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Japan: Z-Flag

'Z' Flag at Tsushima

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: signal flag: z | world war ii |
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[Signal Letter Z]
image by Phil Nelson

Admiral Heiachiro Togo hoisted the Z flag aboard his flagship Mikasa immediately before engaging Admiral Rozhestvensky's Russian Baltic Fleet at Tsushima Straits on May 27, 1905. The meaning of the signal is variously translated, but seems to have meant, in substance, "The fate of Imperial Japan hangs on this one battle; all hands will exert themselves and do their best."

Apparently the flag Admiral Nagumo hoisted on the aircraft carrier Akagi on the night of December 6, 1941, when he judged that his fleet had achieved complete surprise over the US Navy, was the same actual flag flown aboard Akagi 36 years before. As every Japanese officer and sailor would have grown up being taught about Togo's signal, this was a powerful inspiration which obviously had precisely the same meaning as that conveyed by Togo's signal.

The Mikasa is preserved at Yokosuka, Japan, as a memorial. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz of the US Navy was instrumental in raising money for preservation of the ship in the years following World War II. The Z flag still flies continuously from Mikasa's signal yardarm.
Joe McMillan, March 24, 2001

The 'Z' flag, in fact, was held by pre-1945 Japan with an esteem comparable with that Nelson's 'England expects that every man will do his duty' signal had in Britain.
Miles Li, March 26, 2001