First Navy Jack Flag
on the USS Kitty Hawk
The following text and these images are excerpted from an old page on the website of the USS Kitty Hawk. The Kitty Hawk was decommissioned in May 2009 and passed the distinction of flying the First Navy Jack to the USS Enterprise. (Thank you to Andrea Alvord, Military Fellow for Congressman Maurice Hinchey, for alerting us.)
Don't Tread On Me History
As the first ships of the Continental Navy readied in the Delaware River during the fall of 1775, Commodore Esek Hopkins issued a set of fleet signals. His signals for the fleet to engage the enemy provided for the "Strip'd Jack and Ensign at their proper places." Thus, the First Navy Jack was a flag consisting of 13 horizontal alternating red and white stripes bearing diagonally across them a rattlesnake in a moving position with the motto "Donít Tread On Me."
In 1977, the Secretary of the Navy directed that the ship in active status with the longest total period of active service shall display the First Navy Jack until decommissioned or transferred to inactive service, at which time the flag shall be passed to the next ship in line with appropriate honors. The display of this jack by the oldest ship in the fleet is an appropriate form of recognition and promotes pride of service, enhances morale, and contributes to the tradition of naval service.
USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) became the oldest active ship in the United States Navy upon the decommissioning of USS Independence (CV 62) on September 30, 1998. Kitty Hawk is only the second aircraft carrier ever to hold the honor of flying the First Navy Jack.