Holiday Ensigns

American flag backlitAccording to U.S. Naval Regulations, Chapter 12;

1.  The ceremonial hoisting and lowering of the national ensign at 0800 and sunset at naval commands ashore and aboard a ship of the Navy not underway shall be known as morning and evening colors respectively and shall be carried out as prescribed in this article.

2.  A band and the guard of the day will assemble in the vicinity of the hoist of the ensign.

3. “Attention” shall resound, followed by the playing of the National Anthem by the band.

4. At morning colors, the ensign shall be started up at the beginning of the music and hoisted smartly to the top of the peak or truck.  At evening colors, the ensign shall be started from the peak or truck at the beginning of the music and the lowering so regulated as to be completed at the last note.

5. At the completion of the music, “Carry-on shall be sounded.

6. In the absence of a band, or an appropriate recording played over the public address system, “To Colors” shall be played by the bugle during morning colors and “Retreat” at evening colors. The salute shall be rendered as prescribed for the National Anthem.

A larger national flag or ensign is flown on Sunday and Holidays.

According to my shipmate, Carl Snow:

The national ensign flown on Sundays and holidays is sized according to the ship’s length.
The largest size, for ships longer than 451 feet is size 5: 8 feet, 11 3/8 inches at the hoist and 17 feet at the fly for the holiday ensign, and size 7: 5 feet at the hoist and 9 feet, 6 inches at the fly for daily use. The jack is the same size as the blue field on the ensign that is being flown.
Jack of the United States
The Jack displayed on the bow of Navy ships
According to wikipedia
The jack of the United States is a maritime flag representing U.S. nationality, flown on the jackstaff in the bow of U.S. vessels that are moored or anchored. … 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.

Carl Snow, Scuttlebutt Editor

Carl’s anecdote about the wrong holiday flag allegedly being flown off the stern of his ship:

When I was a Chief Petty Officer aboard USS Lockwood (FF-1063) based in Yokosuka, Japan we found ourselves tied up to berth seven at pier 6 with USS Worden (CG-18) at berth six on the other side of the same pier. USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) was moored at berth nine “around the corner” from both Lockwood and Worden with a clear view of both our sterns. Commander Seventh Fleet was embarked, with his staff, in Blue Ridge.

On Sunday morning I had the fore-noon quarterdeck watch and checked to make sure that the holiday ensign was ready for morning colors at 8:00 am. Colors were rendered and both ours and Worden’s ensigns shot simultaneously up the staffs at our sterns. Almost immediately the off-ship telephone rang, and the petty officer of the watch picked it up and handed it to me. It was the Seventh Fleet Staff duty officer, an Ensign, who began berating me for not having the holiday ensign up. I assured him that our ensign was, indeed, the holiday size. He told me in no uncertain terms that he was “looking right at your ship and it is apparent that your ensign is considerably smaller than the other ship at the same pier.”

I reminded him that the “other ship” was a cruiser, a hundred feet longer and almost four thousand tons heavier in displacement. The beam of the two ships, however, was only about five feet different. Maybe he was assuming that we were both of the same size, since he could only see our sterns.

He promised to get back to us and “fix” this. He hung up and we never heard back from him or anyone else on the admiral’s staff.


To read more about Carl Snow click here.



10 thoughts on “Holiday Ensigns”

      1. You’re welcome. I like the way you combine facts with personal stories. The admiral sounded like the typical authority figure that’s out of touch with what others that are below him know.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The person who misunderstood was not the admiral. It was a brand new officer (Ensign) who misunderstood the size of two ships. Ensigns or second lieutenants are usually brand new officers with less than two years of experience and have typically just graduated from college and gotten their commisisons.

          Liked by 1 person

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