Skip to comments.'Don't Tread On Me' flags on all Navy ships
Posted on 08/30/2002 7:45:11 AM PDT by Kennesaw
'Don't Tread On Me' flags set sail on all Navy ships
By Rick Chernitzer, Stars and Stripes Pacific edition, Friday, August 30, 2002
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan It used to be something the USS Kitty Hawk could call its own.
Traditionally, only the Navys oldest actively commissioned ship currently the Kitty Hawk, now based here has the honor of flying the First Navy Jack flag, a rattlesnake moving across a field of 13 red stripes above the warning Dont Tread On Me.
But Navy Secretary Gordon Englands recent directive authorized all Navy ships to fly it in place of the Union Jack at the front of each vessel, to show the Navys solidarity with the war on terrorism.
The temporary substitution of this Jack represents an historic reminder of the nations and Navys origin and will to persevere and triumph, his letter stated.
The flags origins are believed to be based on a political cartoon Benjamin Franklin drew to encourage feuding colonies to unite against England.
It was based on a then-popular myth that a rattlesnake, chopped apart, could return to life if the pieces were rejoined. The cartoon showed a rattlesnake cut into sections, each to represent a colony; the caption warned, Join or die.
The phrase Dont Tread On Me is credited to a band of newly enlisted Marines in 1775.
These elements, with the 13 red stripes for the colonies, were combined to comprise the first Navy flag. It made its battle debut in Fall 1775, as the Continental Navy prepared to engage the British fleet in the Delaware River.
The Kitty Hawk received its jack from the USS Independence in 1998.
The secretarys letter states that each ship is to receive four flags. But for now, theyre in such short supply that ships from around the world are calling the Kitty Hawk seeking spares, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Charles Mishoe, a Kitty Hawk signalman.
We didnt have any to give them, but we also gave them information on how to get them, he said. We didnt just leave them hanging.
The Kitty Hawk is allowed to buy the flags from outside sources.
Lt. j.g. Dave Fleming, USS Cushings information systems officer, said his ship expects to receive its flags soon.
The jacks motto, Dont Tread On Me, makes the Navys role in the conflict self-explanatory, he said. I think its great so that no one else decides to take action against the United States.
Several junior enlisted sailors, whose daily duties include raising the First Navy Jack on the ship during morning colors, predicted seeing a waterfront filled with the historic flag will strengthen their resolve.
Its kind of cool that it will be on every ship, said Airman Recruit Kevin Anderson. It says Dont Tread On Me, and thats more than a statement.
But Navy Airman Jane Cruz from the Kitty Hawk said while making the flag a common symbol is a great honor to those who are serving in the Navy, Can we get another flag to show were the oldest ship?
Yep! This is awesome, isn't it?
But my picture is cooler AND it's from the USS Kitty Hawk website. :)
The"Gadsden Flag" Named after Colonel Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, was flown early in 1776 by Commodore Esek Hopkins of Rhode Island, first Commander-in-chief of the Continental Fleet
Forgive my ignorance, but I thought the Union Jack was Britains national flag. Could someone explain this for me?
"As the first ships of the Continental Navy readied in the Delaware River during the fall of 1775, Commodore Esek Hopkins issued a set of fleet signals. His signals for the fleet to engage the enemy provided for the "Stripd Jack and Ensign at their proper places." Thus, the First Navy Jack was a flag consisting of 13 horizontal alternating red and white stripes bearing diagonally across them a rattlesnake in a moving position with the motto "Dont Tread On Me."
In 1977, the Secretary of the Navy directed that the ship in active status with the longest total period of active service shall display the First Navy Jack until decommissioned or transferred to inactive service, at which time the flag shall be passed to the next ship in line with appropriate honors. The display of this jack by the oldest ship in the fleet is an appropriate form of recognition and promotes pride of service, enhances morale, and contributes to the tradition of naval service.
USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) became the oldest active ship in the United States Navy upon the decommissioning of USS Independence (CV 62) on September 30, 1998. Kitty Hawk is only the second aircraft carrier ever to hold the honor of flying the First Navy Jack."
Main Entry: union jack
1 : a jack consisting of the union of a national ensign
2 capitalized U&J : the state flag of the United Kingdom consisting of the union of the British national ensign
Benjamin Franklin diverts an idle hour In December 1775, "An American Guesser" anonymously wrote to the Pennsylvania Journal:
"I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, 'Don't tread on me.' As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America."
This anonymous writer, having "nothing to do with public affairs" and "in order to divert an idle hour," speculated on why a snake might be chosen as a symbol for America.
First, it occurred to him that "the Rattle-Snake is found in no other quarter of the world besides America."
The rattlesnake also has sharp eyes, and "may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance." Furthermore, "She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. ... she never wounds 'till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her."
Finally, "I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, 'till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. ...
"'Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living."
Many scholars now agree that this "American Guesser" was Benjamin Franklin. Franklin, of course, is also known for opposing the use of an eagle -- "a bird of bad moral character" -- as a national symbol.
You ARE the man. :)
he national flag of the United States also serves as the nation's naval ensign. The jack--officially titled the union jack--is the union or canton of the ensign, and by regulation it is the same size as the canton of the ensign with which it is being flown. In the US Bicentennial Year (1976), all ships of the US Navy were ordered to wear the First Navy Jack in place of the union jack. This historical naval flag dates from the American Revolution and is one of the many "rattlesnake flags" of the period. Since 1976 the First Navy Jack has remained in use; as a special distinction, it is worn by the oldest US warship in regular commission.
Benjamin Franklin "Join or Die" Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), May 9, 1754