The tradition of submarine battle flags began during WWII when subs returning from
patrol would fly flags representing ships sunk, total tonnage, or a broom indicating a “clean
sweep” (meaning that every target engaged was destroyed). Toward the end of the war
the crews started making flags specific to their boat with a logo and sewn patches
indicating ships sunk, the number of patrols, pilots rescued, citations received, etc. This
flag is specific to the USS Permit, a Perch Class submarine launched on October 5th,
1936. It features a black fabric background with sewn cloverleaf logo surrounded by
stenciled “PERMIT” and “SS-178″ in white. The cloverleaf was probably adopted as a
good luck symbol after completing her 13th war patrol. Sewn on are patches depicting 10
Japanese “meatball” flags, indicating Japanese merchant ships sunk, and one rising sun
flag, indicating a Japanese naval vessel. In addition are 9 half “meatball” flags and two
half rising sun flags indicating ships damaged. There are also 14 sewn white slash marks
at the bottom, representing her 14 war patrols. A separate white cloth backing has been
sewn to the flag. Size 35″ x 25″. Very good condition with minor staining, no tears.
When the war broke out Permit was in the Philippine Islands and brought in supplies for
the ground troops on Corregidor and evacuated Admiral Thomas Hart’s staff in late Dec
1941 and 36 US Navy cryptanalysts in Mar 1942. In mid-1943, she made a very
successful patrol penetrating into the Sea of Japan; the sinkings were not significant in
terms of tonnage, but it was helpful in terms of lifting morale. On May 26, 1944 she
claimed to have sunk a Japanese submarine, though she never received official credit.
Perch Class Submarine: Laid down, 6 June 1935, at Electric Boat Company, Groton, CT.;
Launched, 5 October 1936; Commissioned, USS Permit (SS-178), 17 March 1937;
Decommissioned, 15 November 1945; Placed in service, in reserve, 24 January 1947, at
Philadelphia Navy Yard Reserve Basin, for service as dockside training submarine for
Submarine Naval Reservists at Philadelphia Navy Yard; Struck from the Naval Register,
26 July 1956; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 28 June 1958, for $162,850, to A. G.
Schoonmaker, Inc., New York City, NY. Permit earned ten battle stars for World War II
Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 1,330 t., Submerged: 1,997 t.; Length 300′ 7″ ;
Beam 21′ 5″; Draft 13′ 10″; Speed, Surfaced 21 kts, Submerged 9 kts; Maximum
Operating Depth, 250′; Complement 5 Officers, 45 Enlisted; Armament, six 21″ torpedo
tubes, 18 torpedoes, one 3″/50 deck gun, two .50 cal. machine guns, four .30 cal.
machine guns; Propulsion, diesel-electric, Winton diesel engines, HP 4300, Fuel Capacity,
92,801 gals.; GE motors, HP 2368, 240 battery cells, twin screws.