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Navy - Ship Flags (U.S.)

Last modified: 2009-02-28 by rick wyatt
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The use of unofficial flags by U.S. Naval vessels has a long history. We have been asked to make these several times, although I've never heard the term house flags used in this context before. We have always heard them referred to as "Ship Flags", "Ships' Flag", "Unrep Flags" and in the case of submarines "Boat Flags". They have no "official" standing and are unregulated. They are often rigged for breaking and used during underway replenishment (unrep), when dressing ship, and when a ship is dispatching crews for liberty.

They can be quite simple, the flag of the ships namesake i.e. a state or city, or overtly symbolic. Sometimes they include battle honors. Sometimes they are stolen by the crew and flown as a trophy. The Naval Museum in San Francisco had at one time a collection of these from W.W.II vessels which had served in the Pacific. In the case of submarines they often had a "kill record" as part of the design.

The term house flag generally refers to the flag flown by vessels of a shipping house, not individual ships.
James J. Ferrigan III, 16 November 1998