FLAGS AND PENNANTS
Learning Objective: When you finish this chapter, you
will be able to
Recognize the function and use of flags and
Flags and pennants serve various functions
throughout the world. They have identified nations,
governments, rank, and ownership and have conveyed
messages for centuries. This section introduces flags
and pennants that identify persons and ships and
transmit information and orders. On special occasions,
flags are used as a decoration, such as dress ship.
The Navy uses the international alphabet flags;
numeral pennants and a code/answer pennant; a set of
numeral flags, special flags, and pennants; and four
substitutes, or repeaters.
Each alphabet flag has the phonetic name of the
letter it represents. A numeral flag takes the name of the
numeral it represents; numeral pennants are used only
in call signals. Special flags and pennants are used in
tactical maneuvers to direct changes in speed, position,
formation, and course; to indicate and identify units;
and for specialized purposes. Flags and pennants are
spoken and written as shown in figures 4-14 and 4-15.
EMERGENCY AND ADMINISTRATIVE
The flags and pennants (figs. 4-14 and 4-15)
represent only a few of the thousands of signals that can
be transmitted by flag hoist. Since they may be
frequently seen displayed aboard Navy ships or
stations, it would be to your advantage to learn to
identify them and understand their meaning. Your own
personal safety may someday depend on recognizing a
particular signal flag.
Table 4-3 contains only those international signals
most commonly used and having the same meaning as
THE NATIONAL ENSIGN
Our national ensign (fig. 4-16) must always be
treated with the greatest respect. It should never touch
the ground or the deck. It should always be folded,
stowed, and displayed properly. Our flag represents
freedom to the world today and forever.
When not under way, commissioned ships display
the ensign from the flagstaff at the stern and the union
jack from the jack staff at the bow from 0800 to sunset.
While under way, the ensign is normally flown from the
gaff. In ships having more than one mast, the gaff is
usually positioned on the aftermast. In ships equipped
with two macks (combination masts and stacks), the
location of the flag depends on which mast is configured
to accept halyards or a gaff.
When a U.S. naval ship enters a foreign port during
darkness, at first light it briefly displays its colors on the
gaff to make known its nationality. Other ships of war
that are present customarily display their colors in
Our national ensign, along with the union jack, is
referred to as colors. At commands ashore and on U.S.
naval ships not under way, the ceremonial hoisting and
lowering of the national flag at 0800 and sunset is
known as morning and evening colors.
When the national ensign is hoisted and lowered or
half-masted for any occasion, the motions of the senior
officer present are followed. This is done by flying the
PREPARATIVE pennant (called PREP) 5 minutes
before morning and evening colors. Ceremonies for
colors begin when PREP is hauled to the dip (the
halfway point). The PREP pennant is shown in
If a band or recorded music is available for the
colors ceremony, Attention is sounded, followed by
the national anthem. At morning colors, the ensign is
hoisted when the music begins. It is smartly hoisted to
the top of the flagstaff. Remember, a furled (folded)
ensign is never hoisted to the top of the flagstaff or gaff.
At evening colors, lowering of the ensign also begins at
the start of the music and is so regulated as to be
completely lowered at the last note of the music. Carry
On is sounded at the completion of the music. The
national flag is always hoisted smartly and lowered
If a band or music is not available for colors, To the
Colors is played on a bugle at morning colors, and
Retreat is played at evening colors. For ships having
no band, music, or bugler, Attention and Carry On