Hanging up the Snake
Going back to 1775, Washington’s fleet of schooners hoisted the so-called “Pine Tree Flag” described as “White Ground, a Tree in the Middle-the Motto (Appeal to Heaven)” as their jack. The American privateer Cumberland later flew a version of this flag with a rattlesnake and “Join or Die” added, a common icon among Patriots. Those flags and variants, combined with yellow “Don’t Tread on Me!” Gadsden flags were the banners of the original American navy along with Esek Hopkins’s striped jack and the Serapis Flag of the design attributed in part to Ben Franklin.
Finally, on 14 June 1777, the Union Jack, a blue field with 13 white stars, was adopted officially. This ensured, changing as states were added to the Union until it became the standard 50-star Navy Jack known today.
In 1975, a throwback version of the Rattlesnake Jack was brought back to honor the Bicentennial, with orders to hoist it from 13 October 1975 to 31 December 1976. Then, starting in 1980, the oldest commissioned ship in service would carry it in lieu of the Navy Jack. That practise saw eight ships in turn tote the ‘Snake from 1981-2002: USS Dixie (AD-14), USS Prairie (AD-15), USS Orion (AS-18), USS Yosemite (AD-19), USS Jason (AR-8), USS Mauna Kea (AE-22), USS Independence (CV-62),and USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63).
Then, in response to the post-9/11 Global War on Terrorism, SECNAV Gordon R. England ordered the ‘snake back in service fleetwide for the duration of the conflict.
Well, it looks like the GWOT is over, at least as far as the Navy is concerned.
According to NAVADMIN NAVADMIN 039/19 U.S. Navy ships and craft will return to flying the union jack effective June 4, 2019. The date for a reintroduction of the Union Jack commemorates the greatest naval battle in history: the Battle of Midway, which began June 4, 1942.
“Make no mistake: we have entered a new era of competition. We must recommit to the core attributes that made us successful at Midway: integrity, accountability, initiative, and toughness,” said CNO Adm. John Richardson. “For more than 240 years, the union jack, flying proudly from jackstaffs aboard U.S. Navy warships, has symbolized these strengths.”
But the Snake will not be gone for good. The first Navy Jack patch as an optional uniform component on TYPE II/III Navy Working Uniforms.
Further, the Navy will re-establish the custom in which the commissioned ship in active status having the longest total period in active status, other than USS Constitution, will display the first Navy jack until the ship is decommissioned or transferred to inactive status. As of June 4, 2019, the only warship authorized to fly the first Navy Jack is USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19).