First Navy Jack flies at Pearl Harbor to honor sailors killed in collisions

Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, has directed the base headquarters building at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to fly the First Navy Jack throughout 2018 to honor 17 sailors from the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain killed in collisions last year.


By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 4, 2018

A banner often regarded as the Navy’s first flag will fly all year long at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in honor of 17 sailors killed in a pair of Pacific collisions last year.

Sailors raised the First Navy Jack — featuring a rattlesnake, 13 red-and-white stripes and the “Don’t Tread On Me” motto — Monday at base headquarters to renew a “culture of tradition and resolve” in wake of the tragedies, a Navy statement said.

The banner, whose design is derived from a jack used by the Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War, will fly at the base directly beneath the American flag throughout 2018.

“Here in Pearl Harbor, we rose to the challenge 76 years ago, as ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ sharpened our warfighting culture,” Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, said in the statement. “In the wake of 9/11, when our culture was tested, we rose to the challenge once more … we returned to our First Navy Jack, ‘Don’t Tread on Me,’ on the jack staffs of all Navy warships as a historic reminder of the nation’s and Navy’s origins and our will to persevere and triumph.”

Last June, a collision between the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and a cargo ship killed seven sailors off the coast of mainland Japan. Two months later, the USS John S. McCain ran into an oil tanker east of Singapore, killing 10 more. The Navy has blamed the incidents on tired crews who hadn’t received the necessary training due to constant deployments.

“2017 was a challenging year for the Navy,” Command Master Chief Allen Keller of Pearl Harbor-Hickam said in the statement. “We as an installation will fly the First Navy Jack as reminder to every airman, sailor, civilian and family member to get back to basics, honor our country and remember our history.”

Twitter: @LeonCook12

Petty Officer 2nd Class Gerado Taddei, left, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Thompson fly the First Navy Jack at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.