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World War II Submarine Battle Flags

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park is one of Pearl Harbor’s major attractions. Every year, the museum welcomes thousands of tourists who wish to explore the legendary sub.

Launched a year (1942) after the attack on Pearl Harbor, USS Bowfin (SS-287) completed nine successful wartime patrols. A formidable underwater battleship, Bowfin sank 44 enemy ships during the Second World War for which she earned the moniker “Pearl Harbor Avenger“.On January 14, 1986, USS Bowfin was declared a National Historic Landmark. She was docked next to USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor in 1980. USS Bowfin was officially transformed into a museum ship on April 1, 1981.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum in Pearl Harbor features various exhibits with over 4,000 submarine-related artifacts from recruiting posters, missiles, to battle flags.

USS Bowfin Submarine Battle Flag

When you visit, you’ll find the World War II Submarine battle flags hanging from the ceiling in the World War II section of the USS Bowfin museum. These flags are unofficial and varies in style, design, and creativity since they were individually designed by the crewmen of different boats. They are also replicas as the originals are kept for conservation.

Usually, a sub’s battle flag design includes a mascot in caricature, record of enemy ships sunk, and important commendations awarded to the submarine. USS Bowfin submarine for instance, was awarded a Navy Unit Commendation and a Presidential Citation. Also shown on the flags’ design are special missions, damaged ships, mines laid, and airmen rescued.

There are, however, submarines (such as the USS Parche) which chose not to integrate a battle record into their flag’s design.

WWII Submarine Flag Emblem and its meaning

StarsNumber of War Patrols
Japanese National FlagMerchant Ships sunk
Rising Sun Flag (Japanese Navel ensign)Number of Military Ships sunk
Partial FlagDamaged ships
Blue, yellow, and red pennantUS Presidential Unit Citation
Red, white and blueVichy French Vessel sunk by USS Bowfin

The battle flags’ battle

For most of the submarines’ battle flags, (including those of USS Bowfin’s) time is the main enemy. Once damage occurs on the flags, it can no longer be reversed, not even by a conservator.

The battle flags will deteriorate rapidly especially if placed in a humid environment with bright lights. Proper conservation of the battle flags in the USS Bowfin museum is observed by monitoring the temperature and humidity of the museum every day. Some of the original flags on display are rotated by the staff to prevent any further deterioration.

Other Main USS Bowfin Submarine Museum Attractions
bowfin submarine replica
When you visit the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park during your Pearl Harbor Tour, you’ll also get to explore the museum’s indoor and outdoor exhibits.

A part of the museum’s indoor exhibit is the display of Bowfin Artifacts. The most popular artifact, perhaps, is the Poseidon Missile which is displayed with all of its electronics, hydraulics and propulsion elements. The UGM-73 Poseidon, more commonly known as the Poseidon Missile, was the second US Navy ballistic missile system used by submarines since 1972.

The outdoor exhibits on the other hand features the Waterfront Memorial (dedicated to the 52 submarines and over 3,500 crewmen lost during WWII), Regulus, Kaiten, and the McCann Rescue Chamber.

USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park operates daily from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm.

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