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Navy - Signal Flags-1 (U.S.)

Last modified: 2013-11-20 by rick wyatt
Keywords: navy | united states | signal flags | convoy | sopa |
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Call Flags

[Call Sign 'A' flag]
A
[Call Sign 'B' flag]
B
[Call Sign 'C' flag]
C
[Call Sign 'D' flag]
D
[Call Sign 'F' flag]
F
[Call Sign 'G' flag]
G
[Call Sign 'H' flag]
H
[Call Sign 'J' flag]
J
[Call Sign 'K' flag]
K
[Call Sign 'L' flag]
L
[Call Sign 'M' flag]
M
[Call Sign 'N' flag]
N
[Call Sign 'O' flag]
O
[Call Sign 'P' flag]
P
[Call Sign 'Q' flag]
Q
[Call Sign 'R' flag]
R
[Call Sign 'S' flag]
S
[Call Sign 'U' flag]
U
[Call Sign 'V' flag]
V
[Call Sign 'W' flag]
W
[Call Sign 'X' flag]
X
[Call Sign 'Y' flag]
Y
[Call Sign 'Z' flag]
Z

The basis for most of the flags is the International Code of Signals, with additional colors placed at the fly. The images are based upon scans I made from National Geographic, October 1917 [gmc17], page 318, images 126-148, but without explanation.

A few things noted from the NGM article: there are no representations for letters E, I, and T.

Additionally, NGM notes some individual meanings:
        D - "and any naval district vessel."
  P - "and Patrol"
  U - "and mine"
  V - "and cruiser"
  W - "and scout"
  X - "and own command"
  Y - "and train"
  Z - "and force commanders"

Phil Nelson, 16 June 2000


Senior Officer Present Afloat (SOPA)

For info, this is the regulation on use of the SOPA pennant in the U.S. Navy.
It's article 1280 of U.S. Navy Regulations (1990):

"If two or more ships of the Navy are together in port, the senior officer present afloat pennant shall be displayed from the ship in which the senior officer present afloat is embarked, except when his or her personal flag clearly indicates his or her seniority. The pennant shall be displayed from the inboard halyard of the starboard main yardarm."

Article 928 defines the SOPA as "the senior officer of the Navy, eligible for command at sea, who is present and with primary duty as commander of any unit or force of the operating forces of the Navy in the locality or within an area prescribed by competent authority, whether afloat or based ashore, except such units as may be assigned to shore commands by competent authority." I won't subject you to an explanation of the distinctions between "based ashore" and "assigned to shore commands."

From the late 19th century until 1948, the U.S. Navy's "senior officer present afloat" pennant was an equilateral blue triangle, flown at the starboard yardarm of the vessel of the SOPA, provided he wasn't already flying a personal flag or command pennant that clearly indicated his seniority over other officers present.

With NATO standardization, the SOPA pennant is now the "starboard" signal pennant, divided vertically green-white-green.
Joe McMillan, 2 February 2000


Convoy Commodore

[Flag of Convoy Commodore] image by Joe McMillan, 11 February 2000

Although the days of the great transatlantic convoys of World War II are long past, there remain some situations in the modern world in which the U.S. Navy would convoy merchant vessels. The most recent that comes to mind is the convoying of tankers through the Persian Gulf during the closing years of the Iran-Iraq War. Accordingly, the standard organization for convoy commodores and their staffs is maintained current in Navy instructions and the flag used by a convoy commodore remains on the books. It is a simple white flag with a dark blue cross throughout, resembling a large "X-RAY" signal flag. The flag is displayed by the commodore's ship when forming or dispersing the convoy or whenever else the commodore considers it necessary.
Joe McMillan, 11 February 2000