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Battle Flag USS Blackfin (SS-322) 

Mermaid riding a torpedo with japanese flags at the top and awards at the bottom

Title: Battle Flag USS Blackfin (SS-322)
Accession #: NHHC 1994-142-A
Circa: 1945
Size: 34 x 47
Medium: Cloth
Location: Headquarters Artifact Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command 

Rectangular blue cloth battle flag from the USS Blackfin (SS-322). In the center of the flag is a blonde mermaid, her hair tied back with a black ribbon, clad in sheer black netting, riding atop a torpedo. Black lettering above the mermaid reads "USS BLACKFIN / SS 322". The upper left corner of the flag has a gold mine with a scoreboard below showing seventy red tally marks representing the seventy mines Blackfin destroyed. One Imperial Japanese Navy battle flag and three Japanese merchant flags are displayed across the top above the black lettering. These indicate the ships sunk and/or damaged by the Blackfin. In the upper right corner of the flag is a Submarine Combat Patrol insignia with five red hash marks below it, representing five war patrols. The first two hash marks have a gold star in the center to indicate successful patrols.

Beneath the mermaid are displayed five campaign ribbons awarded to the sub for action against the enemy. From left to right: Silver Star ribbon with one gold star, Bronze Star ribbon with three gold stars, Navy Commendation ribbon with two gold stars and one silver star, Asiatic Campaign ribbon with one gold star, and the Philippine Liberation ribbon with two gold stars.

USS Blackfin joined the US fleet 4 July 1944. During her Pacific patrols, she is credited with the sinking of the Japanese destroyer Shigure. She also received credit for the sinking of a Japanese freighter and damaging two Japanese tankers. After the ceasefire order was issued in August 1945, signaling the end of hostilities, she went to work sinking floating mines.

According to several Blackfin sailors, artist Alberto Vargas assisted with the design of the flag. He used a skin-colored rayon material for the mermaid’s body. The netting covering the body is made from the inner lining of gas-proof ponchos. A chemical bath was concocted that would soak the plastic loose from the netting. Several crew of the Blackfin spent days extracting the netting from the plastic liners. 

This flag is one of 110 made before the Blackfin’s decommissioning in 1948. The flags were made at the Mare Island Shipyard and were distributed to crewmen who had made war patols aboard the sub.

Published: Wed Apr 15 07:21:43 EDT 2020