snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Urban Legends » Military » Open-handed salute

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: Open-handed salute
snopes
Return! Return! Return!


Icon 209 posted      Profile for snopes   Author's Homepage   E-mail snopes       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Comment: I have heard that the British open handed salute is due to their
being an armed force that was defeated in battle ie, the American
revolution? They suposedly used to have a salute similar to what our
millitary uses now, but that changed at some point. I have heard that
the US millitary has never been defeated, so therefore do not present the
palms of their hands when saluting. I cannot find any information on the
net about this. It sounds unlikely that a millitary force would have such
a defeatist tradition

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Captain Zombie
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Captain Zombie   Author's Homepage   E-mail Captain Zombie   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I've personally witnessed two variations on the British salute one with the palm-forward, and one palm down. I have no idea which was correct, not being the biggest anglophile myself.

And, as for never having been defeated in battle, while I'm certain makes excellent propaganda, is more than likely untrue. (think Vietnam, for instance)

--------------------
1st Infantry, SpecialOps Brigade - The Iron Faction.
I survived Initiation 2005... with Naked Mole Rat Sumotori and Bill O'Reilly

Posts: 264 | From: San Antonio, Texas | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
James of Maine
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


Icon 1 posted      Profile for James of Maine     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I've heard this once before, somewhere. IIRC, the supposed distinction is that the U.S. has never formally surrendered to any other country, as opposed to simple military defeat or withdrawl.

Still, I'm pretty skeptical of that explanation.

Posts: 48 | From: near Portland, Maine | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Em
Happy Holly Days


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Em   E-mail Em   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Different services in the same defence force salute in different ways, and Australian marks of respect are modelled on the British versions.

Saluting with an open palm, from what I recall, seems to be the original version, with variations made for different services for different reasons.

I remember reading somewhere that the naval palm-down salute was designed to avoid the disrespect which would be shown by saluting with dirty hands. (Sailors having dirty hands from pulling on ropes.)

The naval straight up, straight down arm movement is supposedly due to the necessity for saluting in confined spaces without accidentally hitting an innocent bystander in the face. I saw a reason for the army out-to-the-side-and-up, out-to-the-side-and-down salute too, but can't, for the life of me, remember what it was. The airforce seems to do a bit of both; a palm-down but otherwise army-style out-and-up salute, with a navy-style straight-down end of salute.

By the logic of the OP, this seems to imply that the navy and/or airforce aren't considered to have surrendered even though the army and/or rest of the country did.

--------------------
What the NFBSK does YOMANK mean?

Posts: 1646 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Senior
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Senior   E-mail Senior       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
The various styles of salute come from that age-old excuse for custom: "But we've always done it that way."

Especially in a tradition respecting organization like most militaries, custom becomes so sacrosanct that it takes on the force of law. Customs are often continued even after the origin of the custom has disappeared. For instance, most junior sailors' uniforms have a bib hanging down the back. The reason that's there is because in the Bad Old Days (1840s and before), sailors used to wear their hair in a ponytail and tar the ponytail so they could have curves and knots or have it stick straight out. They would wear a black kerchief around their necks and hanging down their backs to keep the tar off their shirts. The bib is a remnant of that custom, even though sailors, even females, are not allowed to wear ponytails any more.

When I was in the U.S. Navy, I was a Yeoman. Ask me sometime about the origin of the name Yeoman for an admin/personnel type. It's the same reason that a Yeoman in the Royal Navy is a signals specialist.

--------------------
Ad astra per asparagus.

Posts: 4806 | From: Groton, CT | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
gnome
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for gnome   E-mail gnome   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
http://tinyurl.com/byjgs

Here's an excellent one.

Posts: 418 | From: New Port Richey, FL | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Ieuan ab Arthur
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Ieuan ab Arthur     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Hi All:

For years, I was an intructor in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets where I taught, among other things, General Service Knowledge. Part of this was the history of the salute. As my foggy brain recalls, in the 17th - 18th century, the tradition was to remove one's cap in the presence of one's social and military superior. In the 19th century, uniforms became fancier with more lace and trim (c.f., the uniform of the French Imperial Guard). In order to keep the fancy head-dress clean (and as some units had head-dress with chinstraps that made it difficult to remove), the tradition became merely to touch the cap as if one was going to tip it. Over time, the drill became formalized into the modern salute.

You can read more about it in the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Handbooks.

The palm-forward salute versus palm-down salute is just a matter of individual service tastes. For example, the British and Commonwealth land and air elements tend to use the palm-forward salute while the naval elements tend to use the palm-down salute. The Canadian Forces kept this mixed tradition until unification in 1968 when all elements went to the palm-down salute.

Ta ra 'wan,

Ieuan "RCA(ir)C" ab Ieuan

--------------------
"I e-mail or I don't e-mail. The magic just happens" - From OP in We've Got Mail

Y Gwir Yn Erbyn Y Byd

Posts: 626 | From: Toronto, Ontario | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Hero_Mike
Happy Holly Days


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Hero_Mike         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Wikipedia has some excellent resources about various military salutes. In particular there is this one about the use of the two-finger salute

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-fingers_salute

by the Polish military. It is used, according to legend, because a wounded soldier - who was missing two of his fingers due to a wound - still saluted his superior, despite only having half of a hand. Whether or not it is legend, this is now the manner of salute for all Polish military forces, and has been since roughly the 1790's.

--------------------
"The fate of *billions* depends on you! Hahahahaha....sorry." Lord Raiden - Mortal Kombat

Posts: 1587 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
snopes
Return! Return! Return!


Icon 209 posted      Profile for snopes   Author's Homepage   E-mail snopes       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
IIRC, the supposed distinction is that the U.S. has never formally surrendered to any other country, as opposed to simple military defeat or withdrawl.
Since the U.S. hasn't actually declared war on anyone since World War II, I don't know if we even could formally surrender to another country.

- snopes

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
ASL
We Three Blings


Icon 1 posted      Profile for ASL   E-mail ASL   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I just find the idea that a country would say "Ok guys, we just lost a war, that means we aren't allowed to salute 'palms down' anymore, so let's all show the world we aren't sore losers and adopt this custom which no other defeated nation has adopted and try not to let it hurt our morale."

I heard a suspect legend from a British Royal Marine: British Naval officers carry their swords, scabbards in hand, vice from a sash or belt as punishment for the munitinies that occured at Spithead and the Nore at the end of the 18th century. He also said that for the same reason, a proper toast should go "Lords, ladies, gentlemen, and Naval Officers" (the implication being that Naval Officers are not raised to the social status of gentlemen by virtue of their commission). I doubt it for the same reason that I doubt the origins given for the palm-up salute: military customs are not typically intended to be self-depricating.

quote:
The naval straight up, straight down arm movement is supposedly due to the necessity for saluting in confined spaces without accidentally hitting an innocent bystander in the face.
I don't know about the British Royal Navy, but the US Navy doesn't salute indoors or inside the skin of the ship.

--------------------
"Dear Lord, please protect this rockethouse and all who dwell within..."

Posts: 1093 | From: Japan | Registered: Jul 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Em
Happy Holly Days


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Em   E-mail Em   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by ASL:
quote:
The naval straight up, straight down arm movement is supposedly due to the necessity for saluting in confined spaces without accidentally hitting an innocent bystander in the face.
I don't know about the British Royal Navy, but the US Navy doesn't salute indoors or inside the skin of the ship.
We don't salute indoors in the Royal Australian Navy, either. It was explained to me as one of those "back in the old days" type of things which has stuck around because military traditions tend to do that. Naval personnel don't stand in the mess when the Queen is toasted, either, despite the fact that they are unlikely to knock their heads on the ceiling these days.

We're also told the "carrying of swords as a form of punishment" story. The last time I heard that one was just over a week ago during sword drill training. I did a bit of Googling and tracked down an article on it which seems to indicate that there are other reasons to carry a sword than as a mark of shame.

--------------------
What the NFBSK does YOMANK mean?

Posts: 1646 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Felessan
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Felessan   E-mail Felessan   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
And this particular furphy leaves unexplained the reason for the French military salute being palm-down... or the German, come to think of it.

I wonder how Argentineans salute... or the Italians...

--------------------
You fool! That's not a warrior, that's a banana!
- a surreal moment in a role-playing game

Posts: 2480 | From: Australia | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Troberg     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Part of this was the history of the salute. As my foggy brain recalls, in the 17th - 18th century, the tradition was to remove one's cap in the presence of one's social and military superior.
I've heard, although I can't back it with anything more than the word of a friend who does research into such things, that the custom goes even further back.

According to him, it goes back to the time when there were knights and footsoldiers in full armour. When talking, recieving orders or just identifying oneself on the battlefield (remember, this was before uniforms and battlefields quickly get muddy enough to hide insignias), one had to raise the visor to make eye contact or to show that you had a familiar face. This gesture of raising the visor was later transformed into the formalised salute.

--------------------
/Troberg

Posts: 4360 | From: Borlänge, Sweden | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Aptenodytes_Forsteriis
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Aptenodytes_Forsteriis     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
According to him, it goes back to the time when there were knights and footsoldiers in full armour. When talking, recieving orders or just identifying oneself on the battlefield (remember, this was before uniforms and battlefields quickly get muddy enough to hide insignias), one had to raise the visor to make eye contact or to show that you had a familiar face. This gesture of raising the visor was later transformed into the formalised salute.
I doubt this is true:

1. The hinged visor was a late addition to the armorers trade and did not last long since it came in as armor went out.

2. Pretty much no one but wealthy knights would have had full face helmets, particularly with expensive features like a hinged helmet.

2.a The shiny plate armor we see in movies, which included full face helmet etc. was VERY expensive, very constricting, and very hot. It was usually used for ceremonial events like tourneys by those who could afford it as a status symbol. In actual combat you would have seen a lot more dull grey chainmail, scale mail and hardened leathers. The closed face mask in particular was a jousting thing, to prevent splintering lances from going in your face. In combat open face helmets worked better because they allowed you to breath and most importantly SEE. A closed face helmet with slits for vision is a bad idea in a melee when peripheral visiion is essential.

On the other hand this whole post is the product of my logic and things remembered from years of reading in military history. So I could be wrong, maybe the salute between knights in the tourney is the actual root?

--------------------
'Hello, assorted humanoid strangers. You are standing casually in our forest. This bewilders us.' Blatherskite

Posts: 950 | From: Cincinnati, Ohio | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Troberg     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
There are several helmets which had face protection and had to be taken off if you want to hear or be heard, even if they don't have hinged visors. Such helmets where fairly common, even among foot soldiers.

As you say, chain mail and perhaps plate for the torso is probably the common armour, but a decent helmet is also part of it.

One must also remember that we are talking about a very long period, from a time when spears ruled the battlefield, then swords, bows, crossbows, pikes, and eventually gunpowder. Circumstances changed a lot, as did the equipment.

I will not go into this now, as my own knowledge is limited. I know that my friend is usually right about these things and is not easily influenced by popular science "facts", instead relying on the books and manuals of the time, so I trust him in this.

--------------------
/Troberg

Posts: 4360 | From: Borlänge, Sweden | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
GI Joe
Jingle Bell Hock


Icon 1 posted      Profile for GI Joe     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Aptenodytes_Forsteriis:
I doubt this is true:

1. The hinged visor was a late addition to the armorers trade and did not last long since it came in as armor went out.

2. Pretty much no one but wealthy knights would have had full face helmets, particularly with expensive features like a hinged helmet.

2.a The shiny plate armor we see in movies, which included full face helmet etc. was VERY expensive, very constricting, and very hot. It was usually used for ceremonial events like tourneys by those who could afford it as a status symbol. In actual combat you would have seen a lot more dull grey chainmail, scale mail and hardened leathers. The closed face mask in particular was a jousting thing, to prevent splintering lances from going in your face. In combat open face helmets worked better because they allowed you to breath and most importantly SEE. A closed face helmet with slits for vision is a bad idea in a melee when peripheral visiion is essential.

Logical . . . but not necessarily true. Closed-faced helmets extend back at least 2700 years (in western civilization, that is) to the primitive Greek Corinthian line, and were developed further through the Chalcidian and Attic groups of helmets. Yes, this kind of helmet did severly limit vision and hearing, but they were well suited to hoplite forms of warfare and widely owned (along with armor, shield, spear, javelin and/or sword, depending on era and location) by small land-owning farmers, who traditionally made up the ranks of the phalanxes. Yes, visibility was poor, but when faced with a forest of thousands of speartips jabbing at your face, that was more than acceptable as a trade-off.

As to the Corinthian-Chalcidian-Attic styles, when not in actual combat, the helmet would be tipped back on the head, exposing the face, which made decent vision and hearing possible. There are many contemporary images showing this, such as the image of Athena on the coin below.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.26.0342

The closed-face style of helemt came and went depending on the type of warfare. Where the enemy tended to have lots of pikes, spears, slingers of bowmen, face protection became much more important. On the other hand, during periods of largely cut-and-thrust infantry fighting, helmets tended to be more open, as evidenced by the various Roman "Imperial Gallic" types which relied on hinged cheek flaps.

Even during this period, however, senior Roman officers usually/often wore Greek style armor, to include Corinthian helmets, both as a link to that honored culture, and as a practical concession to protection, as senior officers always tended to attract more than their share of missiles in combat. Carvings on both the Ahenobarbus Relief (1st Century BC) and Trajan's Column bear this out. So, even in the Roman era there was much hand-to-head helmet lifting going on among the officers.

So, regardless of when hinged face guards may have come into being, the movement of lifting the helmet when meeting others, and especially when trying to understand detailed verbal orders, is a common - though certainly not universal - gesture throughout much of the past three millennia.

Can't prove that is the origin of today's salute, but is it certainly quite feasible.

--------------------
Once a Warrior Prince

Posts: 496 | From: California | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
DawnStorm
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 304 posted      Profile for DawnStorm   E-mail DawnStorm   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Just don't give anybody the one-fingered salute; that could get you in a world of trouble. [Big Grin]

--------------------
Leashes?! We don't need no stinking leashes!!

Posts: 4771 | From: The Berkeley of the East Coast: Montgomery County MD | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
TallGeekyGirl
O Read, O Read, The Manual


Icon 506 posted      Profile for TallGeekyGirl   Author's Homepage   E-mail TallGeekyGirl   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
And here to demonstrate ...

 -


All kidding aside, I had often wondered about the difference in methods of salute between branches of service and nations. This makes for some interesting sociological reading.

"We do what we do because that's the way it's done," and that sort of thing.

--------------------
See, if I tell you about it, it won't be a mystery. It'll just be a fact, an ugly, moist fact, squatting on your brain like an octopus. And you don't want an octopus squatting on your brain, do you, son? -- Stan Smith, American Dad

Posts: 980 | From: Virginia | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Unusual Elfin Lights
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Unusual Elfin Lights   Author's Homepage   E-mail Unusual Elfin Lights   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Em:
We're also told the "carrying of swords as a form of punishment" story. The last time I heard that one was just over a week ago during sword drill training. I did a bit of Googling and tracked down an article on it which seems to indicate that there are other reasons to carry a sword than as a mark of shame.

I have found many "badge of shame" stories floating around both the Canadian and British militaries. As for my own regiment, our "badge of shame" turned out to be unfounded and was merely a tip of the hat (pun intended) to a common naval heritage.

Anyways, I have yet to see a situation, and I have asked people to present one to me, where a "badge of shame" was awarded. There are a few situations where units/regiments have been punished from carrying an honour, but they have never been saddled with an extra "badge".

Posts: 2064 | From: New Brunswick, Canada | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2