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Flags of the United States armed forces: Wikis


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Joint color guard showing the organizational colors of each branch: L-R:National, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, & Coast Guard.

The several branches of the United States armed forces are represented by flags, among other emblems and insignia. Within each branch, various flags fly on various occasions, and on various ships, bases, camps, and military academies.

In general, the order of precedence when displaying military flags together is the National Colors, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard.[1][2] However, in any period where the Coast Guard is operating as part of the Navy, the Coast Guard Flag would precede the Air Force Flag.[3][4]


Maritime flags

Many maritime flags have been used in the United States.

All naval vessels belonging to the United States fly the Ensign of the United States, which is identical to the flag of the United States (though originally was a design similar to the Grand Union Flag). All documented U.S. vessels, and all U.S. vessels in international or foreign waters, are required to display this ensign between 08:00 and sunset. Conversely, vessels of the U.S. Coast Guard display a unique ensign as a demonstration of its authority to stop, board, search, and conduct arrests and seizures aboard vessels subject to United States jurisdiction. Historically, the ensign displayed has changed as the flag of the United States has changed. Similarly, vessels of the Continental Navy flew many varied ensigns due to a vague standard set by the Continental Congress, the arrangement of stars and pattern of stripes being left to the commander's interpretations.[5]

Vessels of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Military Sealift Command, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration display the Jack of the United States from the jackstaff.[6] Originally the First Navy Jack was displayed, a design containing the thirteen red and white stripes; while some maintain that it was superimposed by an uncoiled rattlesnake and the motto "Dont tread on me" [sic], reminiscent of the Gadsden flag. It was later changed to a blue canton with white stars, the "union", and updated as each state entered the Union. However, all warships were directed to fly the First Navy Jack, including the disputed rattlesnake and motto, for the duration of the War on Terrorism in 2002.[7]

A Commissioning or Masthead pennant is flown from the masthead and represents the commission of the captain of the ship (and thus of the ship itself). Additionally, a Church pennant may be flown during religious services. This pennant, white with a blue cross (or blue tablets and Star of David for Jewish services), is the only flags authorized to be flown above the national ensign, and only when at sea. In addition, hospital ships display the Red Cross.

Ships and units ashore may also fly burgees displaying unit citations. Flags can also be used for signaling.

National ensign, 1960–present
National ensign, 1960–present
"First Navy Ensign"(naval ensign, 1776–1777)
"First Navy Ensign"
(naval ensign, 1776–1777)
Coast Guard Ensign
Coast Guard Ensign
"First Navy Jack"(naval jack, 2002–present)
"First Navy Jack"
(naval jack, 2002–present)
"Union Jack"(naval jack, 1960–2002;government jack, 1960–present)
"Union Jack"
(naval jack, 1960–2002;
government jack, 1960–present)
Naval jack, 1776–1777 (probable)
Naval jack, 1776–1777 (probable)
Commissioning pennant
Commissioning pennant
Church pennant
Church pennant
Red Cross (hospital ships)
Red Cross (hospital ships)

Personal flags

Officers with certain offices or billets, as well as all generals and admirals, have a personal flag assigned to represent their authority and/or command[8]; thus why they are often referred to as "flag officers". Ashore, they are usually displayed within the owner's office or raised on a secondary flagstaff near the unit colors; while they are flown aboard ship according to rank. The appearance consists of a number of stars equal to the officer's rank insignia, the colors determined by service: red with white stars for the Army and Marine Corps, blue with white stars for Naval commanders and Air Force, white with blue stars for Naval staff officers.[9]

Unique flags are given to the President[10] (due to his position as Commander-in-Chief[11]), Vice President, Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and undersecretaries,[12] each service department secretary, undersecretary, and assistant secretaries (Army, Navy, and Air Force), the Chairman and Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chief of each service branch (Army Chief of Staff & Sergeant Major of the Army, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Chief of Naval Operations, Air Force Chief of Staff, and Commandant of the Coast Guard).

In addition, the Navy will display the flag of the Secretary of State when he or she is embarked as the representative of the United States. The Coast Guard, being part of the Department of Homeland Security, will utilize the Secretary's flag much like the Navy will utilize the SecDef's.

Standard of the Secretary of Defense


Many other flags are traditionally associated with the military.


American Revolution

Not having made an official design until 1777, a number of flags were carried into battle by American forces. Even after, the vague wording of the Flag Resolution of 1777 led to many designs.


See also


External links


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