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 ceremoniously.
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 are
signals for rendering and terminating the hand salute.
Sometimes the music for colors from another U.S.
ship can be overheard aboard your ship. When this
happens and no band, music, or bugler is aboard your
ship, the command Carry On should not be given until
the music being overheard is completed.
If foreign warships are present, the national anthem
of each country represented is played after morning
colors. If your ship is visiting a foreign port, the national
anthem of that country is played immediately following
morning colors, followed by the national anthems of
any other foreign nations represented.
Figure 4-16.The United States national ensign.
IN PORT :
CLOSED UP - 5 MINUTES UNTIL COLORS
AT THE DIP - COMMENCE COLORS
HAULED DOWN - COLORS COMPLETED
Figure 4-17.Preparative pennant.