These sailor decorated “Hankies” was a common practice on the USS Columbia, showing the record of the cruiser’s victories during the war.
This handkerchief was stenciled with the Japanese Imperial Battle flag, and beneath the record of surface and air victories, along with bombardment record of Japanese held islands.
The handkerchief is 16 inches square and shows some discoloring due to age, etc. By simply using this piece for information alone, the USS Columbia had 5 engagements of enemy held islands, one tangle with a Japanese Imperial Navy surface vessel, and her crew shot down six enemy aircraft.
USS Columbia (CL-56), a light crusier, launched in December of 1941 and was stationed with the Pacific Squadron. Her heaviest combat came in the 1944-45 period, and beside fire support of invasions, she encountered an number of Kamikazes. I don’t know it this is included in the count on the handkerchief. These Japanese suicide planes did a good deal of damage to the ship, but her crew fought additional explosions below deck, yet despite the great damage done, she remained on station giving support to the various invasions she was a part of. The Columbia received 10 battle stars for her WWII service as well as a Navy unit commendation for the crew.
In doing some research on these kill flags, I have found three; one (I have included a photo here) in the South Carolina Military Museum, one on another dealer’s site which had been should some time ago, and this one offered here. Notes from the South Carolina museum state that these were Government issue handkerchiefs. The photo used by that museum is too small to compare to the other known specimens, but these last 2 are not identical in construction, leading me to believe that individual shipmates brought their own hankies to be stenciled for souvenir purposes.
A great piece of Pacific Theater Naval history.