Last modified: 2002-10-12 by
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by Rick Wyatt, 6 September 1998
by Rick Wyatt, 14 November 1998
The website of the U.S. Naval History Center says:
Ships of the earliest period in the Nation's naval history wore a variety of flags, including the striped Grand Union, and those bearing a pine tree or rattlesnake. However, these various banners may be considered steps in the genesis of the national ensign, the "Stars and Stripes," rather than forebears of a specific flag for the Navy.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century the Infantry Battalion flag
was introduced for use by naval landing forces. This was a blue flag with a white diamond shaped device in the center and a blue foul anchor superimposed on the diamond. For more than sixty years, the Infantry Battalion flag served as the unofficial Navy flag in drill formations and parades and at other ceremonies. An official Navy flag, truly representative of the Navy's operating forces at sea, was authorized by Presidential order 24 April 1959:
The flag for the United States Navy is 4 feet 4 inches hoist by 5 feet 6 inches fly, of dark blue material, with yellow fringe, 2 1/2 inches wide. In the center of the flag is a device 3 feet 1 inch overall consisting of the inner pictorial position of the seal of the Department of the Navy (with the exception that a continuation of the sea has been substituted for the land area), in its proper colors within a circular yellow rope edging, all 2 feet 6 inches in diameter above a yellow scroll inscribed "United States Navy," in dark blue letters.Unlike the national ensign, commission pennant, union jack, and admiral's broad pennant which fly from gaff, mast, or staff on board naval vessels, the flag of the United States Navy is reserved for display purposes and is carried by an honor guard on ceremonial occasions.
While the outdoor versions are certainly seen being used by various unofficial groups, they are not only unauthorized but in some cases expressly prohibited by the relevant service directives. In the Navy's case, SECNAV Instruction 10520.2D, paragraph 4.a(3) says "The U.S. Navy Flag shall not be used for outdoor fixed display purposes."
Joe McMillan, 6 September 1999
by Al Fisher Jr, 17 November 1997
Fairly early in the history of submarines, surface ships of the U.S. Navy began using a special flag to indicate that a submarine was operating in the area. As late as 1983, when I left a five-year assignment with the submarine force, submarine rescue vessels still flew this flag when in port -- I'm not sure if it was flown when underway. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to the U.S. Navy flag book, so cannot tell you if it was official or merely traditional, and if the former, under what circumstances it was/is flown.
This image is a representation of this flag as shown in the 1917 National Geographic flag issue. Dimensions were not given, but the ratio and proportions are pretty close. The description indicates that the flag was flown (1) from the tender (I think this refers to accompanying ship, not a submarine tender as we know them today) and (2) as a small metal flag attached to the submarine's periscope. I can guarantee that the latter is no longer practiced. So now we can add a "steel" fish to our collection!
Al Fisher Jr, 17 November 1997