SEARCH FINESCALE.COM

Enter keywords or a search phrase below:

Question on Flag Protocol for USN vessels on active duty

888 views
26 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    January, 2015
  • From: Katy (Houston), TX
Question on Flag Protocol for USN vessels on active duty
Posted by Aggieman on Thursday, April 18, 2019 10:40 AM

Would a USN ship have flown the US Flag while on active duty?

I am nearing a 4-month long build on Trumpeter's USS Texas BB-35.  The kit instructions call for installing a US flag decal on the mast right at the bow of the ship, yet I don't see any actual photos from WWII showing the flag in place.  It seems that it is more accurate to just leave the flag off (and the kit part is terribly fragile, so I'm a bit apprehensive about attempting to wrap that decal around the mast part).  My reference is a Squadron book on the USS Texas that is full of war-time photos, but if anyone has any different information, please share.

Thanks!

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Mansfield, TX
Posted by EdGrune on Thursday, April 18, 2019 10:59 AM

When not underway (i.e. anchored.  moored at a dock, or tied up alongside another ship/craft) the jack is flown at the bow and the national ensign is flown from the stern.

As soon as the ship gets underway (anchor is aweigh, lines cast off) the colors are shifted.   The jack at the bow is struck and the ensign is flown on the main mast.

For your period, the jack was the blue union with stars.   Currently it is the 'Don't Tread on Me' rattlesnake flag, although the blue union is returning.   The national ensign is flown only during daylight hours from the period of morning colors to evening retirement.  

I have seen photos of a ship undergoing inclining measurements in a flooded drydock.  All lines are cast off.   You would think it was not underway since it was in a drydock, but the flag was at the main.   

The definition of the main mast is different for each class.   It goes back to the 3 mast ships with the fore, mizzen, and main.   For example the main mast on a Fletcher destroyer is not the tall mast near the bridge.  Rather it is a gaff mast on the after funnel

  • Member since
    April, 2019
Posted by skir4d on Thursday, April 18, 2019 11:19 AM

Part of the reason that the Ensign is flown from other masts than the one that you would expect is the battle ensign is considerably larger than the normal ensign. For modern ships (one that doesn't have masts in the sailing sense) that may include flying it from the end of the yardarm versus on the centerline hoist. Considering the closeness of the main mast to the forward stack in a Fletcher it may have been flown aft to prevent it from being cooked. That said, if you look through the internet for photos you will find it flown from a wide variety of places, even on Fletchers.

In the usual sense, if you are floating and the mooring lines are in you are "underway".The question would be were they showing the required day or night signals for a vessel restricted in her ability to manuever. Wink

And yes, she.... you will not break me of that habit. Devil

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Mansfield, TX
Posted by EdGrune on Thursday, April 18, 2019 5:11 PM

 

skir4d

The question would be were they showing the required day or night signals for a vessel restricted in her ability to manuever. Wink

Or the correct callsign hoist: November Alpha Delta Victor

  • Member since
    May, 2010
Posted by amphib on Friday, April 19, 2019 6:26 AM

The little mast you refer to at the bow is properly called the jack staff and the only flag flown from it would be the union jack or "don't tread on me" jack.

  • Member since
    January, 2015
  • From: Katy (Houston), TX
Posted by Aggieman on Friday, April 19, 2019 8:23 AM

Thanks for all the answers, everyone!  It is clear to me that I know very little about naval ships.  Also clear is that Trumpeter's instructions and painting guide are at the very best suspect, as they clearly display a US flag flying from the jack staff.

I opted to leave the flag off completely, which mirrored the wartime photos I have in the Squadron Signals book on the USS Texas.

  • Member since
    November, 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Friday, April 19, 2019 2:09 PM

Make sure you use a 48 starred flag, Ensign or Jack.

Battleships typically carried Size 1 flags, with a suite of smaller sizes for different uses.

Link:  https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/f/flag-sizes.html

The largest, #1 was typically used as :the Sunday ensign."  The "daily" Ensign is going to be a #3 or #4. (Texas currently flies a #8 with a matching size Texas flag, except when in "full dress.")

Going into battle, the largest Ensigns would be flown on both fore and main masts. 

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Mansfield, TX
Posted by EdGrune on Friday, April 19, 2019 3:14 PM

Check Classic Warships USS Texas by Steve Wiper.   Numerous photos.   There is a gaff protruding from the lower 20mm/searchlight tub on the after tripod mast.  The majority of the photos show the ensign flown there.  There are also a couple of photos showing the ensign flown from a stub between the upper and lower director cabins on the fore tripod mast, above the level of the yardarms.

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Friday, April 19, 2019 3:51 PM

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Seattle, WA
Posted by Surface_Line on Saturday, April 20, 2019 5:24 PM

For most US ships, Trumpeter instructions have the "moored" flags exactly backward, wuth the ensign (stars and stripes) at the bow and jack(white stars on blue field) aft.  To show a ship at anchor or moored, they need to be reversed.
For the ship underway, the ensign flies from a gaff on the forward mast.

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Mansfield, TX
Posted by EdGrune on Thursday, April 25, 2019 10:46 AM

Let’s talk about underway again.  

Just completed a half transit of the Panama Canal from Gamboa (midpoint of Gatun Lake) through Pietro Miguel & Miraflores locks.  Side by side with a Panamax container ship.   A post-Panamax LNG tanker just across the way at the new locks   

Question for those who might know   Would a naval ship be ‘moored’ when attached to the puller locomotive engines ?   The ship‘s propeller drives forward through the lock gates to the next chamber  The engines serve to center the ship (as needed) in the chamber.   

Flags shown were country of registry at stern, Panama from yardarm along with personal flag of the Panama Canal pilot   The LNG tanker was also flying Bravo 

 

 

  • Member since
    May, 2010
Posted by amphib on Friday, April 26, 2019 5:37 AM

I believe the ship would technically be moving -therefore underway- so the national ensign would be flown from a mast. If the ship you are representing-say the USS Texas- were making a transit before we gave the canal to Pananama no Panamanian flag would be flying since the canal zone was US territory. After the canal was given to Panama the Panamanian flag would be flown. 

But that's not the end of it. If an admiral was embarked then his pennant would be flown. Also probably a four flag hoist port and starboard of the ship's radio call sign. Ours was N-P-R-X. November,Papa,Romeo,Xray.

Another interesting item. It appears that battleships and other ships with aircraft cranes on the stern had no place to fly the ensign while moored. Therefore it was always flown from a mast. The jack would be in the normal place when moored.

 

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Friday, April 26, 2019 10:10 AM

amphib

Another interesting item. It appears that battleships and other ships with aircraft cranes on the stern had no place to fly the ensign while moored. Therefore it was always flown from a mast. The jack would be in the normal place when moored. 

I suppose that depends upon the Class design. Perhaps the ships with twin stern catapults or cranes did not have that. But the older battleships had it. Here is USS Arizona off of Long Beach in 1931

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    November, 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Friday, April 26, 2019 7:03 PM

I believe those capital ships with catapaults right in the stern just had a flagstff which could be struck down when underway. 

Pleanty of pictures off USS Colorado underway with not flagstaff, and moored with one.

Ettiquette is to fly the National Ensign fro mthe highest mast, which could be a the foremast.  A gaff is typically provided.

For modern operations, in "battle stations" mode, you fly the three largest ensigns; largest from the nedo the starboard yardarm, next largest from the next math aft, the thrid largest from the port fore yardarm.

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Friday, April 26, 2019 8:20 PM

Photos of the Iowa class show the National Ensign flown off a mast on the aft stack when moored. 

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • From: Philadelphia Pa
Posted by Nino on Friday, April 26, 2019 9:50 PM

Not many photo's on this topic yet so I thought I would add one more.

 

 

Nevada Anchored.  Oops!
 
 
Flag day,  June 14th. Fly it  high.
 
   Nino
 
P.S.  Stikpusher, I think Arizona was on the East Coast all 1931.  I suspect the picture you have is a 1935 shot after her "modernization " in the early 30's.
  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Friday, April 26, 2019 10:31 PM

It could very well be. I recognize the hill of Palos Verdes peninsula in the background. But just was taking the year off the Navsource caption where I found the photo.

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Friday, April 26, 2019 11:33 PM

amphib

I believe the ship would technically be moving -therefore underway- so the national ensign would be flown from a mast. If the ship you are representing-say the USS Texas- were making a transit before we gave the canal to Pananama no Panamanian flag would be flying since the canal zone was US territory. After the canal was given to Panama the Panamanian flag would be flown. 

But that's not the end of it. If an admiral was embarked then his pennant would be flown. Also probably a four flag hoist port and starboard of the ship's radio call sign. Ours was N-P-R-X. November,Papa,Romeo,Xray.

Another interesting item. It appears that battleships and other ships with aircraft cranes on the stern had no place to fly the ensign while moored. Therefore it was always flown from a mast. The jack would be in the normal place when moored.

 

 

Returned to Panama, or at least returned to the entity that took over from Colombia.

Panama Territory is an interesting history.

But it’s hard to draw conclusions from ships in transit there, probably in the most historically complicated ways possible.

 

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Saturday, April 27, 2019 9:47 AM

USS Idaho underway and with a better photo of the National Ensign on the mast

 

 and USS Arizona at anchor

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    May, 2010
Posted by amphib on Saturday, April 27, 2019 2:22 PM

Took another look at the pictures. As far as I can tell the Iowa class battleships did not have a flag staff on the stern when they had the aircraft  cranes. Therefore they flew the ensign from the mast whether moored or underway

It appears that the older ships did have a flagstaff behind the crane. Not sure about the South Dakota or Massachusetts.

BTW take a look at the second picture you posted. There is a two star admiral's flag flying at the top of the mast.

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Saturday, April 27, 2019 4:49 PM

I was wondering about that flag above the stars & stripes. I’m surprised that it is flown from a higher position. 

 

F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton

LSM

 

  • Member since
    August, 2005
  • From: Mansfield, TX
Posted by EdGrune on Saturday, April 27, 2019 7:27 PM

That is admiral’s flag

  • Member since
    October, 2005
Posted by CG Bob on Saturday, April 27, 2019 8:47 PM

The pictures of the USS IDAHO show the Stars and Stripes flying from a gaff on the mast. The gaff is considered the highest peak of honor on the mast.   The admiral's flag flying at the mast truck, is not considered to be flying above the US ensign because it is not on the same halyard as the ensign.

  • Member since
    November, 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Saturday, April 27, 2019 10:04 PM

The ship's Commissioning Penant always flies from the highest possible point.

Flag officers' flags fly at the next highest point for identification, and so as to not require duplicate flags.  ("Senior" flags fly highest, so if DecNav or POTUS is abaord, embarked Admirals' Flags would fly below.)

The plans fo the Ioa Class include a flagstaff in the stern--it's demountable to allow operation the a/c crane.  Smae as how most jack staffs can be struck down--and often are, while underway.

  • Member since
    November, 2005
  • From: Formerly Bryan, now Arlington, Texas
Posted by CapnMac82 on Saturday, April 27, 2019 10:07 PM

It's been two years since I was at Fall River, but, I'm pretty sure Massachusetts has a flagstaff aboard, there in Battleship Cove.

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Saturday, April 27, 2019 10:29 PM

After all, flying the ensign from the stern would never coincide with seaplane launch operations.

  • Member since
    July, 2014
  • From: Philadelphia Pa
Posted by Nino on Sunday, April 28, 2019 2:36 PM

GMorrison

After all, flying the ensign from the stern would never coincide with seaplane launch operations.

 

Or Blimps/Balloons.

   Nino

JOIN OUR COMMUNITY!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

SEARCH FORUMS

FREE NEWSLETTER
By signing up you may also receive reader surveys and occasional special offers. We do not sell, rent or trade our email lists. View our Privacy Policy.