  20. Yellow Flag with Green and Red Vertical Stripes
  21. 48-Star Casket Flag with Four Gold Stripes.

Unidentified Flags located on Part 2

  1. Unidentified Arctic Flags
  2. Unknown Turkish Underwater Sports Federation Flag
  3. Unknown German Shipping Company "S" Flag
  4. Unknown German Shipping Company "B" Flag
  5. Unknown German Shipping Company "PP" Flag

Unidentified Flags on other pages

1. Six Red and White Striped Flag

Tentative ID

Speculative Image by Peter Loeser, 19 December 2009

Do you have any insight into what flag consisting of 6 horizontal stripes, alternating red and white, with white at the top (i.e. w-r-w-r-w-r) would be related to the destruction of Speyer by Louis XIV's forces in 1689 (Nine Years War)? Any insight you can provide would be much appreciated.
Christina Rosati, 3 January 2009

UFE09-1 is the same flag currently used by Wismar city (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) and can be found at this webpage City of Wismar (Germany), but I am afraid it doesn't match the context, another guess would be some other Hanseatic city flag.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 31 January 2010

The colours of the City of Spires (Germany) would be red and white as well.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 1 February 2010

2. New Zealand Blue Ensign

Positive ID

This flag has been identified as a deteriorated image (stars appear red instead of white because of aging) of the 1877 ensign of Victoria (Australia), and can be found at its permanent location.

3. Yellow over Black Short Pennant

Some Speculation

Image by Lespey, 19 January 2009

From your web site, I can't find this flag. I'm sure is Japanese, probably from WWII but I can't find any info. I'm a Japanese WWII collector of 31 years and never seen this one.
Lespey, 19 January 2009

Looks very much like a signal flag of some sort, although not in current use.
Pete Loeser, January 2010

You may be right about its being a signal flag, but I don't recognize it. It's also possible that it's some kind of a distinguishing pennant for a sub-flag-level commander, of a flotilla or squadron or such, or a senior officer afloat pennant for some navy or another. Or even a yacht burgee.
Joe McMillan, January 2010

It looks like this mysterious yellow/black "signal flag" might be an U.S. Naval signal flag, not Japanese at all. See UFE10-15b on the UFE 2010 page.
Pete Loeser, 11 February 2010

I don't think UFE09-3 is the right shape to be a signal flag. Perhaps it is a marker flag
David Prothero, 16 February 2010

4. Japan Merchant Marine College-like Flag

Tentative ID

    Image by Donald Shannon, 30 January 2009

I am the curator of the National WWII PT Boat Museum at I am currently researching the origin of a flag I have attached 2 images of the flag. If you can provide any information on this flag I would greatly appreciate it.
Donald Shannon, 30 January 2009

I have not been able to identify the flag, but I have located very similar emblems used by the Merchant Marine College around 1910. It has the same star emblem in red, but not the circle. Perhaps it is the flag of the college a few years later? Perhaps this similar design may help others to identify the actual flag in your museum.
Ralph Kelly, 30 January 2009

5. Red-Green Lapel Pin with Yellow Cross

Positive ID

This flag was positively identified and moved to its correct location as the flag of Ceiba, Puerto Rico..

6. Vertical Banner with V

Image by Peter Lenagh, 7 February 2009

This flag was posted on eBay and the seller says it came from the Tumbling Waters Flag Museum. It is 27 x 96 (inches). There also seems to be one that has the fleur de lis in blue and yellow. After several days of looking the best conclusion I could come up with was NAVA. The scale is wrong on the V... but NAVA may be the answer.
Peter Lenagh, 7 February 2009

7. Flag in European Port

Positive ID

Images provided by Jim Megura, 8 February 2009

I am trying to find someone who may have a general knowledge of flag design from the 17th C. I own an early painting, believed to be 17th C, and it has British ships and gunships in a harbor, with a large flag visible on the mainland. It is that flag on the mainland which I am trying to identify, seemingly a major European port city. We are also trying to then determine if this painting represents a rendering of some historical event, perhaps an attack or treaty. Perhaps you can refer to me someone who might have such knowledge. (Large flag is shown enlarged as inset in photo above.)
Jim Megura, 8 February 2009

I think I see red in the saltire of the British Union jacks at the bows of the two ships; that would place the painting post-1801.
Albert S. Kirsch, 11 February 2009

Definitely 18th century, if not early 19th as Al suggested -- not 17th. The boats in the foreground do not appear to be warships, so this may not be a military attack on a town.
T.F. Mills, 11 February 2009

The design of the large vessel at the left-hand edge of the painting is late seventeenth century, say 1670s or 1680s - it has very prominent quarter galleries picked out in gold, characteristic of English and Dutch ships of the period. The flag on the fortress does have a Spanish look, although there is a slim chance - a very slim chance - that it is a regimental colour belonging to one of the Irish regiments in French service, but that particular regiment was not serving in a coastal fortress in the period in question. If it were supposed to be the Mediterranean, I would expect to see more lateen-rigged vessels, but that's not conclusive.
Ian Sumner, 11 February 2009

Another possibility is that it's either Russian or eastern European, given that a lot of naval flags from that region are UJ-like designs.
James Dignan, 11 February 2009

Could it be a wrongly depicted Russian jack and fortress flag (1700-1917)? The usage matches; could this city be Finnish or Estonian?
António Martins-Tuválkin, 11 February 2009

Image by David Prothero, 12 February 2009

The flag on land forms the hoist of a pennant in the notebook of William Downman, 1685-6. It is reproduced in "Flags at Sea" by Timothy Wilson, National Maritime Museum, 1986. The whole pennant is shown above. There does not seem to be any available information about Cap Presmant.
David Prothero, 12 February 2009

It need not, of course, be a painting that represents an actual event. Marine painters of the period often painted "capriccios" - vessels set against backgrounds which were typically Mediterranean, or typically Dutch, or typically East Indies, without intending that it should be identified as a particular place. So this could be a generic battle painting, which may account for the confusing (or at any rate, unidentifiable to us) details; for if you were painting an actual event, you had to get the details right, otherwise survivors of the battle would be quick to tell you where you went wrong. I suspect that if it was a generic painting, there would be more action, but you never know ...
Ian Sumner, 14 February 2009

One minor indication as to date is the size of the cantons in the red ensigns, which tended to be smaller during the interregnum of 1649 - 1660.
Christopher Southworth, 16 February 2009

8. White over Yellow Pennant with "e"

Tentative ID

I was trying (without success) to find which Australian club (likely to be in the Northern Territory, Singapore or Queensland) which has a triangular pennant (apex of the triangle to the right) where the top half is yellow, the bottom half white and a yellow lower case "e" on black background at the base (left) of the "triangle"/pennant.
Owen, 21 March 2009

I did find that it was a Singapore club which sponsors annual offshore races. Unfortunately, the club name presently evades me.
Owen, 14 January 2010

9. Egyptian Flag (1946)

Tentative ID

Image by Nadim El Helw, 13 March 2009

I watched a video on YouTube which featured footage from the evacuation of British troops from Egypt and celebrations about it. At the celebrations we can see soldiers holding a flag which was the national flag of Egypt at that time with stripes around the crescent and three stars arranged in the shape of a kite. I have attached a screenshot from this video showing this flag and an approximate image of the flag. I would like to know what this flag is (perhaps some kind of military flag) and it would be great if you could feature it on the FOTW website.
Nadim El Helw, 13 March 2009

This flag is a regimental colour.
Mohamed Hossan el Din, 13 July 2009

Which regiment? (so it can be marked as indentified)
Pete Loeser, 1 December 2009

10. Egyptian Military Flag

Positive ID

Image by Nadim El Helw, 20 April 2009

As I passed by a military hospital in Cairo I saw a military flag I had not seen before and which isn't on FOTW. It was green with the national flag in the canton and crossed swords in the canton like I attached. I do not know what the flag is.
Nadim El Helw, 20 April 2009

I believe that this is an Army rank flag, I am not sure of the exact rank.
Mohamed Hossan el Din, 13 July 2009

A curious flag, the green field is like that used during the Kingdom & Republic of Egypt (1923-58), the crossed sabers are the emblem used by the Egyptian Army, and the canton shows the current Egyptian flag. Does anybody know what rank this is for? (so it can be marked as indentified)
Pete Loeser, 1 December 2009

Crossed swords is the rank insignia for "liwa´" which is equivalent to a western Major General. See: The International Encyclopedia of Uniform Insignia Around the World.
Dov Gutterman, 27 February 2010

11. Red and White Striped Flag

Image provided by Ernest Rugenstein, 4 May 2009

What flag is this? Soldier was in Italy in '45.
Ernest Richard Rugenstein, 4 May 2009

12. Red-White-Black-White-Red Striped Flag

Some Speculation

Image by Monique Rubin, 25 May 2009

I saw this flag today, and I just can't figure out what it means. Can you help me? I've attached my own drawing of it.
Monique Rubin, 25 May 2009

The colours are those of the flag of Trinidad and similar to the flag for "Diver Down", although in both cases the stripe should be diagonal.
Rob Raeside, 25 May 2009

This is all guesswork, but my first thought is that it looks like some Soviet-era flags, many of which were red with thin stripes close to the base. I don't know of any which used black, though there are a huge number of them, so it's possible. Similar designs are still used in some parts of what was Soviet Union - the Independence Movement of Chechnya's Flag, for instance, has similar design elements (though this is clearly not the flag you saw). Red, white and black are the colours of the Russian republic of Udmurtia, so maybe there's some connectionthere.
James Dignan, 25 May 2009

13. Eleven Blue Stars on a Red Field

Positive ID

Image provided by Creston Raines, 29 May 2009

I am the Adjutant of VFW Post 7498 in Port Hadlock, WA and have had a collection of 21 historical flags donated to the post. I have been able to find descriptions of 19 of these flags, but [this one] seems to be unknown. I am hoping that you will be able to shed some light on these [it]. We have these flags on display around the perimeter of the post with a brief history on each flag. Any history will be greatly appreciated.
Creston Raines, 29 May 2009

The original of this flag was a flag formerly in the collection of Boleslaw & Marie-Louise d'Otrange-Mastai. It is illustrated, in their landmark book "The Stars and the Stripes," on page 136 wherein they identified it as an 1861 proposal for a flag of the nascent Confederate States of America. These were widely available as reproductions offered during the American Revolution Bicentennial by a short-lived California flag company, Golden State Flag Co., which marketed these through Safeway grocery stores. Its actual identification remains speculative, but the original was sold at auction by Sotheby’s on October 10, 2002, as one of four pieces as Lot 82 for $7,768.00. Its current location is unknown to me.
James Ferrigan, 30 Aug 2009

14. Henry Hudson Flag in The Economist

Image submitted by Al Kirsch, 3 July 2009

The image above appears in The Economist, as New York commemorates the arrival of Henry Hudson, then working for the Dutch East India Company. Is the flag in the painting the artist's fantasy or is it a real flag, vintage 1609?
Al Kirsch, 3 July 2009

15. Man's Head on Flag in Lucerne, Switzerland

Positive ID

Image submitted by Dominique Cureau, 14 July 2009

Do you know what is this flag that I saw in Lucerne (Luzern). It represents the head of a man with a cap to 3 balls in yellow on a red background. See it also at
Dominique Cureau, 14 July 2009

This is the flag of a Lucerne carnival (mardi gras) guild: The "Maskenliebhaber" guild, formed in 1819 to further friendship and liberal ideas and to support Lucerne carnival and the wearing of masks. You may want to check the Luzerner Fasnacht website for more information (Swiss).
Philippe Macherel, 27 December 2009

16. White Star on Blue; Red Border

Positive ID

Image by Kevin Evans, 15 July 2009
(Star modified by Pete Loeser, 1 January 2010)

Can you identify the flag pictured here? Obviously it is a variation of the Bonnie Blue, but is there some other significance than a fancy Bonnie Blue? It was seen on a flag pole in Pontotoc, Mississippi (I think). It was flying just below the US flag. Maybe a municipal flag?
Kevin Evans, 15 July 2009

That flag is the flag of an organization called the "Silver Star Families of America" - Their website is Founded 2005, the Silver Star Families of America are dedicated to supporting and assisting the wounded and ill and their families. Their "goal is to recognize the blood sacrifice of our wounded and illnesses incurred during combat, and remember their efforts by honoring them with the Silver Star Banner." (from their website) Go to for a picture. (Note: The star color is actually a pale silver.)
Jan Mertens, 8 August 2009

17. Flag in Georgian Parliament

Some Speculation

Image submitted by Alexsandar Nemet, 21 July 2009

I wasn't able to find this flag on the FOTW site. It is hung in the parliament of Georgia. A small image is found on an English language web page; a larger image (cropped above) is found on a Georgian language page.
Alexsandar Nemet, 21 July 2009

It looks like a banner. The center of the flag is the old coat of arms of Georgia, used from independence until the Rose Revolution. The white and black stripes remind me of the old Georgia flag, used from the same time span.
Zachary Harden, Posted on "The Flag Forum," 29 August 2009

18. Two Flags from the Confederacy

One Positive ID and One Tentative ID

Image provided by "lancer525", 21 July 2009

I work in a house museum, and on the wall in one of the rooms, we have this hand drawn image of two flags. According to the files, this image "dates to the late 19th Century" and is "two flags from the Confederacy". I have never seen either of these two flags before, and while they look like Confederate era flags, they aren't quite exactly like any I have ever seen. One has a color reversal in the canton, and the other has a different star pattern. I would deeply appreciate any and all information anyone might know about either of these two flags.
"lancer525", 21 July 2009

Image from Museum of the Confederacy, 09 Sep 2009

The flag on the left is currently in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy # WD335: described as a 48"x 74"; 2nd National (variant with colors reversed) captured at the battle of Paine's Cross Roads, Virginia, April 1865, by Sgt. John A. Davidsizer of the 1st PA Cavalry. The flag on the right is a CSA Grand Luminary, I will check to see if I have any information on any with just 10 stars.
James Ferrigan, 09 Sep 2009

The flag on the right is an intermediate version of the 1st Confederate National Flag. Note that it has only ten stars in the canton rather than the final thirteen. There could have been some confusion over the status of the State of Tennessee which joined in a military alliance with the Confederacy on 7.V.1861 but did not formally join the Confederacy until the Act of \Succession was ratified by plebiscite on 8.VI.1861. The State of North Carolina joined the Confederacy on 20.V.1861 making it the official tenth Confederate state. I will speculate that this flag was made some time in the month of May 1861 or the beginning of of the month of June 1861.
David Pritchard, 18 Sep 2009

David Pritchard has correctly identified the chronology of the 10 star CSA 1st Nat. flag, but not the flag; we must remember that this in not a flag, but rather an image of a flag. Never-the-less, I concur with the dates, but that only gives us the tip of an iceberg. The Confederacy only officially had ten states for 41 days. The design shown in the image would place it between 21 May to July 2 1861 = 1 month 12 days = 42 days, a narrow window. Furthermore, the design of an inverted Grand Luminary make it intriguing as the Grand Luminary would have been an anathema to the Confederacy as they believed in “States Rights” rather than a strong central power. I am going to look for images of Confederate flags with a similar star pattern, as I’m unaware of any surviving flag with this design. Confederate flags with a Grand Luminary or Great Star design are very rare, and I have a file on images, but I do not recall if I’ve seen one like this, and the file is in storage in Nevada, so further research will have to await my return. My suspicions are that this painting is an allegorical post-war image.
James Ferrigan, 19 Sep 2009

Image of "Great Star" made from 10-stars

For those of you suffering from a terminology breakdown, a "Grand Luminary" or "Great Star" flag is one whose stars are placed in a pattern that form one large star. Notice the second Confederate flag has an upside-down 10-star "Great Star" on it.
Pete Loeser, 1 January 2010

Image provided by James Ferrigan, 27 June 2010

James Ferrigan informs me that a flag sold on eBay on 7 Feburary 2010 (lot #220548110325) by gallerybfa of Pittsburg was similar to the second flag. It was described as a 15-star Confederate parade or bible flag, circa 1861. The Great Star was upside down as on our second UFE, but it had 15 stars instead of 10. Speculation was that the maker of this flag was hopeful that the slave holding areas of Arizona Territory and New Mexico Territory would join the Confederacy, or that the flag was made at a point in 1861 when 11 states were declared Confederate and the maker was hopeful that the 4 remaining slave-holding states in the Union would join the southern cause (Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri). The small flag was hand sewn (average of 15 stitches per linear inch), the fabric was wool with embossed paper gold stars attached by stitches. The stars are applied on one side only. The flag dimensions were about 6 7/8" x 11 1/2". Unfortunately, as James correctly points out, with no history and no known provenance other than that provided by the eBay auction, plus the use of the upside down Grand Luminary in its design, this flag does not positively identify our UFE, but seems of a similar design. As James states: "This, of course, prompts an investigation of the origins and demise of these star patterns as a motif on Confederate flags - are they symbolic, artistic, both?"
Pete Loeser, 27 June 2010

19. Red-White Striped Flag on Stick-pin

Tentative ID

Image provided by Ann Meacham, 24 July 2009

Have not been able to identify the following flag pin. Interesting that the style (note the rope detail wrapped around staff) matches another flag pin identified as the sport club Slavia Praha Rowing Club. Perhaps another club with international members?
Ann Meacham,, 24 July 2009

I might be a flag pin showing an erroneous version of the flag, of former Rudergesellschaft "Nelson“ Halle, before German reunion located in Goslar. The club meanwhile merged with RC Böllberg Halle and is today part of SC Halle. The flag of "Nelson" however had only 9-stripes. (I checked it at RA77 and the club’s website as well) Due to all other parts, however, it is a perfect match. (See: Hallesche RV Böllberg (German rowing club) ) To be on the safe side, I send a copy to SC Halle, maybe they can reconfirm my information.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 28 July 2009

20. Yellow Flag with Green and Red Vertical Stripes

Positive ID

Image from Rhonda Thompson, 30 July 2009</p>

 Hello, I am trying to identify a flag I saw recently. Although it looks like a country flag, I have not been able to find it. The flag is yellow with one narrow green stripe on the right and left edges and 3 vertical narrow red stripes in the center. The flag was seen as a decal on a truck here in Tucson yesterday and, being interested in flags, I began to look it up when I got home. I could not find it in international flags, military flags nor religious flags.
Rhonda Thompson, 30 July 2009

It's very common, specially among US War Veterans to have medal-related flags or flags designed after a ribbon of a given Order, Decoration or Medal. In this case, the flag is based on the ribbon of the Vietnam Service Medal. The flag is based on the ribbon of this medal ( For more information on this medals please see:
Esteban Rivera, 31 July 2009

21. 48-Star Casket Flag with Four Gold Stripes.

Tentative ID


I received this query about a casket flag. He seems to have ruled out fading as an explanation. Is there another? He said "I have a flag I received at my uncle's funeral in 1955. The 48-star flag that was placed on his casket...has several gold stripes where the white stripes should be. The first, second, fourth, and sixth white stripes are all gold, while the third and fifth are white."
Albert Kirsch, 24 October 2009

Since I'm no good at visualizing, I created this UFE by coloring in a 48-star flag. This only leaves two stripes white, which are not the outer stripes. If this colouring was about those two strips, those would have been gold instead. Or if specifically about white stripes, then the other stripes would have been grey, rather than gold. So, it must be about the gold stripes. But if it would be about four gold stripes, then the best way to distribute them would be with the white stripes on the outside. In this case, the white stripes divide the gold into three bands with roughly the same amount of gold. If we interpret this as a military custom related to rank; do we have a rank that is symbolised by three gold bands?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 7 January 2010

"I have a large 48 star flag the size given at funerals when a serviceman dies. The first stripe below the stars is gold rather than white like the rest. What does this signify? Is this a veteran killed in the war? Thanks, Judy."
Yet another inquiry concerning gold stripes on the U.S. flag. Is there really anything to this?
Al Kirsch, 25 February 2010

Speculative Image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 26 February 2010

This would appear to be some sort of tradition. Both flags have 48 stars which suggests that the custom might not exist anymore. It also appears that the custom is casket flags related, and that a couple questions need to be asked:

  1. When did the custom start of using flags over caskets and presenting those to the closest relatives afterwards?
  2. Are casket flags uncommonly large and would there be a size specifically for flags used for that purpose?
  3. Do the gold or white stripes represent a serviceman's military rank.
  4. Is there an organization that would have been responsible for such flags in the period of 48 stars?
To help with visualization, I made a speculative version of the flag with one with a single gold stripe.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 26 February 2010

Is this the same person asking, or somebody completely new? If new, it would indicate that the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars would have some knowledge of the tradition. As a member of both the Legion and the VFW, I'll ask.
Pete Loeser, 25 February 2010

I do know that navy officers have one, two, three, or four stripes on their shoulders for ensign, lieutenant, commander, and captain, respectively (army/marine/a.f. equivalents lieutenant, captain, major, and colonel, roughly), but don't know if this has anything to do with gold stripes on casket flags.
Al Kirsch, 26 February 2010

I just received this reply to my inquiry about gold stripes from the American Legion: "As the fifteen-year resident flag ´guru´ here at National Headquarters, this is the first time we have ever been asked this question! From time to time we will receive a question about 48-star flags with gold stars. Have you made contact with Dr. Whitney Smith? He is THE FLAG GURU and might be able to offer some insight. If you do come across something would you mind sharing it with us? - Michael Buss, Assistant Director, Americanism and Children & Youth Division." I'm still waiting on the VFW reply.
Pete Loeser, 26 February 2010

The practice of using flags on caskets, then presenting the flag to the family, appears to be a practice of long standing. I've never known a time without it, although I wasn't around for World War I. There is an official "casket flag." US Army and USAF protocol say 5' x 9.5' in size (1.5m x 2.9m), which is pretty big.
Al Kirsch, 26 February 2010

Gold stars were definitely used for servicemen who died in action in Europe toward the end of World War II or shortly thereafter - seems to have been a short lived phenomenon, and that only for bodies returned from southern Germany, as I recall. As for the reported use of gold stripes on casket flags, this seems to be a recent development.
Rob Raeside, 26 February 2010

For a number of years, the U.S. Veterans' Administration, and before that the Defense, and earlier, War and Navy, Departments have more or less supervised the business of casket flags for service personnel and veterans. Today, and for as long as most of us recall, the VA in fact buys, specifies and supplies the 5 x 9.5 foot flags that are used for this purpose. So I should think that a query to the VA, perhaps directed at their archives or historic office, might answer the question of the gold stripes. Including a photo or gif would probably help, if such a thing is available. A 48-star flag would date back 50 years at least, but not more than 98 years; that would mean that the War Department may have been in charge. Those people keep fairly good historical records, so a query there might eventually yield some sort of a reliable reply. Much as I respect and salute the various non-governmental veteran´s organizations -- VFW, American Legion, DAR, etc. - they are not the real arbiters of this question, and I doubt that they have definitive resources to respond. I have a suspicion, as Al Kirsch probably does too, that there is a very interesting story lurking behind this incident someplace, if only we can find it.
Bill Dunning, 27 February 2010

I have just caught up on this thread. There seem to be several questions, so here is what I know. At some reasonably uncertain points during World War I a number of flags were created that sometimes seem to be connected with military funerals. There are several design variants that have been observed:

  1. US Flag (48 stars) with 1 or more gold stars (but never all of them) in place of the correct white stars. I have seen 1, 2, and 4 gold stars, usually the first few in the top row at the hoist. Howie Madaus reported in 2001 that he had heard of a flag where two rows of stars on a 48 star flag were gold and the rest white.
  2. US Flag (48 Stars) with 1 or more gold stripes (but never all of them) in place of the correct red stripes. I have seen gold stripes #3, #5, #9, and #11 (counting from the top).
  3. Jim Ferrigan, Howie Madaus, and I discussed this at some length. We rejected the notion that some kind of substandard fabrics were used which aged to a bright golden color. Although this is possible with certain cotton fabrics, it seems too regular to not have been deliberate. At least one of the flags I have seen is in like new condition, having been carefully stored since the 1918. We have not completely ruled out substandard fabrics, however.
  4. There seems to be a European connection on all of these flags that we had such data on. While not all of the flags in this category are identified as to origination, those that were identified this way were all European in manufacture (and all were from France).
  5. Dating has been difficult on these flags because of the similarities of manufacture from World War I to World War II, although all those I have seen with any kind of a story place the flag in World War I. Only one flag I have seen was with out question from 1918 and it has 4 gold stripes replacing #3, #5, #9, and #11 (counting from the top). It was not however a military funeral flag and, in fact, bore markings that indicate US manufacture although the owner who inherited it has documents that clearly state it originated in France. Who knows?
  6. I have searched US sources from 1916-1918 and from 1940-1945 and have turned up nothing about such flags. Maybe someone in France or other parts of Europe may have better luck. The jury is still out on this.
  7. Regarding casket flags, this is a custom whose origin seems to be at least several centuries old. It may have originated in the naval custom of covering a casket with the ship's ensign when conducting a burial at sea prior to sliding the casket overboard (but retaining the flag). The US Military has more or less used this custom since the Civil War (seems to have been just used for officers on occasion at that point) but it wasn't codified into military rules until World War I or thereabouts, as far as I have been able to determine.
  8. Today, such flags are usually 5 by 8 feet in size (1.5 x 2.4 meters) although the official size is supposed to be 5 x 9.5 (1.5 x 2.9 meters). The flag is used during the funeral to cover the casket, then folded into a triangle and presented to the next of kin with appropriate words. NAVA NEWS #190 (April-June 2006) featured a cartoon on the back cover that details the flag ceremony at a military funeral.
Dave Martucci, 27 February 2010

Believe it or not, I got a thank-you note from the second enquirer (Judy) for my (our) efforts, and she said her flag was stamped "Annin." Not French, then! She got the flag at an auction and knows nothing of its provenance, and that her late father (a WWII vet) had a standard casket flag. She's asking around the VFW, but we've been down that road ourselves....
Al Kirsch, 28 February 2010

My last inquiry about an Annin manufactured flag (UFE10-8) resulted in failure because apparently they only keep records for the last five years, but I still feel there is a story behind these gold striped flags, so I plan to ask them if they know anything about gold striped 48-star flags or the traditions behind them.
Pete Loeser, 28 February 2010

Annin's answer: "There is a website just for this purpose It is hosted by one of America's most prominent flag experts. Please send your inquiry to this website. Thank you for your interest in Annin & Co. and the opportunity to be of assistance." (That would be Dave Martucci - Ed.)
Kathleen Lubanski, 1 March 2010

The Veterans of Foreign Wars responded: "This is the first time I have come across any U.S. Flag with anything other than red and white stripes. For that reason, we have no protocols for such a flag and would not consider it a proper burial Flag. - Steve Van Buskirk, Director of Programs."
Pete Loeser, 1 March 2010

My friends at Humphrys Flag Company in Philadelphia directed me to a comment they found on the "" website about the use of gold stars and stripes: "A lady described to me a flag presented to her Mother in honor of her Father's death on the Bataan Death March. The flag has 5 gold stars randomly spread among the other 43 white stars. In researching the meaning of the gold stars for her, I came across a blog that stated that many American flags, used for military funerals during World War II, were made in France. These flags were hand stitched and many included varying numbers of gold stars mixed with the white stars. One man stated that he had a flag with 38 gold stars and 10 white stars. With the situation as it was in the United States and Europe at the time, quality control was not a big issue. One explanation of the gold stars was perhaps the French workers were aware of the Gold Star Mother's flag and added the gold stars as a similar honor. If anyone can verify, add to or deny this explanation, it would be appreciated."
John Udics, 2 March 2010

My own preference would be to make getting an actual photo of such a flag the top priority. There may be some story behind these reported gold stripe flags, but I think we ought to consider the number of cases. There were approximately 15 million US veterans of World War II, and probably at least 2/3 have died by now... and that's not counting vets of other wars who have also died. How many reports of gold-striped flags are there? Four, five? Is the total less than double figures? Unless we get better information, and evidence that they occur more often than one in one million, I'd say these are just freaks, flukes, or even plain mis-seeings. I once saw a Greek flag with some gray stripes and some white ones. I don't think there was any significance to it beside the fact that the stripes fabric may have come from different lots, and thus aged/weathered at different rates. How "gold" - as opposed to "yellowed" - are the examples reported to us. If there really is some significance to these US flags variants why are they so incredibly rare? [I'm not questioning the "gold star" flags - the story behind them has already been reported.]
Ned Smith 3 March 2010

Over the past few years I've had a number of flags brought to my attention that have similar characteristics, they appear to be standard 48-star US flags except that there are stripes of yellow that appear on some part of the flag. These presumably were done intentionally, but most of the men involved have died and their relatives now hope to find out what the meaning is - too late. There probably was some kind of symbolism having to do with the individual or military circumstances that is now lost. I wish I could help you on this but military and government authorities I have contacted don't seem to know either. I have some images of actual flags and will eventually pull them together to form an article in The Flag Bulletin which should at least give a better idea of the intentions of the makers.
Whitney Smith, 8 March 2010

I received this from the Navy Department: "The Navy Department Library does not have any information on the subject of gold stripes on US casket flags. However, the US Army produced gold-star flags in the 48-star pattern as part of the ´Plan for Repatriation of the Dead of World War II´ (see the bibliography here:, in which survivors of dead servicemen buried overseas could 'opt in' and have their relative's remains returned to the United States for re-interment in a National Cemetery. It is possible that the gold-striped flags could have been part of this program, or a related program. " - I will pursue this interesting lead with the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum as suggested by Mr. Knechtmann...
James Allen Knechtmann, Reference Librarian, Navy Department Library, Naval History and Heritage Command, 9 March 2010

We are researching the significance of the 48-Star flags with gold stripes and will send a complete response soon.
Kimberley Bernard, Memorial Programs Service, VA National Cemetery Administration, 10 March 2010

UFE Editors Note: The following organizations were contacted and responded, but were unable to help.: Veterans of Foriegn Wars, Annin Flag Company, American Legion, and the Veteran's Administration.
Pete Loeser, 9 March 2010

I received this from US Army Quartermaster Museum: " I believe each stripe represents a particular amount of World War II deceased personnel. I will check, but I think each gold stripe stands for 50000. It was idea that arose from the US Army Quartermaster Depot in Philadelphia where the flags were made to denote with a special gold stripe a fallen hero. It didn't matter what rank and it may have helped keep track of how many flags were being made too. Let me do some more research and I will get back to you. - Sincerely, ."
Luther Hanson, US Army QM Museum, 10 March 2010

Received this follow up from the QM Museum: " I was not able to find anything official either heraldic or graves registration wise. I checked all the QM Depot flag photos we have and all the articles on flag manufacturing we have. I do remember an article on the Internet ten years ago that reported seeing at least one gold striped flag on a railroad siding, with many other flagged caskets being transported, and I remember being told the stripe designated the 50000th dead service member. We did locate in the QM Depot records several notes suggesting that it was an idea of either Col. George Christie, Jr., head of manufacturing Division QM Depot, or Mrs. Helen Martin, Chief of the QM Flag Section. During World War II and for 30 years after, Helen was known as the Betsy Ross of the flag Section. So I definitely think it was an internal idea as there are no official plans for these flags with gold stripes to be manufactured. They were a symbolic way to honor the war dead and a way to inventory the flags at the same time. I will keep looking for supporting documentation."
Luther Hanson, US Army QM Museum, 11 March 2010

Could the gold-stripe idea (and the gold stars in the 48-star canton) have been suggested by the Gold-Star Service Flag which was introduced in World War II? The original service flag, for those who may not know, was a vertical banner, about 8 x 12 inches [20 x 30 cm] but often smaller, and usually with gold fringe, that could be hung in the front window of a home where a son or daughter was in the armed services. The design was a medium-wide red border around a white field, with a blue star in the center. If the family had more than one child serving in the war (overseas, I think), the agency that supplied the banners would furnish a flag with two, three or more blue stars. These were invariably vertical banners, with the uppermost point of the mullet star upward, or toward the hoist -- a small stick with finials and a cord for hanging.
      Then --- and here's my point --- if the serviceman or woman was killed in action, the blue-star service flag was replaced with one bearing a gold star. The term "Gold Star Mother" was coined to honor the bereaved mothers of those KIAs. (Fathers never got the recognition, because the social pattern in those days was that dads were supposed to be stoic and unemotional about such things.)
      I have no recollection whether it was the U.S. War (later Defense) Department that furnished the service flags, or who. Someone will know, I'm sure. But the idea that a gold star (or stripe?) honored the dead was seemingly planted by this custom. I am not sure, either, if there were pole-size flags created for the same reason. They would have been, I'm sure, oriented for horizontal display, with the uppermost starpoint toward the top, and probably no fringe.
      Incidentally, what ever became of that whole "service flag" custom? You don't see them any more. It was a powerful tool for making citizens feel that their sacrifice meant something to the nation and the government. During the two World Wars, there was no wide-spread protest against "killing our boys for nothing" ... there has always been a sentiment against war, since history began, but the popular American feeling, and the personalizing of casualties, didn't really seem to take hold until late in the Korean War and then in Vietnam. Could the decline of the service flag, and the general lowering of patriotic fervor and symbolism, had an effect here? Just another example, may I submit, of the importance of flags in society.
Bill Dunning, 13 March 2010

I direct your attention to our FOTW page on the Service Star, Blue Star Banner - There is an organization that was found in Flint, Michigan in 1942 and became a U.S. Congress charted corporation in 1960 that supports the Service Flag called the Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. According to the Blue Star Mothers of America website, the origin of their flag is thus - "The Service flag, also called the Blue Star Flag, was designed and patented by WWI Army Captain Robert L. Queisser of the 5th Ohio Infantry who had two sons serving on the front line." Their homepage is located at:
Steve Shumaker, USS Michigan, 13 March 2010

There's a Service Flag hanging in the window of a house about three doors down the street from mine (Alexandria, VA), and I see a number of cars with bumper stickers in the design of the Service flag. I would say the custom has actually been revived after falling into abeyance during the Vietnam period. Note: Actually, to make the gold star version a smaller gold star was sewn over the blue one, leaving a gold star with a blue border.
Joe McMillan, 15 March 2010

Image from Pat, 6 July 2010

New Enquiry forwarded by Rob Raeside: "A friend has a flag that has been in their family that has red and white stripes along with gold stripes and 48 stars. What is the name of this flag and what year did it come out? Here is a picture of the flag. - Pat, 6 July 2010."
Rob Raeside, 7 July 2010

As this case is similar to two other cases, a few questions come to mind. I hope Pat can help us here:

  1. Would this be a coffin flag, like the other two? Either, does the friend's family know that it was used for the funeral of a relative, or is it something like 1.5m x 2.9m (5' x 9.5') in size, as Al Kirsch describes it?
  2. This is the same pattern as the flag the nephew of a service man asked about, mentioned on our page. I hope Pat can determine whether we're really talking about a new case here, or whether by coincidence this is the same specimen, that is being asked about for a second time.
  3. Since it was suggested that the pattern might be rank or service related, I hope with Pat's help we may finally determine whether that might be the case. (It's a pity Al didn't receive information about the uncle's rank, as it could have served for comparison here.)
  4. Judy's flag was stamped "Annin," for Annin flags. I can't quite make out the mark on Pat's photograph. I'd say "Annin" might fit, but hopefully Pat can tells us for sure what is written at the hoist.
  5. Originally, I had understood the explanation from Luther Hanson to refer to different flags honouring each subsequent 50.000th death, as that would explain the patterns. But if two of them are the same, the system, if it existed, must have been different. We can only hope that Whitney Smith will soon find the time to share the information from his contacts with the field, so we may have a better understanding of the number of flags and patterns involved.
  6. From the photograph my approximation seem slightly off in two respects: The stars seem too large, and the blue isn't dark enough. In this new I've tried to approximate both closer, though in reality the blue may be even darker, and I don't really know how big the stars should be; perspective makes it difficult to determine. However, though almost all parts were eventually changed, I probably started out with the 48-star S&S image we have on the site. Does this mean that too needs a face lift? (If so, could someone more skilled do this? (Clay, for example?)
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 8 July 2010

Just in answer to that last question: in the US Navy, three gold bands would be the rank of Commander (or possibly Lt. Commander). The army/USAF/USMC equivalent is Lt. Colonel (or Major, respectively). Not sure if this helps, but there you are. In more detail, the gold stripes (1 inch) and half-stripes (half-inch) in the Navy, with their Army, etc., equivalents in parentheses, are:

  1. 1 stripe: Ensign (2nd Lieutenant)
  2. 1.5 stripes: Lieutenant junior grade (1st Lieut.)
  3. 2 stripes: Lieutenant (Captain)
  4. 2.5 stripes: Lieut. Commander (Major)
  5. 3 stripes: Commander (Lieut. Colonel)
  6. 4 stripes: Captain (Colonel)
At least this is the WWII pattern. Above that you're into generals and admirals.
Al Kirsch, 8 July 2010

[ UFE Editor's Note - It appears that these flags do exist, but documentation of the meanings of the gold stripes are lost. I mark them as tententively identified and look forward to the results of Luther Hanson and Doctor Smith's research ]

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