U.S.S. Little Rock CL 92 / CLG 4 / CG 4

Call Signs, Signaling, & Flags

November Flag     Bravo Flag     Victor Flag     Whiskey Flag

NOVEMBER       BRAVO            VICTOR          WHISKEY

Page last updated: 04 February, 2018

It is amazing what you learn from your shipmates!  In response to the following question, we now know all about the USS Little Rock's radio and voice call signs, as well as the flag hoists used to identify the ship while entering and leaving port.

Here is the original question:

From:  Jim Brown,  1/12/06 at 05:23 PM

"Does anyone remember the voice call sign and the flag hoist call sign of the Rock? Please send me this info. Thanks."

NBVW in Med

The above photo of the ship's flags was provided by Robert Ernst (LTJG, 62-65) on 13 Mar 2011.
The photo was taken in May 1963 while the Little Rock was on the way to or in the Mediterranean.

The ship's Call Sign flags N B V W are on the inboard flag hoist (left-hand row).
Does anyone know what the other two hoists represent?
The center hoist appears to be Signal Pennant #3 over "H" (?)
The outboard hoist (right-hand row) looks like "Designation Pennant" over "M" "E" "D"

Note: On 17 March 2011 we received the following from Robert Ernst:  "Just happened to see the posting of my signal flag photo on the website.  Thanks for the recognition!

By the way, you were correct on the inboard display identifying the ship's call sign "NBVW".  The outboard display has a "designation" pennant, in this use showing "destination" Mediterranean (MED).  The middle display has an #3 pennant with the letter H (Hotel) which I am pretty sure indicates "Pilot on Board".

This all would make sense since I took the photo as the ship was just leaving Norfolk and heading for the Mediterranean and extended cruise with ComSixthFlt aboard."

Call Signs

In radio communications, a "call sign" (also known as "call letters") is a unique designation for a given transmitting station. Each country has a set of alphabetic or numeric International Telecommunication Union-designated prefixes with which their call signs must begin. For example:

* Canada uses CF-CK, CY-CZ, VA-VG, VO, VX-VY, and XJ-XO.
* Japan uses JA-JS, 7J-7N, and 8J-8N.
* The United Kingdom uses G, M, VS, ZB-ZJ, ZN-ZO, ZQ, and 2.
* The United States uses K, W, N, and AA-AL.

These assignments were originally made in 1927. The US was represented by the military at the 1927 conference and consequently received "A" (for Army) and "N" (for Navy). The "W" and "K" for civilian stations followed as the simple addition of a dash to the Morse code letters "A" and "N".

The US Navy and US Coast Guard use a mixture of tactical call signs and international call signs, all beginning with the letter "N". For example, the carrier USS John F. Kennedy has the call sign NJFK for unclassified and navigation communications with other vessels, but uses varying tactical call signs that vary with its mission. The USS Little Rock used the call sign NBVW, spoken "November, Bravo, Victor, Whiskey". (The flags are shown above.) When using voice communications LITTLE ROCK was referred to as "Body Guard".

Here's a good link to Navy Signal Flag information. Click HERE.

For a link to the USS Little Rock Signalmen's page click HERE.

Radio Call Signs used by Other Ships
while operating with USS Little Rock

Ship Name
Hull No.
Call Sign
"Fast Charger"
USS Albany

USS America
USS Davis
USS Galveston
"Giant Killer"
USS Independence
"Gun Train"
USS Liberty

USS Newport News
USS Saratoga
USS Springfield

Here are some of the responses received from some of our shipmates:

Hank Henning - 1/13/06 at 05:40 PM

Not sure, but down in Combat Control for the forward guns, it was always Victor Whiskey? From 66 to 69 anyway

Jerry Dupuis
- 1/14/06 at 06:35 AM

As used on the Bridge, underway or in port, the voice call sign for Little Rock was always "BODYGUARD".  This was true for all ship-to-ship or ship-to-air, and even ship-to-shore voice communications.  I used it many times, while standing watch.  As for the flag hoist sign, I can't remember but, Gus Karlsen should remember.  J.D.

Ward Rusling
- 3/12/06 at 11:21 PM

I thought the ship's call sign might have been NBVW, but I wasn't totally sure.  Then I checked it out on Google and I found an entry that confirmed that guess as correct.

Butch Weghorst
- RM3 USN (63-68)

To the best of my knowledge and memory, NBVW is correct. I worked in radio on CLG 4 from June / July 64 to about Aug 65 when I was transferred to Radioman A school in Bainbridge, MD........    (Follow-up note):   Navy ships had their call sign on the main door to Radio Central (the main radio room or facility).......  the signalmen used the same call sign when doing flashing light comms and flag type stuff.

Dave Sciarretta
- RM2 73-76 - 3/22/06 at 04:22 PM  Reply

I was a Radioman, however we did not use call signs, the Signalmen did.  I do remember the Ships / Staff routing indicator we used in teletyped msg's as RUDISAA.  The call signs were probably used when RM's used morse code and they keyed the msg's in, rather than cut a tape on a teletype and transmit.

Pat Cavanaugh
- 6/11/06 at 10:10 PM

Served from 68 to 70 as CYN3 main comm supervisor. One radio call used in voice in Radio 1 was "Fast Charger". There was at least one more but I don't remember. I do remember that Main Comm used voice intercom to call "Admiral On Board" many times.

Paul Jett
FTG-3 62-65 - 9/25/06 at 01:32 PM

I know absolutely nothing, nada, zip about voice communications on board ship except with sound power phones. .....in the Army it was common procedure to change call signs on a periodic basis to keep any one call sign from being associated with a particular identity. That would help prevent tracking of a call sign and the identity associated with it.

We also had a code book, from which we used the "I set / I send" format to set a particular line on a particular page and spelled out the message based on the line used.

It may be comparing apples and oranges, but surely we were as smart as the Army!

Gus Karlsen
- 11/17/06 at 04:44 PM

I do recall that the international call sign was, as some have mentioned, NBVW.  We, for NATO use, just used VW.  The voice radio call sign was "BODYGUARD".

Art Tilley
- 11/17/06 at 08:49 PM

Was the ship's call sign (NBVW) displayed from the flag hoist(s) when the ship was:

(a) underway
(b) in port
(c) BOTH of the above
(d) neither of the above

P.W. Gilbert
- 12/25/06 at 07:23 PM

In 1961 I think it was "Bodyguard".  (I remember an underway in-convoy story about an Ensign trying to call from the bridge to the foc'sle over the ship-to-ship channel and getting this response: "Body Guard, Body Guard, this is Sea Dog, I don't think you will raise your foc'sle on this channel"!)

Phil Habib
- 12/26/06 at 12:45 PM

I was aboard from '62 to '64.  Sometime during that span, the voice call sign procedure took a new turn.  Daily Changing Call Signs.  It was a three digit alpha-numeric call sign for each ship that changed at midnight, Zulu.  We had a one month code book with ship names, and call signs for each day.  If I remember, it was a pain in the you know what.  By the time I was onboard Richmond K. Turner in the 80s, we were using ship names as call signs because we had covered (crypto) circuits.

Bob Baker
- 12/29/06 at 10:03 AM

The ship's ACP-113 (Allied Communications Publication) international call sign  was indeed NBVW.  In fact, during overhaul in Boston in 70-71, the deck tile in Main Comm was refurbished and the call sign and radioman sparks were fabricated and installed as a sort of mosaic.  I recall toward the end of that overhaul testing WRT-2 and URC-32 transmitters / transceivers in all modes (I was an RM2 then and one of the morse code operators) and using that CW call to contact Comm stations as far away as Balboa in the Canal Zone, Nea Makri, Greece, and Asmara, Ethiopia.  The ship's JANAP-119 (Joint Army-Navy-Air Force Publication) voice call sign was "Bodyguard."  The staff (ComSixthFleet) voice call sign was "Fast Charger" and was used extensively on the Hi-Comm voice circuit.

Ron Berardino
- 1/15/07 at 07:41 AM

I keep thinking, on the bridge, "Body Guard" referred to the Flag onboard,  Little Rock was "Fast Charger".

Sigs / AKA Kenn
- 1/24/07 at 08:28 PM

Just saw the post about the ship's call sign......  I was a Signalman on the USS SEATTLE, and while I can't remember the call signs of all the ships we steamed with in the Med for 4 years, I do at least remember the Seattle's call sign (flags) was NABN.  The radio call sign was "Imperial Hotel".  That's what I get for being in OC Division...  Signalmen and Radiomen!

David Resch
- 1/25/07 at 08:00 PM

From 1960 to 1962 I served inboard USS Little Rock in the OR division. I was an RM1 at that time. The call sign we used for CW was NBVW and the voice call sign was "BODYGUARD". The signalmen used NANCY BRAVO VICTOR WHISKEY on the flags and NBVW on the flashing light.

nywarthog -
2/10/07 at 06:09 PM

In answer to Art's question the call sign NBVW was displayed from the yardarm underway when entering and leaving port. As soon as we dropped the hook it came down as did the steaming ensign. I had been on Canberra CAG-2 prior to pre-com school for the Rock and her call sign was NBLS and her voice call was "Blockbuster".

- 2/22/07 at 9:15 PM

All my watches in LITTLE ROCK (late 1960 thru mid-1961) were in Flag Plot.  Naturally, we were very concerned with the various call-signs that were used for different exercises. I can recall only one, when COMCRUDIV-4 was head honcho for a segment of the flotilla involved in one exercise.

I never knew who assigned the temporary call signs, and the only one I can remember is "Prince Charming." The Admiral was, of course, immediately unhappy with that name. One night when a call came over the TBS addressed to "Prince Charming" but requesting to speak to "Prince Charming, himself," the Admiral has hopping mad at being called that and I can't remember hearing it again. I think he must have gotten hold of the Admiral up the line from him and told him he would not answer to that call-sign again.  "Bodyguard" sounds right to me as the ship's call-sign.

- 2/25/07 at 09:52 PM

I was on the Rock 61' to 65' as a QMSA to QM2.  The flag hoist was NBVW, which according to Navy phonetic spelling, was "November", "Bravo", "Victor", "Whiskey".

I have a deck of training cards that has all the alphabet and substitutes, morse code, and semaphore flag positions that the Bridge Gang had to learn to advance in rating.

Probably the first time that the yard arm had the proper hoist, since the Rock coming to Buffalo, was when I went to the first "working party" in May 1995, prior to the  35/50 Anniversaries.  I rummaged around the Signal Shack and found enough of the proper flags for the hoist!

Ronney ("Flex") Brewington - RM2, on 20 Oct 2009

I was a Radioman on board USS Little Rock CLG 4 from May 1966 until  August 1969. Our Division was OR until we TAD'ed to Comsixthflt in January 1967. Voice call sign for Little Rock was "Bodyguard" and for  Comsixthflt "Fast Charger".

Time Magazine Article - 02 Nov 1962

"THE plaque on his desk in the Pentagon's E-Ring reads FAST CHARGER. This was the radio call of (Vice) Admiral George W. Anderson Jr. when he was commander of the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean."

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