Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ambassador J. Wm. Middendorf (SecNav 1975-77) of Draft Endorsement Letter of Dec a.d. 2005

J. William Middendorf

December 2005

The Honorable Gordon R. England
Secretary of the Navy
1000 Navy Pentagon
Washington, District of Columbia 20350-1000

Dear Secretary England:

Recently it has been brought to my attention that SECNAV Instruction 10520.3 that I signed on 1 August 1975 when I served as Secretary of the Navy began a well meaning error in our Navy history. By this letter I am asking that you help correct that error.

As you know that instruction established the practice of flying as the Navy Jack Flag on our Navy ships the “Don’t Tread on Me” Rattlesnake over Stripes Flag that was believed to be the first Navy flag during the Bicentennial Years from 13 October 1975 to 31 December 1976. Based on that precedent, you signed SECNAV Instruction 10520.6.

I have recently learned that the instruction I signed was not staffed through the Naval Historical Center, and in fact, the website of that organization discounts the prevalent opinions that the Rattlesnake flag as now depicted ever flew on a Continental Navy ship, and at the least, was not the first Navy flag.

The first Navy ship commissioned was the Hannah commissioned on 2 September 1775 by Commander in Chief of all Continental forces, George Washington. His aide, Colonel Joseph Reed, wrote of the flag to be flown on the Continental ships commissioned. The design of the flag was a white field with a pine tree, or an Evergreen Tree, and the motto “Appeal To Heaven” inscribed below. The Liberty Tree where the Sons of Liberty met in Boston was chopped down in August 1775, so the “Evergreen Tree of Liberty” has much symbolism. There are many historical accounts of this flag flown on our Navy ships.

In addition, the motto is in essence a “Call to War” and derives from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government chapter XIV “Of Prerogative”, where is written:
“to appeal to heaven…have no appeal on earth,
then they have a liberty to appeal to heaven.”

So I ask that you sign a new SECNAV Instruction that establishes the “Washington Cruisers Flag” or the “Evergreen Tree of Liberty Flag” as the First Navy Flag that is flown as the Navy Jack Flag during the Global War on Terrorism.


J. William Middendorf

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