Jack of the United States

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United States of America
Naval Jack of the United States.svg
Jack flown by U.S. naval vessels
Name The First Navy Jack
Proportion 10:19
Adopted September 11, 2002
Design 13 horizontal stripes of alternating red and white, charged with a rattlesnake and inscribed on the lowest white stripe: "DONT TREAD ON ME" [sic].
US Naval Jack.svg
Jack flown by other U.S. federal and civilian vessels
Name Union Jack
Proportion 175:247
Adopted July 4, 1960
Design 50 white stars on a blue field in 9 rows, alternating between 6 and 5 stars, was used as the U.S. Navy Jack prior to September 11, 2002.

The jack of the United States of America is a maritime flag representing United States nationality flown on the jackstaff in the bow of American vessels. The U.S. Navy is a prime user of jacks, but they are also used by ships of the U.S. Coast Guard, Military Sealift Command, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other governmental entities. "The jack is flown on the bow (front) of a ship and the ensign is flown on the stern (rear) of a ship when anchored or moored. Once under way, the ensign is flown from the main mast."[1]


The primary jack design until September 11, 2002 was the blue canton with stars (the "union") from the U.S. national ensign. Since September 2002, the U.S. Navy has made use of the so-called First Navy Jack. However, the standard U.S. jack (i.e., 50 white stars on a blue field) continues to be used as the jack by vessels of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Military Sealift Command, and NOAA, to name but a few federal agencies. The standard 50-star jack continues to be used by U.S. civilian ships and by U.S. yachts as well. The blue, starred jack is referred to as the Union Jack, not to be confused with the British Union Jack of the same name. Like the ensign, the number of stars on the jack has increased with each state admitted into the union. Rules for flying the jack are similar to the national ensign, except that the jack is only worn at the bow when the ship is anchored, made fast or alongside.

Since September 11, 2002, the U.S. Navy has instead flown the First Navy Jack, a flag bearing 13 red and white stripes, a rattlesnake and the motto "DONT TREAD ON ME" [sic], coming from the first jacks supposedly used by the U.S. Navy during the Revolutionary War. It 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.[2] 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.[3]

Some exceptions to the use of the 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 country's Bicentennial and subsequently.[4] On June 3, 1999, the Secretary of the Navy authorized the flying of the Submarine Centennial Jack aboard U.S. Navy submarines and sub tenders during the year 2000.[5]

Historical progression of designs[edit]

Stars Design Dates in general use Notes
0 US Naval Jack 13 stripes.svg

Naval Jack of the United States.svg
January 8, 1776–June 14, 1777 There is little evidence this jack had the rattlesnake or motto as traditionally depicted (see First Navy Jack).
13 US Naval Jack 13 stars.svg June 14, 1777–May 1, 1795 Examples of many layouts of the 13 star pattern exist (see Flag of the United States).
15 US Naval Jack 15 stars.svg May 1, 1795–July 3, 1818 Quasi-War;
War of 1812
20 US Naval Jack 20 stars.svg July 4, 1818–July 3, 1819
21 US Naval Jack 21 stars.svg July 4, 1819–July 3, 1820
23 US Naval Jack 23 stars.svg July 4, 1820–July 3, 1822
24 US Naval Jack 24 stars.svg July 4, 1822–July 3, 1836
25 US Naval Jack 25 stars.svg July 4, 1836–July 3, 1837
26 US Naval Jack 26 stars.svg July 4, 1837–July 3, 1845
27 US Naval Jack 27 stars.svg July 4, 1845–July 3, 1846
28 US Naval Jack 28 stars.svg July 4, 1846–July 3, 1847
29 US Naval Jack 29 stars.svg July 4, 1847–July 3, 1848
30 US Naval Jack 30 stars.svg July 4, 1848–July 3, 1851
31 US Naval Jack 31 stars.svg July 4, 1851–July 3, 1858
32 US Naval Jack 32 stars.svg July 4, 1858–July 3, 1859
33 US Naval Jack 33 stars.svg July 4, 1859–July 3, 1861 Civil War
34 US Naval Jack 34 stars.svg July 4, 1861–July 3, 1863
35 US Naval Jack 35 stars.svg July 4, 1863–July 3, 1865
36 US Naval Jack 36 stars.svg July 4, 1865–July 3, 1867
37 US Naval Jack 37 stars.svg July 4, 1867–July 3, 1877
38 US Naval Jack 38 stars.svg July 4, 1877–July 3, 1890
43 US Naval Jack 43 stars.svg July 4, 1890–July 3, 1891
44 US Naval Jack 44 stars.svg July 4, 1891–July 3, 1896
45 US Naval Jack 45 stars.svg July 4, 1896–July 3, 1908 Sinking of the USS Maine;
Spanish–American War;
Great White Fleet
46 US Naval Jack 46 stars.svg July 4, 1908–July 3, 1912
48 US Naval Jack 48 stars.svg July 4, 1912–July 3, 1959 World War I;
World War II
49 US Naval Jack 49 stars.svg July 4, 1959–July 3, 1960
50 US Naval Jack.svg July 4, 1960–October 12, 1975[4]
January 1, 1977–September 11, 2002[4][6] From August 18, 1980, the active commissioned ship having the longest total period as active uses the First Navy Jack instead.[4]
September 11, 2002– Military Sealift Command (MSC) and non-Navy vessels.
0 First Navy Jack
First Navy Jack
October 13, 1975–December 31, 1976[4] Bicentennial of the United States Navy;
United States Bicentennial
August 18, 1980[4] 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. Currently USS Denver (LPD-9).
September 11, 2002[6] War on Terrorism
(United States Navy vessels only; MSC and non-Navy vessels (e.g., Coast Guard, NOAA, etc.) continue to use the union jack.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ United States Naval Jack
  2. ^ United States Navy Rate training manual. Signalman 1 & C.
  3. ^ United States Navy. Basic Military Requirements (BMR) Revised Edition
  4. ^ a b c d e f "The U.S. Navy's First Jack". Retrieved 2006-10-01. 
  5. ^ Undersea Warfare Summer 2000 Vol. 2, No. 4. The fact 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. Downlink.
  6. ^ a b Change ordered 2002-05-31, executed on date shown.