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Who Are Flag Officers and the Different Flags They Represent?

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July 28, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT July 28, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDTth, July 28, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT

What is a flag officer and why are they called so? The most obvious answer would be that they fly the flag, and that is correct! A flag officer is a commissioned officer in the US armed forces. The officer has a rank that is senior enough to grant them the right to fly a special flag marking the location from which the commands are given and is typically regarded as highly as a general officer.

There are several types of flags that are flown by the flag officer. Let’s check them out!

Chief of Naval Operations Flag

This flag is not as old as the position of chief of naval operations itself, which was established back in 1915. The flag was approved in 1964 and officially represented in 1965.

The flag is divided into two blue and white parts diagonally, from the lower hoist to the upper fly. The center is taken by an eagle with a US shield on its breast, surrounded by a golden chain. There are four stars around the chain/circle, forming a diamond pattern — two white ones on the blue background, and vice versa.

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Flag

This flag was introduced a tad later, in the 1970s. it reminds us of the chief of naval operations flag with its emblem and star pattern, but the flag is no longer divided into two halves, but four quarters. Or we should say, four triangles.

Fleet Admiral Flag

The fleet admiral flag is the rarest of the bunch. Namely, this rank of a five-star fleet admiral was approved by Congress in 1944, and so far only four people have had the right to be flag officers of this particular flag.

The fleet admiral flag has a blue field dominated by five blue stars. It was last officially displayed in 1966 during the funeral of fleet admiral Nimitz. However, if it is to be displayed indoors or on a boat, the flagstaff has a spread eagle on top.

Admiral Flag

The simple blue flag with four white stars is quite an oldie — it has been around since 1867. The first full admiral title was just awarded a year ago by an Act of Congress. this flag has remained such to this day, though there were red and white versions present on some occasions.

Should the admiral flag be displayed on a parade, boat, or indoors, the flagstaff is topped by a halberd.

Vice Admiral Flag

As the first US Navy vice admiral received the title in 1864, sadly, he had no blue flag with three white stars in a triangular pattern to fly.  The flag was authorized only a year later.

Similarly to the admiral’s flag, there was a red version in the 1915-1940 period to announce a junior vice admiral in the presence of a senior.

Finally, a halberd is present on boats, indoors, or on parade displays.

Rear Admiral Flag

Getting fewer stars as we make progress — the Rear Admiral flag only has two white stars one above the other, in the central part of the blue flag.

There were also white and red variations but their use ended in 1906 and 1940, respectively. The rank of rear admiral flag was authorized in 1865.

Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Flag

This one’s a newbie — this Navy flag was created in 1982. The new rank (commodore admiral) called for a new flag with a single white star. The title changed afterward in 1983 (commodore) and 1986 (rear admiral), yet the flag remained the same.

It’s interesting that the rear admiral flag was a result of a dispute as Army and Air Force members complained about how naval officers would go right from no-star to two-star precedence when they received the promotion to a rear admiral.

Just like the rest, on special occasions, it is topped by a halberd.

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