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The jack of the United States is a maritime flag representing United Statesmarker nationality flown on the jackstaff in the bow of its vessels. The U.S. Navy is a prime user of jacks, but they are also used by ships of the 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 underway, the ensign is flown from the main mast."

The primary jack design until September 11, 2002 was the blue canton with stars (the "union") from the U.S. national ensign. The blue, starred jack is referred to as the Union Jack, but should not be confused with the British Union Jack. 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.

Since September 11, 2002, the 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", coming from the first jacks supposedly used by the Navy during the Revolutionary War. It is flown from the jackstaff from 08:00 to sunset while 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. 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.

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. On June 3, 1999, the Secretary of the Navy authorized the flying of the Submarine Centennial Jack aboard US Navy submarines and sub tenders during the year 2000.

No. of
Design Dates in General Use Notes

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 June 14, 1777–May 1, 1795 Examples of many layouts of the 13 star pattern exist. See US Flag for details.
15 May 1, 1795–July 3, 1818 Quasi War, War of 1812
20 July 4, 1818–July 3, 1819
21 July 4, 1819–July 3, 1820
23 July 4, 1820–July 3, 1822
24 July 4, 1822–July 3, 1836
25 July 4, 1836–July 3, 1837
26 July 4, 1837–July 3, 1845
27 July 4, 1845–July 3, 1846
28 July 4, 1846–July 3, 1847
29 July 4, 1847–July 3, 1848
30 July 4, 1848–July 3, 1851
31 July 4, 1851–July 3, 1858
32 July 4, 1858–July 3, 1859
33 July 4, 1859–July 3, 1861 Civil War
34 July 4, 1861–July 3, 1863
35 July 4, 1863–July 3, 1865
36 July 4, 1865–July 3, 1867
37 July 4, 1867–July 3, 1877
38 July 4, 1877–July 3, 1890
43 July 4, 1890–July 3, 1891
44 July 4, 1891–July 3, 1896
45 July 4, 1896–July 3, 1908 Sinking of the USS Maine
Spanish-American War
Great White Fleet

46 July 4, 1908–July 3, 1912
48 July 4, 1912–July 3, 1959 World War I and World War II
49 July 4, 1959–July 3, 1960
50 July 4, 1960—October 12, 1975
January 1, 1977—Sept 11, 2002 From 1980, the oldest active ship in the navy flies the First Navy Jack instead
Sept 11, 2002 — MSC and non-Navy vessels
First Navy Jack
October 13, 1975—December 31, 1976 USN and USmarker Bicentennials
Sept 11, 2002— War on Terrorism
USN vessels only (MSC and non-Navy vessels continue to fly the Union Jack)
See First Navy Jack for explanation

See also


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