USS Kitty Hawk hoists "Don't Tread On Me" Navy Jack NAVY WIRE SERVICE (NWS) - 23 November 1998 by JO1 Mike Morley, USS Kitty Hawk Public Affairs YOKOSUKA, Japan (NWS) -- "Command Master Chief, break the First Navy Jack." With that order from Capt. Jack J. Samar, Jr., USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) commanding officer, a unique flag was raised on the ship's jack staff, distinguishing Kitty Hawk from all other ships in the U.S. Navy. Kitty Hawk received the First Navy Jack during ceremonies Nov. 20 in Yokosuka, Japan, designating the 37-year-old aircraft carrier as the oldest ship in the fleet. This distinction allows her to display the First Navy Jack in place of the Union Jack flown aboard other Navy ships. The First Navy Jack, a flag consisting of 13 horizontal, alternating red and white stripes with a rattlesnake across the center, bears the motto, “Don't Tread On Me.” Conceived in 1775 by Commodore Esek Hopkins of the Continental Navy, the flag was first used as a signal among ships to engage the enemy. In 1977, the Secretary of the Navy directed the ship with the longest total period of active service to display the First Navy Jack until decommissioned or transferred to the inactive reserve. At that time, the flag shall be passed to the next ship in line with appropriate honors. Kitty Hawk received the flag from the USS Independence (CV 62) following its decommissioning Sept. 30, 1998, in Bremerton, Wash. Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class (SW) Patrick Higgins, of Omaha, Neb., accepted the flag on behalf of Kitty Hawk during Independence's decommissioning and brought it back to Japan. "I hope it helps people feel more pride in their ship and the Navy," Higgins said before the ceremony. "The flag we raise today is a symbol," Samar told the crowd of Kitty Hawk crew, family members and Japanese guests. "Today, we honor the 223 years of naval tradition and pride American Sailors have shown. We honor the young men and women who've fought and died for America's freedom, and we honor the crew members who stand with us today." Sailors at the ceremony said the jack will bring a new sense of pride among the crew. "It makes me proud," said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Launching and Recovery Equipment) 3rd Class Jose Solis, of Uvalde, Texas. "It's kind of a cool thing being able to say you've served on the oldest ship." Another Kitty Hawk Sailor feels the flag represents a unique experience in his career. "When I came in the Navy, my first ship was brand new," said Seaman Disbursing Clerk Kason Brizele, of Monroe, La. "Now, here I am on the oldest one. It's a new experience, and I think Kitty Hawk is now ready to take part in some big events." -USN-