Navy Ceremonial Flags and Guidons

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National Color

The national color used by the naval services for parades and ceremonies has no fringe, although other than in the Marine Corps there is no prohibition on the use of fringed flags for static display indoors.  In the Navy, the national color is carried on a staff topped with a brass battle-ax finial and adorned with a red, white, and blue cord and tassels.  The size normally corresponds to that of the flag with which it is carried--52 by 66 inches in the case of display with the Navy flag, as shown here, but 61 5/8 by 78 inches with the Navy Infantry Battalion flag or 48 by 72 inches for the Naval Academy's Brigade of Midshipmen.

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Navy Flag

The United States Navy flag depicts a modified version of the seal of the Department of the Navy, an eagle resting upon an anchor with a frigate under sail in the background.  It was approved by President Eisenhower in Executive Order 10812 on April 24, 1959, to represent the Navy in official ceremonies, parades, official displays, and similar occasions.  The flag measures 52 inches by 66 inches and is surrounded on three sides by golden yellow fringe 2 1/2 inches wide.  The staff is topped by a brass battle-ax finial, below which are fastened 36-inch-long battle streamers representing the combat actions carried out by units of the Navy.  Silver and bronze stars embroidered on the streamers indicate the number of campaigns or battles in each of the wars represented.  In addition, streamers in the colors of the Presidential Unit Citation, Navy Unit Commendation, and Meritorious Unit Commendation are inscribed with numerals to indicate the number of such citations awarded to date.  Although widely disregarded by private groups, Navy instructions prohibit  flying  this flag on outdoor fixed poles or using it for other than official Navy purposes. (SecNavInst 10520.2D)

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Navy Infantry Battalion Flag and Guidon

Navy Infantry Battalion Flag

The Navy infantry battalion flag dates back to the late 19th century, when it was adopted as a battalion color for ships' landing parties ashore.  A memorandum in the collections of the Navy Department Library speculates that it may have originated in an order by Rear Admiral John Dahlgren in 1864, issuing "distinguishing pennants for the battalions of the fleet brigade . . .  marked with an anchor."  The flag that first appeared officially in Navy signal books in the late 1800s eventually came to be used to represent both landing party battalions as well as the Navy as a whole until the adoption of the Navy flag in 1959.  The use of the infantry battalion flag is now limited to battalions of ship's landing parties and for battalion organizations of naval shore activities in operations, ceremonies, and street parades.  (SecNavInst 10520.2D) It is perhaps most widely seen at training installations and as the battalion color of construction battalions of the well-known Seabees.  The battalion flag is 61 5/8 inches by 78 inches and mounted on a staff with a battle-ax finial.  Units are authorized to inscribe their designation and location in white block letters above and below the diamond.


The guidon is the unit identifying flag for a company, Naval Reserve division, or air squadron.  It is used for parades ashore, at ceremonies, and as prescribed by the commanding officer.  A Navy guidon measures 20 1/8 by 27 3/4 inches and has a 10-inch swallowtail.  It is carried on a staff with a chrome-plated spearhead finial.  At one time, there was also a red version of the same pattern that was used by artillery and machine gun companies, but it was abandoned after World War II.  There was also a different pattern of guidons carried by units of the Naval Reserve, but since 1959 all Navy and Naval Reserve guidons and unit flags have been of the same design.
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