Department of the Army

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Flags on Army Watercraft

Vessel flags used by the Army are authorized by AR 840-10, the Army regulation on flags.  They are in the colors of the branch operating the vessel and have the branch insignia on the center.  Vessel flags are authorized in six by eight foot, four by six foot, and two by three foot sizes.  In addition, certain Department of the Army officials and general officers are authorized to fly boat flags in Army watercraft.  For general officers, these flags are scarlet, three by four feet, with the appropriate number of white stars indicating the officer's rank centered in a horizontal line.

Transportation Corps

The Army Transportation corps operates a fleet of some 90 named oceangoing ships and other watercraft.  These are primarily landing craft and vessels associated with logistics-over-the-shore operations.  They display the national ensign and union jack in the same manner as the Navy, except that the ensign is always flown when under way between sunrise and sunset.  In addition, the Transportation Corps flag is flown from sunrise to sunset on the forwardmost mast, or on the outboard halyard of the port yardarm if there is a single mast.  Shipboard courtesies and customs, including the use of flags, are laid down for Army vessels in Field Manual 55-501, Marine Crewman's Handbook.  The Army follows somewhat different practices from those used by the sea services in naming and commissioning its vessels.  A vessel is formally named when it is actually delivered to the unit rather than at its launching.  The larger craft are officially commissioned (rather than simply being placed in service) in a ceremony that begins with the crew in formation on the pier alongside the vessel.  The officer conducting the commissioning addresses the prospective master of the ship with the words "I hereby deliver the U.S. Army vessel ---------."  The new master replies, "I hereby assume command of the U.S. Army vessel ---------," then marches aboard accompanied by the company guidon bearer, takes his place on the quarterdeck, and orders the national ensign, union jack, and any other flags or pennants to be hoisted simultaneously.  The rest of the crew then files aboard and mans the rail.

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Signal Corps

The Army flag regulation, AR 840-10, provides for a Signal Corps vessel flag, which, under AR 56-9, should be flown according to the same rules used by the Transportation Corps.  However, with the retirement of the last Army cable-laying ships, it is not clear whether this flag is still used in practice.

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Corps of Engineers

In addition to their military duties, U.S. Army engineers have been responsible since the early days of the Republic for a wide range of what are now termed "civil works" functions, including maintenance of navigable waterways and flood control.  Accordingly, the Army Corps of Engineers operates a substantial number of dredges and other working vessels at U.S. ports and along inland and coastal waterways.

Army engineers have used distinguishing flags since at least 1862, and scarlet flags with castles since 1866.  The flag shown was in use as a vessel flag by 1917, if not before.  The "castle flag" is used only for the civil works, research, and construction management functions of the Corps, not by such units as engineer battalions, and it is never supposed to be flown at Army posts, except at management offices of military construction projects.  Because the castle flag is used afloat only in association with the civil works functions of the Corps, its use in that context is governed by Engineer Regulation 840-1-1, rather than AR 56-9 as in the case of the Transportation and Signal Corps.  Nevertheless, the usage is virtually the same.  The castle flag is displayed from 8:00 a.m. to sunset aboard vessels belonging to the Corps that are in commission and manned.  The point of hoist depends on the configuration of the craft--generally it is placed either on the halyard of the port yardarm on vessels equipped with single masts, on the foremast of those with two masts, or on the bow staff for those without masts.  The national ensign is flown from the gaff or the stern flagstaff according to the same practice followed by the Navy.

Division Engineer

In addition to the castle flag, division and district engineers may authorize the flying of a pennant to denote their presence aboard a vessel. These pennants measure 29 by 45 inches and may be displaced by the boat flag of a general officer of the Army if one is aboard. The division engineer pennant is red, white and blue with the castle on the center in red.

District Engineer

The district engineer pennant is solid white with the Engineer castle in red.

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Army Personal Boat Flags

The U.S. Army first introduced personal flags for civilian officials and general officers primarily so they would have appropriate flags to display in the bows of boats when visiting units of the Navy.  These flags have since evolved into the embroidered, fringed flags carried on parade or displayed in offices, but they are still flown at sea on occasions when senior officials or general officers visit vessels of the Army.  For such waterborne uses, all are three by four feet.

Secretary of the Army

Design first introduced in 1903.  The Under Secretary of the Army has the same flag, but with red stars on a white field, while Assistant Secretaries fly blue stars on a white field.

Chief of Staff of the Army

The Vice Chief of Staff flies a similar flag, but with the field divided by two crossing diagonal lines, red in the hoist and fly and white at the top and bottom.


Lieutenant General

Major General

Brigadier General
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