When/where as the military salut first developed and implemented?

I wonder when the United States started saluting. Was it carried over from the British? Did the British learn it from the Romans? Did the Romans even use the salute?

Moderator-please fix the spelling on the thread title? Thank you :slight_smile:

Being in the Air Force, I hear this question a lot when discussing military history. The salute started back during the time when Knights rode with the full metal outfits on. When one knight would approach another, they would lift their visor with their right hands, to identify each other as a friend. This is where the salute started.
Hope this helps


Thanks mikemartin273.

That makes perfect sense. :slight_smile:

While in the Army it was explained that IF the knight
had lost a fight he would raise his visor with his
palm OUT. If he was still on a winning streak he raised
his visor palm IN. Somehow that was to explain why the
USA salutes with palm IN and the British salute with
palm OUT. Personally I cannot see a knight saluting
palm OUT for that reason.

I seem to recall that this story of the knights and visors was challenged to some degree, although it makes perfect sense. Perhaps it was more of an addition… By saluting, one is moving their hand away from a weapon, thereby offering the other person that they will not attack. This was to be the explanation as to why salutes are right handed - most people are right handed and would dray their swords, clubs, hurl rocks, etc. with their right hands. I thing this would be more of an addendum than correction to the responses posted above.

Great, I had a question with regards to saluting myself, now I don’t need to start another thread.

I understand that you salute your superiors in your service and in other services, but what are the rules for saluting members of another nations military? If a Sargent in the US Marines runs into a Russian Major, does he need to salute? Is he expected to salute?

In general, yes, provided each are in uniform. If the foreign officer were in civves, he still rates a salute, but would likely only recieve it if the serviceman recognized him as an officer. If the serviceman were civvies, no salute would be rendered.

The Romans did salute. The common Roman salute was to make a fist with your right hand, then hit it against your left breast. You then opened your fist, and then put your arm straight out ahead of you, wrist relaxed and pointing upwards. The Fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany brought this salute back.

Well, I have a question. How do servicemen in the US know who should salute who, and when, within our own services? Do they just have to memorize some order of ranking? For example - is an Army Captain of lesser or higher rank than a Navy Captain (or are they the same)? If two officers of equal rank meet, who initiates the salute? I wonder how these things work out IRL…

Yes, recruits do need to learn the rank insignias of each branch of the service. Enlisted men are required to salute any superior officer, no matter which branch the superior is in. I know there is one civilian who merits a salute, it’s the President. IIRC, when equal ranks meet they are not required to salute each other.

“is an Army Captain of lesser or higher rank than a Navy Captain (or are they the same)”

An Army captain is definitely lower ranked than a Navy captain!

Army officers go, from the bottom up: Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Captain, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel, and then the generals.

Navy officers go: Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander, Commander, Captain, then the vice admirals and admirals.

In other words, a naval captain is roughly equal to an army colonel.

Here’s some info from an Army Quartermaster Corps historian. He suggests that the modern hand salute originated from the practice of respectfully removing one’s hat for officers of higher rank. The gesture evolved from actual hat removal to a symbolic motion of the hand to the forehead area.

Actually, that’s Ensign; Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LtJG); Lieutenant; Lieutenant Commander; Commander; Captain.


A Navy captain is exactly equal to an Army, Marine, or Air Force colonel.

Ex-Squid speaking: That’s Lieutenant, junior grade, Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander…

And yes, a Naval Captian is of the same Grade as a full-bird Colonel. However, every commisioned warship alsohas a Captain, and no ship can have two Captians, so any Captain-by-Grade on a warship is granted a courtesy promotion to “Commodore” or Admiral (which promotion is purely temporary, going away as soon as the surplus Captain leaves the ship).

Preview failure.

I have a sub-question related to this.

A friend of mine who was really into military history said that the reason why a salute was done with the palm facing the person you are saluting was to show the officer that you were not concealing any weapon. Does anyone know if there is any truth in this?