Why do members of the military salute each other?

A salute is a hand gesture used to signify respect primarily associated with the military and police departments.

Military Salute

Some speculate that the salute dates back to Roman times when soldiers raised their hands as a form of greeting or respect, but there is no evidence of this.

Another theory is that the salute originated duringthe Medieval Period when knights would use their hands to raise their helmet visors, revealing their identity which demonstrated trust and friendliness. This explanation is also speculation but seems to make sense.

The US Army Quartermaster School provides another explanation for the modern day hand salute. It was a long-established military tradition for subordinates to remove their headgear in the presence of a superior. As late as the American Revolution, British Army soldiers saluted superiors by removing their hat. However, with the advent of increasingly cumbersome headgear in the 18th and 19th centuries, the act of removing one’s hat was gradually changed into the gesture of just grasping or touching the visor and issuing a courteous salutation. In a 1745 British order book, it stated: “The men are ordered not to pull off their hats when they pass an officer, or to speak to them, but only to clap up their hands to their hats and bow as they pass.” Over time, this might have morphed the modern day hand salute.

The palm being downwards when saluting is said to have evolved because the palms of deckhands were often dirty from working the shipyards and showing a dirty hand was considered insulting.

  1. The USS Pueblo Navy spy ship has been held captive by North Korea since 1968. The ship sits in a river in Pyongyang and serves as a tourist attraction.
  2. Stores on US military bases around the world no longer accept pennies because they are too heavy and not cost-effective to ship.
  3. After the Top Gun movie was released in 1986, the Naval Aviator recruiting increased by 500%.

  1. BBC.com – Who, What, Why: Why does the military insist on saluting?
  2. TheBalance.com – U.S. Military Salute
  3. List25.com – 25 Surprising Facts About The United States Military
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