US Submarine Flies 'Jolly Roger' Flag Next To American Flag

A submarine that had been out on a secret mission has returned to port, and some were a bit uncomfortable with one of the flags it was flying. Right next to the American flag, the nuclear sub flew the 'Jolly Roger' flag, the famous skull and crossbones on a field of black.

The flag, associated with pirates, was traditionally flown to signify an enemy ship was shot down.

Photos of the USS Jimmy Carter returning to Washington state from a mission were recently posted on the Pentagon's Twitter page. The Washington Post reports that the 450-foot nuclear-powered vessel was flashing the famous flag.

The sub was designed for covert operations at sea and has the ability to destroy unmanned submersibles and to splice cables under the water. Some have been wondering just what the sub has been up to.

US Naval Commander Corey Barker claims that the flag had nothing to do with sinking any ships. He told the Daily Mail that there is no secret message being used by the flag; it was merely flown for morale.

"There was no real reason for flying the flag, just a part of morale," Barker explained. "When submarines come into and leave port they are authorized to fly flags as their commanding officer tells them. This is a flag they've flown in the past for morale. The crew also flew it when they were leaving earlier this year. It doesn't signify anything further."

This is plausible, as in recent decades the flag has become more of a novelty than a scary warning. People who love pirate folklore and fiction tend to use it liberally. The flag is flown in pirate parades in some cities, and is even used on red as the logo for the NFL team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The history of the Jolly Roger, however, is much more sinister than that. Initially, it was flown by real pirates in the 1700s. These were not the bumbling, funny-talking characters from Disney films, but menacing thieves at sea who murdered and pillaged for a living.

Seeing a ship flying a Jolly Roger flag would strike fear into the hearts of those on any other vessel; it was basically a warning from the pirates that they were about to attack you.

In 1914, the British army began to use the flag as a symbol that an enemy ship had been taken down. During World War I, a sub sank a German battle cruiser and returned flying the flag to send the message.

The Lieutenant Commander flew the flag in response to a comment made by an Admiral of the Fleet a few years earlier. Sir Arthur Wilson had called submarines ‘underhand, unfair and damned un-English’, and claimed that they should be treated like pirates.

For decades after 1914, the flag continued to be used during wartime by British seamen to represent a successful mission to take out an enemy.

For now, we’ll just have to take Barker’s word for it.

Source: Daily Mail
Photos: Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith/U.S. Navy, Daily Mail

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