The SACO "What-the-Hell?" Pennant
This patch from World War II includes the SACO "What-the-Hell?" pennant. The American SACO commander during WWII, Milton Miles, created the pennant in 1934 when he was a junior officer on the destroyer U.S.S. Wickes in the Pacific Ocean. Occasionally during tight maneuvers, one of the ships in the fleet would do something unexpected and, during such instances, Miles wanted to send a pennant up the mast saying "What the Hell?" Miles asked his wife "Billy" (Wilma) to create such a pennant without using obscenities. Billy suggested using characters like exclamation points, saying that when newspaper writers wanted to use an obscenity, they did the same. Soon afterwards, Billy created a pennant that included question marks and exclamation points.
Miles enjoyed using the pennant for the next several years in light-hearted situations. However, in 1939, two years before the U.S. entered World War II, the pennant proved to be useful in a potentially serious situation with the Japanese Navy. Miles was skipper of the destroyer John D. Edwards that August and was ordered to Hainan Island, off the coast of China, where the Japanese Navy was threatening a coastal village, including American missionaries. When Miles arrived at Hainan, he saw several large Japanese naval ships bombarding the village. The Japanese flagship hoisted a flag warning the American destroyer to leave, which put Miles in a quandary, since his orders were to protect the American missionaries in the village. After considering the situation, Miles decided to ignore the Japanese threats and hoisted a pennant of his own -- his "What-the-Hell?" pennant.
Upon seeing the American destroyer hoisting a pennant, the Japanese halted their bombardment, giving Miles time to nestle his destroyer between the Japanese Navy and the village. The Japanese commander was puzzled about the pennant, though, since it wasn't in any of the Japanese code books, but he decided to err on the side of caution and backed the Japanese fleet away from the village. Milton Miles went ashore that afternoon, gathered up the missionaries, and departed the following morning. The Japanese Navy, meanwhile, sat offshore, still wondering about the meaning of the curious pennant.
Throughout World War II, Milton Miles' "What-the-Hell?" pennant was the unofficial emblem of SACO and was often found flying at SACO camps throughout China.
Special thanks to reader Dan Cole for sending me this photo.
Oh come on! You don't think people are seriously buying that explanation over my earlier response? Clutching at straws there Bullwinkle58.
Weeeeeelllll . . . my link has a picture of the thing too. What's the Riddler got? Umm, riddles?
Er...okay, on reflection you may be right....
Yeah, but his hair is FABULOUS!!!!