A US submarine equipped with nuclear capabilities returned to port in Washington state this weekend flying the popular pirate sigil Jolly Roger, leading to speculation it could’ve succeeded in conducting a covert operation.
Images of the USS Jimmy Carter returning to port through the Hood canal while flying the skull and cross bones alongside the American flag were posted to a Pentagon media site and Twitter page.
Historically, the move to fly a Jolly Roger means the vessel sunk an enemy ship, Scottish journalist Ian Keddie notes. He said the tradition dates to 1914 when a British sub sank the German battle cruiser, Hela, a story which the Washington Post reports can be found in the book, “Submarines at War 1939-1945.”
USS Jimmy Carter, 1 of the most secretive subs in the USN, returns to home port flying the Jolly Roger flag – indicating operational action. pic.twitter.com/vpMYZ9xqki
— Ian Keddie (@IanJKeddie) September 13, 2017
Lt. Cmdr Max Horton leading the British ship raised the iconic flag as they made port, to signal they had sunk an enemy warship. British ships have honored the tradition at various times since.
The Washington Post pondered whether the raising of the Jolly Roger by the USS Jimmy Carter could signify the success of a more covert mission. The 450-foot sub also flew the flag when it returned from its last patrol back in April.
The post notes that, aside from nuclear applications, the sub can also deploy unmanned intelligence submersibles and splice undersea enemy communications cables.
Pentagon officials rarely discuss submarine activity, however, and it is doubtful a flag signaling the sub’s exact intentions would be flown.
One sub of the USS Jimmy Carter’s Sea Wolf class has participated in Cold War-era operations in which US subs tapped Soviet communications lines that were underwater.
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