Flags That Talk

 

SM2 Dale I. Bronson, a signalman aboard the USS Stokes (AKA-68), was on the signal bridge during the invasion of Iwo Jima and used signal flags in communicating with other ships in the fleet. Click HERE for his story.

 U.S. Navy Signal Flags

Even in these days of radio and satellite communications, the U.S. Navy uses the international alphabet flags, numeral pennants, numeral flags, and special flags and pennants for visual signaling. These signal flags are used to communicate while maintaining radio silence. Navy Signalmen transmit messages by hoisting a flag or a series of flags on a halyard. Each side of the ship has halyards and a "flag bag", containing a full set of signal flags. Signals unique to the Navy are used when communicating with other U.S. Navy or allied forces. When communicating with all other vessels, the International Code of Signals is used. The code/answer pennant precedes all signals in international code.

Phonetic Alphabet and Signal Flags

A phonetic alphabet is a list of words used to identify letters in a message transmitted by radio or telephone. Spoken words from an approved list are substituted for letters. For example, the word "Navy" would be "November Alfa Victor Yankee" when spelled in the phonetic alphabet. This practice helps to prevent confusion between similar sounding letters, such as "m" and "n", and to clarify communications that may be garbled during transmission.


Alfa, Navy signal flag Bravo - Navy signal flag Charlie - Navy signal flag Delta - Navy signal flag Echo - Navy signal flag
Alfa Bravo Charlie Delta Echo
         
Foxtrot - Navy signal flag Golf - Navy signal flag Hotel - Navy signal flag India - Navy signal flag Juliet - Navy signal flag
Foxtrot Golf Hotel India Juliet
         
Kilo - Navy signal flag Lima - Navy signal flag Mike - Navy signal flag November - Navy signal flag Oscar - Navy signal flag
Kilo Lima Mike November Oscar
         
Papa - Navy signal flag  Quebec - Navy signal flag Romeo - Navy signal flag Sierra - Navy signal flag Tango - Navy signal flag
Papa Quebec Romeo Sierra Tango
         
Uniform - Navy signal flag Victor - Navy signal flag Whiskey - Navy signal flag Xray - Navy signal flag Yankee - Navy signal flag
Uniform Victor Whiskey Xray Yankee
         
Zulu - Navy signal flag Number 1 - Navy signal flag Number 2 - Navy signal flag Number 3 - Navy signal flag Number 4 - Navy signal flag
Zulu Number 1 Number 2 Number 3 Number 4
         
Number 5 - Navy signal flag Number 6 - Navy signal flag Number 7 - Navy signal flag Number 8 - Navy signal flag Number 9 - Navy signal flag
Number 5 Number 6 Number 7 Number 8 Number 9
         
Number 0 - Navy signal flag Code/Answer signal First substitute Second substitute Third substitute
Number 0 Code/Answer First substitute Second substitute Third substitute
         
Fourth substitute Pennant one Pennant two Pennant three Pennant four
Fourth substitute Pennant one Pennant two Pennant three Pennant four
         
Pennant five Pennant six Pennant seven Pennant eight Pennant Nine
Pennant five Pennant six Pennant seven Pennant eight Pennant Nine

 Pennant zero

Pennant zero

Source: The Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C