Us Navy Flags

Written by Beth Hrusch
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The U.S. Navy uses dozens of flags to communicate during times when ships must maintain radio silence. These flags are still an effective way to communicate with other ships, and all sailors recognize their meanings. The Navy, in fact, was the first branch of the military to use flags for this purpose and to codify the use of flags. Many of their rules and regulations were actually incorporated into the Flag Code governing proper U.S. flag etiquette.

U.S. Navy Flags and Their Meanings

Each Navy signal flag communicates a specific message. Some flags are used strictly within the U.S. Navy, and others are used to communicate with international ships. The flags have alphabetical names, for instance, the "Alfa" flag means that the ship has a diver down and needs other ships to stay clear. The red, white, and blue "Charlie" flag is an affirmative response. The "Juliet" flag warns of dangerous cargo and fire on board.

Some flags have double meanings, one for the U.S. Navy and another for international ships. The yellow "Quebec" flag tells U.S. sailors that all boats should return to the ship. All other sailors interpret it to mean that the U.S. ship meets all health regulations and requests entrance into port. Other flags represent numbers. For ceremonial purposes, the U.S. Navy has an official flag that displays the American eagle with its claws resting on an anchor.

The signal and ceremonial flags of the U.S. Navy are products of a long tradition of using flags to communicate when out at sea. Even in today's technology-driven world, these flags are useful and necessary elements of naval life, assisting the sailor in his work and helping to keep him safe in unpredictable circumstances. They identify the U.S sailor both on land and in the water.


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