U.S. Navy to bar Confederate flags from ships, aircraft, bases

Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: Navy Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, arrives to testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee about military housing on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy is working to ban the Confederate battle flag from all public spaces on Navy installations, ships and aircraft, the service said on Tuesday, as the military and the country as a whole grapple with questions about racial inequality.

The Navy made the move amid protests across the United States and other countries sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, an Africa-American man who died after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

In a statement, the Navy said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday had directed his staff to begin drafting an order that would prohibit the flag "from all public spaces and work areas aboard Navy installations, ships, aircraft and submarines."

"The order is meant to ensure unit cohesion, preserve good order and discipline, and uphold the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment," the statement added.

Since Floyd's death, officials in the South - where Africans were enslaved until 1863 and suffered decades of racial discrimination - are now ordering the removal of monuments honoring the Confederacy, which defended slavery.

While some in the South see the flag as a source of pride and a remembrance of its soldiers who died in the Civil War, many Americans see it as a symbol of oppression and of a dark chapter in American history.

Amid the protests, the military has been carrying out a mixture of damage control and soul-searching on race.

The Navy's move follows the Marine Corps ordering the removal of the Confederate battle flag from all its installations, including a ban on depicting the flag on mugs and car bumpers.

In a reversal, an Army official said Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy was open to having a bipartisan conversation about renaming Army bases named for Confederate leaders. Fort Hood, Texas, for example, is named for General John Bell Hood.

Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed General Charles Brown as the first African-American military service chief, voting unanimously to make him chief of staff of the Air Force.


(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)