48-STAR FLAG ATTRIBUTED TO U.S.S. NORTHAMPTON, LOST AT THE BATTLE OF TASSAFARONGA
A significant World War II naval relic, a 48-star United States Navy flag believed to have been removed from the ill-fated heavy cruiser USS NORTHAMPTON at the time of her sinking off Guadalcanal. The flag, 113" x 56", is constructed of thirteen separate stripes of red and white wool bunting, with a dark blue wool canton at upper left. Each white cotton fabric star is separately sewn onto the canton, and the upper and lower hoist corners are reinforced with extra squares of bunting. The hoist itself consists of a strip of white canvas folded and sewn over the edge, marked with the black-stenciled designation "U.S. Ensign 7", indicating manufacture and use by the U.S. Navy. No other markings are present. The hoist shows traces of stitching which would have held a sewn-in hoisting line, which has since been removed. The flag is in very good condition overall, showing only light wear and soiling commensurate with use. There are two approx. 1/2" square holes which cannot be attributed to moth damage, other causes being battle damage or a blunt object piercing the cloth. There are some much smaller, scattered moth nips also present. When purchased by our consignor, the flag was stored in a period white cotton drawstring sack bearing the black-stenciled name "GIBBONS J E". Based on our research the most likely owner of this sack would have been John Edward Gibbons, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy on December 13, 1940, and who joined the crew of the cruiser U.S.S. NORTHAMPTON on February 17, 1941 as a seaman, first class. The Northampton would in turn be sunk by torpedoes from the Japanese destroyer KAWAKAZE during the Battle of Tassafaronga off Guadalcanal on November 30, 1942. It is likely that Gibbons took this flag as a souvenir from the cruiser''s flag locker during the three hours between the vessel being hit and her abandonment. While Gibbons would go on to serve aboard two additional ships, the attack transport FREDERICK FUNSTON and the LST-1015, a U.S. Navy ensign of the size presented here would most likely have been used by a larger, cruiser-sized warship; the flags most commonly used by the transports Gibbons served on later would have been smaller. Present with the flag are muster rolls from the Northampton listing Gibbons, as well as his draft card, accounts of the Northampton''s loss, muster rolls from Gibbon''s subsequent ships, copy photos, and much additional related information. The NORTHAMPTON accumulated eight battle stars during her short life, and was engaged in actions at Wake, Marcus Island, Coral Sea, Midway, Bougainville, escorted the HORNET in the launch of the Doolittle Raiders and in the HORNET''s last hours. At Tassafaronga, NORTHAMPTON and other American warships attacked Japanese forces attempting to reinforce Guadalcanal. Northampton was struck by two torpedoes, which tore a huge hole in her port side, ripping away decks and bulkheads. Flaming oil sprayed over the ship. Three hours later, she was abandoned. While it was a tactical defeat, as three cruisers had been severely damaged and Northampton lost in exchange for the loss of only one Japanese destroyer, the Japanese had been denied a major reinforcement.