Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.
Military Salute


(permanent link) added: 2010-11-26 15:07:42 sponsor: DannyVElAcme (last reply: 2010-11-29 08:57:13)

Add Tag:
American and British army salutes, respectively (By the way, John Cena? Take a long, HARD look at this picture, please...)

LAUNCHING TOMORROW (Nov. 29, 2010), please list as many examples as possible.

The Military Salute is a long-standing tradition of military forces around the world, and it is obviously the most visible and known gesture of military protocol to the average civilian. It's history is old and prestigious: medieval knights, after a battle, would open their masks with the right hand towards other knights, showing that they were an ally(by revealing their face) and that they were being non-hostile(by using their right hand, which is the one used to wield weapons). This gesture eventually evolved into the one known today, and it is both an acknowledgment of kinship and a sign of respect.

Different armies in the world have different small details that distinguish their salutes(as can be seen in the picture above), but most of them still follow a certain pattern: the arm is lifted up perpendicular to the side of the body and bent at the elbow, forming an angle around 30 degrees, the hand is open straight with fingers joined, and the fingers touch the temple(or the lip of the visor when with headgear). The salute is dropped by lowering the hand back to the side of the body(NEVER across).

Salutes are usually rendered by an officer(be it equal or lesser rank than the salutee) or enlisted soldier to an officer of equal or higher rank. The officer, while not obligated to return the salute, almost universally does. Not returning the salute is a serious show of disrespect and condescension, which reflects poorly on the salutee. This also has another interesting effect: initiating a salute towards an officer of lesser rank or an enlisted soldier, while not considered insulting(generally), is considered weird and out of place. In the United States armed forces, there is one exception to this rule: if you are a recipient of the Medal Of Honor, you WILL be saluted by any member of the armed forces, regardless of rank. So yes, this means that badassery is worthy of saluting.

Saluting is SERIOUS business for any member of the armed forces, and it's misuse or improper execution are considered a serious faux pas at best and a serious insult at worst. If you're a soldier and you render an improper salute, expect a small lecture on proper execution and a SEVERE butt-chewing if you're lucky. Worst-case scenario, you can even be taken for disciplinary action and get hit where it really hurts: your paycheck. As mentioned above, the salute is a sign of respect and kinship, so any kind of corruption, change or mockery in the salute reflects very poorly on the saluter.

Also, a very important characteristic of the salute is that it is a privilege, not a right. While civilians may salute as a sign of respect for a soldier, this is more about soldiers gracefully accepting gratitude than the civilian actually being acknowledged in kinship. In fact, military prisoners convicted of a crime cannot salute: since the salute, as mentioned above, is an expression of kinship, saluting someone while being imprisoned is akin to saying the salutee is as much of a criminal as the saluter, which can end in a WORLD of shit for the saluter. However, enemy prisoners of war CAN be saluted according to their rank, and it is seen as a sign of respect and fairness for a soldier of the imprisoning army to salute the imprisoned officer.

There are also situations in which saluting is NOT recommended. When in the field or in a forward operation base, soldiers are instructed not to salute, since it identifies the officer/VIP, which can provide a sniper with an easy target.

The hand salute is also used in various situations and towards people of importance to the military. These include:
  • The Head of State. As the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces of a country, the Head Of State is the highest-ranked member of the army hierarchy, and is to be saluted always.
  • Officers of foreign powers: A soldier is a soldier, whether you serve under the same country or not. This also applies to foreign heads of state.
  • National symbols: The flag should be saluted when one passes it by while walking, and one should stand in attention and salute when it is raised or lowered, or when the national anthem is played.
  • Reporting: When a soldier is summoned by an officer, the soldier greets the officer with a salute and an acknowledgment of being summoned. "Sir, Private Bob reports as ordered."
  • Change of command: When a soldier or officer is in command of an outfit and another soldier or officer(be it equal or greater rank) arrives to relief him of command, the commanding officer salutes the newcomer to acknowledge the change.

Interesting dynamics can happen in fiction with the salute, including:
  • Teeth-Clenched Salute: This is when a soldier salutes an officer he SERIOUSLY has beef with, often with a grimace or Death Glare. This is an excellent example of Truth in Television: one of the first things taught to a soldier regarding saluting is that you salute the RANK of the officer, not the officer himself. Not saluting, even when you have every reason in the world to not enjoy it, is considered an offense against the protocol and chain of command of the army itself, beyond any disrespect that might be intended against the salutee.
  • Teary-Eyed Salute: Both used as a symbol of unbridled joy or deepest grief, saluting with tears in your eyes is a powerful symbol. A soldier saluting with tears in his eyes is NEVER put down for it, it is a completely understandable gesture. Obviously, the tears shed are either Manly Tears or Tears of Joy.
  • Ironic Salute: A corrupt superior officer is brought down by a soldier, and the soldier mockingly salutes him. A sort of Take That.
  • Improper/Exaggerated Salute: The salute is rendered poorly or in an exaggerated manner. This might be a symbol of not knowing how to properly render it(excusable with a civilian, most definitely NOT excusable with a soldier), or it might symbolize the saluter either is very ignorant or very disrespectful and non-chalant. Sometimes, a character does an exaggerated salute to symbolize joy or triumph, but this is a blatant example of not doing their homework. If the character was supposed to do the salute right but didn't because the writers goofed or winged it, then it's Artistic License - Basic Training(and seriously guys, is it so hard to find a soldier and ask him? You probably have National Guard people working for you, ask around!).
  • Goofy Salute: The salute is just plain WRONG. It looks completely ridiculous and badly executed. This is obviously most common in humorous media.
  • Strange Salute: And already existing trope on this site, this is just a non-traditional salute that distinguishes an organization or culture as different from the norm.

While in real life organizations other than the armed forces have salutes, in fiction it is almost exclusively associated with the armed forces.

Examples of the salute happening in fiction would probably feature pretty much every series on the entire site, so please limit examples to when the salute is a dramatically powerful or distinctive moment.

Examples:
  • In the AKIRA manga, after Akira reawakens and destroys Tokyo a second time, Colonel Shikishima is one of the survivors and wanders around aimlessly. One of his former soldiers recognizes him and salutes him with tears in his eyes.
  • As mentioned in the caption above, John Cena often salutes on his way to the ring, supposedly as a show of support to the troops. Somebody should tell him that most of the time, he's not doing it properly.
  • Inspector Zenigata salutes Count Cagliostro when he reports in Castle of Cagliostro. Cagliostro doesn't even acknowledge it, being the asshole he is.
  • In the film version of We Were Soldiers, and officer chews out a soldier for disobeying his order to stand in formation with his military honors visible. The soldier goes to get his honors and comes back buck naked and with THREE Medals Of Honor around his neck. The officer salutes the soldier, ashamed of both chewing out a soldier who had earned the highest military honor the nation bestows three times and the fact that he HAD to salute even when being completely insulted by the naked soldier.
  • A subversion: The Nazi salute(arm stretched forward, palm facing down) is so distinctive and reviled, any use of it in fiction, instead of focusing on the protocol of the saluter, will instead be used to signal the character's morally dubious alignment.
  • When a great national leader dies, expect many teary-eyed salutes to follow. Many pictures of FDR's funeral show US soldiers saluting while weeping.
  • In M*A*S*H, Hawkeye and BJ tend to mockingly salute Frank Burns. Played For Laughs most of the time.
    • Also from MASH, one of the only non-mocking salutes Hawkeye ever gave was to Radar when he was shipping out - Hawk was busy in the OR but gave Radar a salute in lieu of the going away party that the casualties canceled.
  • Both The Phil Silvers Show and it's movie version, Sergeant Bilko, had the eponymous character using the salute in comedic ways.
  • Benny Hill was famous for his silly mocking British salute.
    • In one Benny Hill sketch he was a WWI army guy who got captured by the Germans. He starts to do the regular (for him) British salute, then realizes who he's dealing with and gives a German salute - which seems to have been hand on top of the head. The German officer salutes back and stabs himself on his spiked helmet.
  • The Master and Commander film has a plot point where a character failing to salute is flogged.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Soldier, who was never in any branch of the military and thus has no basic training to fail, "salutes" by making an L with his left hand.
  • At President Kennedy's funeral, little John John does this, and America burst into tears.
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: During a Flash Back, when Rob was in the army, he was summoned to his commanding officer's office and saluted. The officer scratched his head and Rob thought it was the officer responding to his salute so he dropped his, which ticked off the CO, who hadn't saluted back. Then at the end of the meeting Rob saluted and the CO just said "dismissed" without looking up, so Rob had to leave still saluting. We then saw him out the office window, still saluting.
  • In The Last Castle, disgraced and imprisoned soldiers begin to plan an insurrection under the leadership of an inmate who is a former general. Because they're not allowed to salute him per prison rules, they develop a substitute, which consists of running one hand through the hair.
  • Marines in One Piece frequently salute their superior palm-inward. When asked about it in his SBS Q&A section, Eiichiro Oda explained that this was at one time actual naval practice to prevent showing tar-stained hands to their superiors.
  • In the Discworld book Men At Arms, Detritus initially had trouble with saluting and would frequently knock himself out by hitting himself in the head.
  • A.J. Rimmer and his ridiculously overextended salutes. The fact he's apparently completely serious just makes the whole thing funnier.
  • In Gundam SEED, in order to steal ZAFT's new prototype Freedom Gundam, Lacus Clyne dressed Kira up in the ZAFT pilot uniform and taught him their salute so that he could get past security.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3 and 4 has the Teary-Eyed Salute version in front of The Boss's grave.
  • Scent Of A Woman features a mix of "grudging salute" and "civilian doesn't know how to salute". Charlie is being annoyed at Coronel Slade (Al Pacino) and answers to his demands with a poor-man's, somewhat disgusted, attempt of the military gesture while the Coronel is looking the other way. Of course since the Coronel is a blind veteran, he catches Charlie on the act instantly and explains him the basics of a salute.
replies: 16

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy