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Jack of the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

United States of America
Naval jack of the United States.svg
Union Jack
Adopted1777 (1777) (initial use of underlying design template)
July 4, 1960 (1960-07-04) (current design)
Design50 white stars defacing a blue field in 9 rows, alternating between 6 and 5 stars.

The jack of the United States, referred to as the Union Jack[1] by the U.S. Navy, is a maritime jack flag flown on the bow of U.S. vessels that are moored or anchored. In addition to commissioned U.S. Navy ships, the jack is used by the U.S. Coast Guard,[2] the Military Sealift Command, the ships of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other U.S. government entities. While anchored or moored, the jack is flown on the bow of a ship, and the ensign (which for the U.S. Navy is the national flag) is flown on the stern. Once under way, the jack is lowered.[3]

The Union Jack was adopted on June 14, 1777,[1] alongside the U.S. national flag itself.[4] Since then, the jack has essentially consisted of the canton of the national flag, with each star added to the national flag being added to the Union Jack also.[1]

It is widely held that, before the Union Jack, the jack of the United States was the First Navy Jack.[5] The exact historical appearance of this flag is disputed, but it is displayed today by the Navy bearing a rattlesnake and motto.[5] During the last several decades, the Union Jack has sometimes been temporarily removed from use—such as from 1975 to 1976, when the First Navy Jack was flown for the U.S. Bicentennial, in 2000, when submarines and submarine tenders flew a special jack for the hundredth anniversary of the first commissioned U.S. Navy submarine,[6] and for all warships from 2002 to 2019, when the Navy flew the First Navy Jack for the Global War on Terrorism.

The oldest commissioned warship in active U.S. naval status (that is, having the longest total period in active status) flies the First Navy Jack, and is the only active U.S. warship that flies a different jack than the Union Jack. Currently, this ship is USS Blue Ridge.

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For most of U.S. history, the primary jack design has been the blue canton with stars (the "union") from the U.S. national ensign. The blue fielded, white-starred jack is referred to as the "Union Jack," not to be confused with the Union Jack of the United Kingdom, which has the same name but a different design. Like the U.S. ensign, the number of stars on the jack correspond with the number of constituent states the U.S. has. Rules for flying the jack are similar to the national ensign, except that the jack is only flown at the bow when the ship is anchored, made fast or alongside.

The only written description of the Navy Jack dating from the American Revolutionary war is a January 1776 document titled Signals for the American Fleet by Commodore Esek Hopkins. Hopkins discusses "the strip'd jack" and a "striped flag" as symbols of the Continental Navy. No snake nor field of stars is mentioned, though the exact appearance of these flags is not known. A print of American ships from August 1776 shows one ship flying a striped flag and another the Pine Tree Flag, both from the stern, the customary place for a national ensign.[7]

On this quilt made in Baltimore circa 1845-1855, a ship flies a red-and-white striped flag at the stern and another including a blue canton from the fore-mast.

The 48 star version of the Union Jack flag became official in 1912 after Arizona and New Mexico became states. Throughout WWI and WWII, and until 1959 the Union Jack flag consisted of 48 stars.[8]

From September 11, 2002, the U.S. Navy made use of the so-called First Navy Jack. However, the standard U.S. jack (i.e. 50 white stars alternative in columns of four and five defacing a blue field) continued to be used as the jack by vessels of U.S. federal agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, the Military Sealift Command and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps and by U.S. civilian ships and by U.S. yachts. The majority of the U.S. Navy's warships returned to using the U.S. Union Jack on June 4, 2019.

The jack is flown from the jackstaff from 08:00 to sunset while U.S. Navy ships are moored or at anchor. It is required to be the same size as the union of the ensign being flown from the stern of the ship. It is also flown from the yardarm during a general court-martial or court of inquiry.[9] During times when the ensign is at half mast, the jack is also at half mast. The jack is hoisted smartly and lowered ceremoniously in the same manner as the ensign, however the jack is not dipped when the ensign is dipped.[10]

Some other exceptions to the use of the U.S. Union Jack have occurred in the case of the U.S. Navy, the most prominent being the use of the First Navy Jack by the U.S. Navy in honor of the U.S. founding's bicentennial and for other uses subsequently.[11] For example, following the Bicentennial, in August 1980, use of the First Navy Jack was granted to the active commissioned ship having the longest total period of front-line operational service, said use to be in place of the Union Jack until that ship was decommissioned or transferred to inactive status, whereupon the next such ship in seniority inherits the honor of its use. This use is limited to the oldest "commissioned" naval vessel (i.e., an all-military United States Ship [ship prefix USS] versus a part-military/part-civilian crewed United States Naval Ship [ship prefix USNS]) in front-line operational service.

On June 3, 1999, the Secretary of the Navy also authorized the flying of the Submarine Centennial Jack on all U.S. Navy submarines and submarine tenders during 2000.[12][a]

On February 21, 2019, the Chief of Naval Operations directed that U.S. Navy warships fly the U.S. jack again beginning on June 4, 2019.[13][14][15] The oldest active U.S. warship flies the First Navy Jack; that ship has been USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) since 2014.[16]

Naval jacks of the United States by date

Stars Design Dates in general use Notes
January 8, 1776 – June 14, 1777
The first jack adopted by the United States consisted of thirteen alternating red and white horizontal stripes. Known as the First Navy Jack, it is often depicted with a rattlesnake and motto; however, the evidence is inconclusive that the jack actually had either of these. There is reason to believe that the Continental Navy jack was simply a red and white striped flag with no other adornment.[17]
June 14, 1777 – May 1, 1795
The introduction of the Union Jack design, "comprising the national ensign's blue field and white stars";[18] examples of many layouts of the 13-star pattern exist (see Flag of the United States).
May 1, 1795 – July 3, 1818
The 15-star jack was used by the United States during the Quasi-War and the War of 1812.
July 4, 1818 – July 3, 1819
July 4, 1819 – July 3, 1820
July 4, 1820 – July 3, 1822
July 4, 1822 – July 3, 1836
July 4, 1836 – July 3, 1837
July 4, 1837 – July 3, 1845
July 4, 1845 – July 3, 1846
July 4, 1846 – July 3, 1847
July 4, 1847 – July 3, 1848
July 4, 1848 – July 3, 1851
July 4, 1851 – July 3, 1858
July 4, 1858 – July 3, 1859
July 4, 1859 – July 3, 1861
Civil War
July 4, 1861 – July 3, 1863
July 4, 1863 – July 3, 1865
July 4, 1865 – July 3, 1867
July 4, 1867 – July 3, 1877
July 4, 1877 – July 3, 1890
July 4, 1890 – July 3, 1891
July 4, 1891 – July 3, 1896
July 4, 1896 – July 3, 1908
Sinking of the USS Maine;
Spanish–American War;
Great White Fleet
July 4, 1908 – July 3, 1912
July 4, 1912 – July 3, 1959
World War I;
World War II
July 4, 1959 – July 3, 1960
July 4, 1960 – October 12, 1975[11]
The 50-star jack was adopted on July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became a state.
October 13, 1975 – December 31, 1976[11]
On October 13, 1975, commissioned U.S. Navy warships switched to the First Navy Jack in commemoration of the bicentennial of the United States Navy and the U.S. founding's bicentennial. It was used in this capacity until December 31, 1976, when the 50-star jack was re-adopted.[19]
January 1, 1977 – September 10, 2002[11][b]

The 50-star jack was re-adopted by commissioned U.S. Navy warships on January 1, 1977. Since August 18, 1980, the First Navy Jack has been used by the active commissioned ship having the longest total period as active in place of the union jack until the ship is decommissioned or transferred to inactive status, whereupon the next such ship inherits the honor.

September 11, 2002[b] – June 4, 2019
Global War on Terrorism

The First Navy Jack was used from 2002 to 2019 by United States Navy vessels only. MSC and non-U.S. Navy vessels, such as those of the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA, continued to use the 50-star union jack that was adopted in 1960.

June 4, 2019 – present
The 50-star jack was ordered to be re-adopted by commissioned U.S. Navy warships on February 21, 2019, effective June 4, 2019, to coincide with anniversary of the Battle of Midway. From August 18, 1980, onward, the active commissioned ship having the longest total period as active uses the First Navy Jack instead.[11] Currently that ship is USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19).

See also


  1. ^ That the U.S. Navy has, at times, elected to substitute other flags for the Union Jack has not affected its use as a jack by the Coast Guard, NOAA, other agencies and civilians.
  2. ^ a b Change ordered on May 31, 2002, and executed on date shown.


  1. ^ a b c "The U.S. Navy's Jack". Naval History and Heritage Command. U.S. Navy. September 21, 2021. Archived from the original on October 22, 2022. Retrieved January 31, 2022.
  2. ^ "Cutter visit". The Day. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  3. ^ "Naval Jack (United States)". December 11, 2000. Archived from the original on December 11, 2000. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
  4. ^ "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875".
  5. ^ a b Underwood, Annalisa. "Colors of the Nation – flag". Naval History and Heritage Command. U.S. Navy. Archived from the original on July 9, 2022. Retrieved January 31, 2022. It is widely believed that when the Navy was established on Oct. 13, 1775, ships of the Continental Navy flew a "jack"...also referred to as the "rattlesnake" jack.
  6. ^ "Navy - Submarine Service (U.S.)". Archived from the original on January 31, 2022. Retrieved January 31, 2022.
  7. ^ "The U.S. Navy's Jack". Naval History and Heritage Command. September 21, 2021.
  8. ^ {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ United States Navy Rate training manual. Signalman 1 & C Archived May 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ United States Navy. Basic Military Requirements (BMR) Revised Edition Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b c d e "The U.S. Navy's First Jack". Retrieved October 1, 2006.
  12. ^ Undersea Warfare Summer 2000 Vol. 2, No. 4. Archived September 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs (February 22, 2019). "Navy Returns to Flying Union Jack". United States Navy. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  14. ^ "The Colors of a Navy and Nation". The Sextant. Archived from the original on February 26, 2019. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ . February 26, 2019 Archived from the original on February 26, 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2019. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "The U.S. Navy's First Jack". Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  18. ^ "The U.S. Navy's Jack". Naval History and Heritage Command. September 21, 2021. Retrieved January 31, 2022. The union jack, comprising the national ensign's blue field and white stars, was first adopted on 14 June 1777. At this time, the jack's blue field only displayed the 13 stars representing the union of the original 13 American colonies.
  19. ^ "Legati ad Defendendam Libertatem - USS John Warner Commissioned | Naval Historical Foundation". June 2, 2019. Archived from the original on June 2, 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
This page was last edited on 11 March 2023, at 02:59
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