Commissioning of a Navy Ship

The commissioning ceremony marks the acceptance of a ship as a unit of the operating forces of the United States Navy.

At the moment of breaking the commissioning pennant the ship becomes the responsibility of the Commanding Officer, who, together with the ship’s officers and crew, has the duty of making and keeping her ready for any service required by our nation in peace or war.

The commissioning pennant is believed to date from the 17th Century, when the Dutch were at war with the English. The Dutch Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp hoisted a broom at his masthead to indicate his intention to sweep the English from the sea. This gesture was answered by the English admiral who hoisted a horsewhip, indicating his intention to subdue the Dutch. The English were victorious and ever since the narrow “coachwhip” pennant has been adopted by all nations as the distinctive mark of a ship of war.

The modern U.S. Navy Commissioning pennant is blue at the hoist with a union of seven white stars, and a horizontal red and white stripe at the fly. In lieu of a commission pennant, flagships fly Commodore’s or Admiral’s flags, hence the name flagship.