Current Events

Were Navy SEALs Ordered to Remove “Don’t Tread on Me” Navy Jack From Uniforms?

Were Navy SEALs Ordered to Remove “Don’t Tread on Me” Navy Jack From Uniforms?

A report claims that Navy SEALs were ordered to remove patches displaying the “don’t tread on me” First Navy Jack from their uniforms. Is this true or false?

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Update: A response was issued by a Navy spokeswoman on this subject. See below for updated info.

All of the reports as of this writing refer to a single article published by The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion website. In a news item published on November 1, 2013, The Daily Caller reports that an email was sent out to SEAL team members on October 22, which stated:


WARCOM and GROUP TWO/ONE have pushed out the uniform policy for NWU III and any patches worn on the sleeve.

All personnel are only authorized to wear the matching “AOR” American Flag patch on the right shoulder. You are no longer authorized to wear the “Don’t Tread On Me” patch.

Again the only patch authorized for wear is the American flag on the right shoulder. Please pass the word to all


Senior Enlisted Advisor

[Name Redacted]

While there is no reason at this point to doubt the veracity of the email above, there is also no corroboration or explanation given. The Caller also reported that one soldier was told that “The Jack is too closely associated with radical groups,” which has been suggested to be the Tea Party. Compare the First Navy Jack with the Tea Party Flag below:


Tea Party Flag, aka Gadsen Flag


The First Navy Jack

Both images above depict a rattlesnake with the phrase “Dont tread on me.” The Tea Party flag is more traditionally known as the Gadsen Flag, which was designed in 1775 by American general Christopher Gadsen during the Revolutionary War. The First Navy Jack design also dates from the 1770’s.

First Navy Jack

Instruction 10520.6, dated May 31, 2002 directed all navy ships to fly the Navy Jack during the war on terrorism. As reported in September of that year:

“…all U.S. Navy ships will begin flying the First Navy Jack in place of the Union Jack for the duration of the global war on terrorism.”

Developing Story

Some have suggested that the email above could have been more about bringing uniformity to NWU Type-III than distancing SEALs from the Tea Party. Others have directly blamed the Administration, stating “Obama orders Navy SEALs to remove…”

As the story unfolds, we are currently pursuing the following points:

  • Is the email above real?
  • If it is real, what is the official explanation?

11/5/13 Update

A Navy spokeswoman addressed this issue in an email to The Blaze. “As of September 2013, all Naval Special Warfare  personnel are authorized to wear the U.S. flag and the ‘Don’t Tread on me’ uniform patches. In the past, NSW did not authorize wearing either patch unless one was deployed or in a work-up cycle. However, NSW recently sought special permission from the Chief of Naval Operations staff to wear the patches within the continental United States.”

The Wall Street Journal also picked up the story and reported that Navy officials stated that “a recent rule change means SEALs can wear the patch even more often. Until recently, Navy SEALs were authorized to wear the “Don’t Tread on Me” motto only while deployed or preparing to deploy. But LCDR Sarah M. Flaherty said now all Navy Special Warfare personnel, including SEALs, are can sport the First Navy Jack whenever they wear the proper camouflage uniform.”


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