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White Flag

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Suppose you either are facing truly insurmountable odds, or are just the kind of quitter who panics at the first sign of trouble. You might want to surrender. A good way to do so non-verbally is to hoist and wave a white flag.

Don't use it just to lure your enemies closer for a clear shot, though - that is a war crime. White flags can also be used for negotiating things other than surrender (e.g., a prisoner exchange) - the basic meaning behind the white flag is "Don't shoot, we wish to talk about something."

Sometimes a character will raise a white flag, only for it to be shot off or filled with bullet holes. In this instance, Violence Is the Only Option.


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    Anime And Manga 
  • In the Johto saga of the Pokémon Anime, after the elders defeated several bandits trying to steal digletts and dugtrios, the bandits waved a white flag of surrender. Then again, they weren't actually trying to steal the digletts/dugtrios so much as they are trying to test their elders as to whether they can continue to defend their area.
  • North Italy of Axis Powers Hetalia, being a Lovable Coward and constantly Distressed Dude, makes frequent use of these. At one point, he's shown mass-producing them, gives them as gifts to his friend Germany, and turns them into alien costumes that the nations use in The Movie.


  • What is the war flag of [nation you don't like]? A white eagle/star/crown/etc on white fabric.

  • In Bored of the Rings, just before The Cavalry arrive and all seems lost:
    "Despair not," Goodgulf commanded through his little window. "Bring me my white robes, and quickly!"
    "Ah!" cried Pepsi, "white robes for white magic!"
    "No," said Goodgulf as he stapled the garments to a pool cue, "white robes for white flag."
  • In one of the Otto Stahl novels by Leo Kessler, the German spy succeeds in capturing a Soviet bunker, only to see German troops advancing with a flamethrower. They need to surrender or be roasted alive, but no-one has a white flag. So Otto gets one of the Russian soldiers to take his pants off and wave his long underwear.
  • Discworld:
    • In Jingo, Vimes's First of Foot (which in Vimes's head aren't a regiment at all, but still a police force) march under a white flag to represent "what they're fighting for".
    • In Night Watch, a soldier waves a white flag to request a brief ceasefire so his side can remove their dead.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Doomsday", the Doctor improvises one so he and the Cybermen can discuss a temporary alliance against the Daleks.
    Doctor: Sorry, no white flag. Only had a sheet of A4; same difference.
    Cyberman: Do you surrender?
    Doctor: I surrender, unto you...a very good idea.
    • In "The God Complex", an alien whose species' hat is surrendering is introduced waving a white handkerchief.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. Captain Janeway combines this with From Dress to Dressing in "The Q and the Grey", tearing off strips from her American Civil War petticoat.
  • An episode of M*A*S*H had the compound under attack by a lone sniper hiding behind a bush. A helicopter arrives and opens fire on the sniper. After a few tense, silent moments, the sniper raises and waves a white flag.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, the description of orcs states "They do not obey the 'rules' of war — for example, they will shoot at a person carrying a white flag."

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Near the end of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "To Bee Or Not To Bee", when Pooh and his friends were telling Christopher Robin about what happened, involving a swarm of bees, Rabbit mentions that they were forced to surrender, as did the bees, with both sides waving one of these.
  • Spongebob and Squidward both wave these in the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Employee Of The Month", after trying to compete against each other for the position of Employee of the Month.
  • Subverted in an episode of Mr. Bogus, where the ant that had stolen Bogus's special piece of cake only waved one of these as a distraction and given him a false piece of cake that was actually a rock painted to look like a cake.
  • The mid-60s Tom and Jerry cartoon "Matinee Mouse" starts off with footage from the original shorts of the two going at each other and then new animation of them presenting white flags, calling a halt to their fighting (albeit temporarily).
    • At the end of the shorts "The Little Orphan" and "Two Little Indians," Tom, after getting a particularly bad beating from Jerry, pulls this off. Both shorts end with Tom joining in with Jerry's activities.

    Real Life 
  • The second flag of the Confederate States of America, the "Stainless Banner" adopted on May 1, 1863, was mostly white, with the distinctive design in use as the battle flag confined to a small square in the upper left corner. Since it could be easily mistaken for a flag of truce at a distance, a red bar was later added to the right side, but this revised flag was not widely used because The American Civil War ended two months later.
  • White flag was national flag and naval ensign of France after the Bourbon restoration. No great surprise the following Orleanist dynasty restored La Tricolore of the revolutionary and Napoleonic periods.