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Military Salute

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The British Naval and Military salutes, respectively. No, that's not a typo. Yes, we know that is a US general. See below for details.

"We salute the rank, not the man."
Major Dick Winters, Band of Brothers

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. There is an urban myth that it evolved out of a custom in which mediaeval knights opened their visors with their weapon-hand to be recognised and to show that they were not armed; in fact it evolved from the former custom of men removing their hats as a sign of respect. This is the reason that in some military outfits (such as the US Marine Corps and Navy), it is incorrect to salute when you are not wearing a "cover." (In other outfits, customs are different, and salutes are given when bare-headed; meanwhile, in many armies, including the Russian one, it is expressly forbidden to salute without a hat on.) The salute evolved because of the introduction of headwear that could no longer be taken off easily with just one hand, especially bearskin caps and mitre-shaped grenadier caps. In the 18th century, when the military salute was first introduced, there were situations when it was still possible to give it with the left hand, e.g. on parade when the saluting officer was holding a spontoon in his right hand.

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.

In the English speaking world, which here means the US and the Commonwealth of Nations, there are two types of salutes. The first, with palm facing outwards, is the "British military salute." This is used by the armies and air forces of most Commonwealth countries. Its origins are with the British Army. The other which is palm downwards, originating with the Royal Navy, is the British "Naval" salute (this was originally introduced because sailors' and officers' hands were often stained with tar through life aboard ship, and showing a dirty palm was considered to reduce the dignity of the gesture). This is used by the Naval forces of the Commonwealth and the US Armed Forces. This is often in popular parlance seen as an American salute, even in the Commonwealth. There has been examples of nitpickers and scolds attacking works (or real life) where British or Australians are depicted as saluting palm downwards as an example of Eagleland Osmosis.

Additionally, there are several oddball types of salutes that are given in various situations, mainly where there is something impractical about rendering a normal salute with your hand. These include:

  • Saluting with a rifle is usually done by holding the weapon vertically in front of you, muzzle up, with the underside of the weapon presented towards the person being saluted.
  • Saluting with a sword is generally accomplished by bringing the sword's hilt up to the chin with the point facing up, out at a 45 degree angle towards the person being saluted.
  • Saluting with your left hand can be acceptable when there is something understandable preventing you from using your right. Traditionally, the use of the right hand in salutes is to show that one bears no threat (since most people are right-handed, they would be carrying their weapons in their right hand).

Salutes are usually rendered by an officer (of equal or lesser rank than the salutee) or enlisted soldier to an officer of equal or higher rank. The officer, while not necessarily 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 and the armed forces of those countries which award the Victoria Cross, there is one exception to this rule: if you are a recipient of the Medal Of Honor or the Victoria Cross, 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 its 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, 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 fellowship. In fact, military prisoners convicted of a crime must not salute: since the salute, as mentioned above, is an expression of fellowship, 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. Most forces allow people operating vehicles to refrain from doing so if it would be unsafe to take their hand off the controls. Many forces find it inappropriate to salute when not in uniform; for example, in the US Navy if you are out of uniform you simply stand at attention instead of saluting in situations that normally call for it. Some sailors at stations on the bridge of British submarines are apparently exempted from standing up to salute in the presence of officers - even if the current Monarch happens to be present - because of the overhead hazards.

The hand salute is also used in various situations and towards people of importance to the military. These include:

  • The Head of State: Often the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, the Head Of State is the highest-ranked representative of the country, and is always to be saluted, regardless whether or not he/she is the real boss or a mere figurehead. This also applies to foreign heads of state on state and/or official visits.
  • Other High Ranking Civilian Officials: Different countries have different customs, but generally speaking, a Head of Government, a Minister of Defense or a Governor, are often the among the limited number of high ranking officials who gets this kind of rare VIP treatment. Depending on the context, other officials sometimes get a salute, as a mere courtesy.
  • Officers of foreign powers: A soldier is a soldier, whether you serve the same country or not.
  • 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 Smith 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 relieve him of command, the commanding officer salutes the newcomer to acknowledge the change.

There is also a difference between a standard or "administrative" salute used day-to-day, and a "funeral salute" used only at funerals. A regular salute is a quick motion: the saluting hand snaps up, holds until the salute is returned, then snaps back down. In a funeral salute, the saluting hand comes up in a slow, deliberate (three-second) motion, and comes down the same way. The funeral salute is used only when specifically saluting the dead man being buried. An officer attending the funeral will still receive a standard salute. Occasionally you will see slow salutes during a flag-passing ceremony as part of a retirement to indicate respect for the flag and the person who is retiring. Suffice it to say, using a slow salute for any other purpose is downright offensive.

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 nonchalant. 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 – Military.
  • 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: 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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These, the Free Planets Alliance salute is somewhere between the French salute and British Army salute. The Galactic Empire uses a variation of the British Navy version.
  • 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.
  • Inspector Zenigata salutes Count Cagliostro when he reports in The Castle of Cagliostro. Cagliostro doesn't even acknowledge it, being the asshole he is.
  • 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 Mobile Suit 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.
  • This is common procedure in the Time-Space Administration Bureau in the Lyrical Nanoha series. It's done for effect in one scene in Episode 13 of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, when Nanoha and Fate tell Hayate that they're helping her with her division because that's what friends do, then salute her and tell her that they trust her as their superior officer.
  • Strike Witches actually pay close attention to details on salutes. Major Miles, who is British, actually salutes in British style of palm facing forward. On the other hand, Fuso (Japan) Navy personnel salute with their elbow tucked in and palm facing slightly inwards. Also, hat/no-hat rules apply depending on rules of their serving forces.
  • Oddly enough Seto Kaiba of all people gives one when he and Mokuba are flying off to America near the end of the Battle City arc.
  • In Girls und Panzer, Yukari frequently does this as a greeting. Of course, her ways of interacting with people are strange, to put it mildly, especially considering that she uses the extremely formal and old-fashioned honorific "-dono" on her friends.
  • In Hellsing all the protagonists salute American-style, despite the story taking place in England. The Wild Geese could be justified by the fact that they're mercenaries, who could have learned to salute some place where they do it that way. Seras and Integra (As shown in the 2nd OVA credits) have no such excuse. The antagonists shown saluting are all Germans who salute Nazi-style.
  • Fubuki demonstrates the British Naval salute in KanColle, as well several other ship girls, but they salute with their elbow tucked in.
  • Being a Space Navy series, Irresponsible Captain Tylor naturally has its fair share of salutes. Lt. Yamamoto is prone to the teary-eyed variety in certain cases, while episode 23 manages to make a mutual salute from opposing captains epic. And then there's the ending of the final OVA, where everybody in both fleets salute the Soyokaze as it's scuttled (this time, it's the Hanner twins who are teary-eyed during the salute).
  • In an issue of the Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward Elric gives a left-handed salute because his artificial right arm was destroyed.

    Comic Books 
  • The F1rst Hero: After getting a physical examination and making his report to his superiors (while leaving out his abduction and gaining super powers), Jake Roth gives said superiors a salute.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Life After Hayate tends to note when characters do, or more importantly do not, follow proper protocol for the Time Space Administrative Bureau. Officers of equal rank are not required to salute; flag-rank officers do not salute other officers of flag rank; cover is not a requirement to salute. It is also noted that most of the Navy's admirals no longer expect a salute from the head of Naval Counterintelligence and will wave him down from it if he tries, though he is only a captain: this is a tact acknowledgement he should also be an admiral but his promotion has become politically charged.
  • It comes up a few times in Necessary to Win.
    • In Miho's Interlude, Saori asks if tankers at Miho's old school, Black Forest, are required to salute their superiors, but Miho says that it isn't entirely necessary and that she believes most of them aren't doing it correctly. Yukari once gives Ami Chouno, their instructor, a salute, prompting Ami to point out that it's not entirely correct, but not a bad effort for a civilian.
    • Following Oarai's match with Saunders, Ami gives one to Harue as a show of respect after hearing of Harue dedicating herself to inspiring others, and Harue responds to that gesture in kind.
  • The Wrong Reflection:
    • Starfleet doesn't salute, but in chapter two Captain Kanril Eleya, who is a former Bajoran Militia NCO, uses the Militia's palm-out salute when she greets Kira Nerys. Kira is long since retired from the Militia at this point but Eleya mentions that it's become traditional for any Militiaman to salute anyone who fought in the Bajoran Resistance.
    • Later in the chapter General Brokosh, a Lethean mercenary serving in the Klingon Defense Force, tosses off a sloppy salute to Starfleet Admiral Amnell Kree after she tells him more specifically what she wants done with his trademark "strike package". Cue Death Glare from Kree.
  • "The Road Not Taken", an AU Fic of Kanril Eleya's storyline by the same author, has her still in the Militia in 2409. After Brigadier General Ro Laren makes a sarcastic remark regarding the Prophets (she's an atheist), Eleya demonstrates the Teeth-Clenched Salute form: her First-Person Smartass Internal Monologue specifically calls out that she's saluting Ro's rank.
  • A Dip In The Inkwell: In "Mr. and Mrs. O", both Oxley and Ossie give one to Olive when she clears her throat to get their attention, something she notes as having last been made mandatory in the 1927 edition of the Odd Squad Training Manual.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, General Monger salutes the monsters just before sending them off to save Susan, to show that he is no longer their warden and now sees them as equals. B.O.B., being The Ditz, misinterprets it.
    B.O.B.: Well, that's rude! What did we do?
    Dr. Cockroach: No, B.O.B. That's a sign of great respect.
  • Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero: The titular dog actually knows how to salute to his superiors and does it a few times in the film. It's based on the real life Stubby knowing the same command.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Part of the protocol for saluting in the Royal Navy is explained by Jack Hawkins' character in The Cruel Sea: "Don't salute indoors: I'm not wearing a hat and can't return it. Correct protocol is to take your hat off when you come inside."
  • The Rock features this several times, but it becomes symbolic. First, it is tragic (saluting a burial detail), then it is a sign of respect and purpose, then it is noticeably less and less present, until it is gone completely, signifying the breakdown of order and revealing the true nature of most of the terrorists.
  • In a deleted scene from the film We Were Soldiers, a young officer chews out an NCO for disobeying his order to stand in formation with his military honors visible. The NCO goes to get his honors and comes back buck naked and with TWO Medals of Honor around his neck. The officer salutes the NCO, ashamed of both chewing out a soldier who had earned the highest military honor the nation bestows twice and the fact that he HAD to salute even when being completely insulted by the naked soldier.
  • The Master and Commander film has a plot point where a character failing to salute is flogged. Nagle not only refuses to salute Mr. Hollom, but he also bumps into him without so much as an apology. A military salute is crucial, whether you like the officer or not because it means you respect the rank itself, if not the officer. Nagle's deliberate insubordination was a very grave insult by the standards and he is punished for it, despite his own popularity with the crew. After the punishment, Hollom finds everyone saluting him, a situation he does not find comfortable, because it's clear that they're only saluting him out of fear of flogging, and not because he has earned their respect.
  • In The Last Castle, the protagonists have been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces and are serving jail time in a military prison. As such they are explicitly forbidden from saluting each other, regardless of their former ranks. To get around this, they run their fingers through their hair and claim they are just brushing their hair. Combined with common slang that they use for specific ranks, allowing them to address each other by their previous titles, they retain a sence of personal dignity and a semblance of order.
  • Scent of a Woman features a mix of "grudging salute" and "civilian doesn't know how to salute". Charlie is being annoyed at Colonel Slade (Al Pacino) and answers to his demands with a poor-man's, somewhat disgusted, attempt of the military gesture while the Colonel is looking the other way. Of course since the Colonel is a blind veteran, he catches Charlie on the act instantly and explains him the basics of a salute.
  • Saving Private Ryan "Did I live a good life?"
  • In Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker tosses off a salute as a signal to Artoo, who has smuggled his lightsaber aboard Jabba's sail barge.
  • In American Ninja, Michael Dudikoff's character, the American ninja Joe Armstrong, in one scene gets a butt-chewing from his boss, an Army colonel. After being dismissed, he salutes in a limp-wristed way, with his hand curved instead of straight, almost dismissively. Any officer worth his salt would send him to the brig for disrespecting an officer.
  • Military salute was one of the many things that Dr. Logan taught to semi-revived zombie Bub in Day of the Dead (1985). It later comes back as Chekhov's Skill as Bub uses it to mock Cpt. Rhodes as he is ripped apart by zombies.
  • Played with in A Few Good Men: Upon meeting Lt. Kaffee, his assigned JAG officer, Lance Corporal Dawson is not impressed and instead of saluting defiantly places his hands in his pockets. By the end of the movie, Kaffee has earned Dawson's respect, and he salutes him without prompting. In both examples, he should not be saluting. He is indoors without a cover (e.g. a hat). In the second case, he is a prisoner who has just been charged with "conduct unbecoming" and sentenced to a dishonorable discharge, who are specifically forbidden from saluting.
    Dawson: Ten-hut! There's an officer on the deck.
  • Say a Word for Poor Hussar: near the end, the whole hussar regiment salutes their demoted fellow, recognizing his demotion as unfair and asserting that he is still one of them. He returns the salute with a tear in his eye.
  • Top Gun naturally features plenty of salutes all around, but it's averted in one case. When the C.O. introduces Charlie, a civilian contractor, to the aviators, he specifically notes that, as a civilian, Charlie is not to be saluted—but she is to be shown respect.

  • Discworld:
    • Men at Arms, Detritus initially had trouble with saluting and would frequently knock himself out by hitting himself in the head.
    • At one point in Jingo Captain Carrot delivers a salute so flawless (at three in the morning no less) that even Sam Vimes notes it would "have brought a happy tear to the eye of the most psychotic drill sergeant".
  • George MacDonald Fraser's expy in the McAuslan stories, Lieutenant Dand MacNeill of the Gordon Highlanders circa 1947, suffers a wardrobe malfunction whilst changing the guard in front of a mass of VIPs. His solution:
    "I was alone, with the worst to come. I had to turn again, march to the edge of the crowd in front of the General Officer — with royalty beside him — salute, and march off again. But I couldn't salute! My saluting hand was holding up my nether garments, and if I removed it I should go down in history as the Man Whose Kilt Fell Off In Front Of Royalty At Edinburgh Castle.

    It wouldn't do. Similarly, I could not march off without acknowledging royalty and saluting. What do you do in this case? I shall tell you. You turn smartly about, arm akimbo — it gives a Rupert of Hentzau touch, anyway — march up to the saluting base, salute left-handed, turn about, and march off through the Castle gateway, dead casual, like Caesar at Pharsalia."
  • In The Short-Timers (a Vietnam War novel by Gustav Hasford) the protagonist, private Joker, sometimes salutes in a combat zone with some ulterior motives.
    "Corporal, don't you know how to execute a hand salute?" "Yes, sir." I salute. I hold the salute until the poge colonel snaps his hand to his starched barracks cover and I hold the salute for an extra couple of second before cutting it away sharply. Now the poge colonel has been identified as an officer to any enemy snipers in the area." [...]
    "As is my custom, I salute Animal Mother so that any snipers in the area will assume that he is an officer and shoot him instead of me."
  • Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall:
    • Spike Milligan writes that the battery commander (a Major) tells a soldier that he is saluting the uniform not the man. So, each morning, the soldier brings the Major his breakfast, and then turns and salutes the Major's uniform hanging on a hook.
    • From the same book:
    We had ‘Saluting Traps’. A crowd of us round a corner smoking would get the tip ‘Officer Coming’. We would set off at ten-second intervals and watch as the officer saluted his way to paralysis of the arm.
  • One Ciaphas Cain has him saluted by Kasteen and Broklaw (The Valhallan 597th's Colonel and Major respectively). He mentions in his narration that being The Political Officer (and outside the chain of command), they don't have to salute him at all; it's just that he's unusually well liked for a Commissar.
  • David Drake's RCN novels frequently mention on the occasion that Daniel Leary needs to salute that he's terrible at it. Not intentionally (most of the time), it just looks sloppy.
  • When Rico "goes career" and reports to officer school in Starship Troopers, he salutes the noncom who's processing him out of habit, and in the first of many ways he'll have to learn to act differently than an enlisted man, is told to stop it.
    "Don't salute me. I salute you. You won't like it."
  • In a scene in one of the "Great War" books in Timeline-191, POV character Scipio sees several newly-trained black soldiers walking down the street and encountering a white officer. Properly, they salute him. Scipio thinks for a moment that the officer will not return the salute; their country, the CSA, is emphatically and overtly racist, and has only recruited nonwhites because they're losing the war and are desperate for men. But after a long pause, the officer does return the salute, acknowledging the black men as his fellow soldiers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Hawkeye, Trapper John, and BJ tend to mockingly salute Frank Burns. Played For Laughs most of the time.
    • Hawkeye however did give non-ironic salutes, even if on rare occasions. Screenrant lists four occasions:
      • In "Fallen Idol", when Hawkeye personally presents Radar with the Purple Heart;
      • In "Goodbye, Radar, Pt. 2", when as Radar is about to leave, he takes one last look at the operating theater (the camp was going to throw a big "going-away" party for him, but the war had other plans, unfortunately). As he peers through the window, Hawkeye looks at him, stops his surgery for a moment and gives a sincere salute to Radar.
      • In "Captains Outrageous", Hawkeye salutes the newly-minted Captain Fr. John Mulcahey.
      • In "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen" both Hawkeye and BJ give a formal and fully military salute to Colonel Potter as a farewell, a sign of the respect they had for him.
    • In "Abyssinia, Henry", Radar salutes the departing Col. Blake and holds the salute even after Blake returned it and as his chopper lifts off.
    • The "don't salute superior officers in the field" custom is namechecked and played for laughs in "The General Flipped at Dawn" as Frank, of all people (a man so military he was described once as "bleeding khaki") tries to talk General Steele (a senile officer who makes life miserable for the M*A*S*H over the course of the episode) out of requesting a salute while they're scouting out locations for a new site for the 4077th. He points out that it's unwise as it lets snipers know who to shoot at. Steele dismisses the concerns out of hand and orders Frank and Henry to salute him. Cue snipers. Steele casually gets into his jeep under fire while singing, no less, while Frank and Henry scramble into it trying not to be shot.
  • Both The Phil Silvers Show and its movie version, Sgt Bilko, had the eponymous character using the salute in comedic ways.
  • Benny Hill was famous for his silly mocking British salute. In one The Benny Hill Show 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 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.
  • Red Dwarf: A.J. Rimmer and his ridiculously overextended salutes. The fact he's apparently completely serious just makes the whole thing funnier.
  • The protagonists of Thunder in Paradise are shown in a flashback sharing a goofy salute with their commanding officer.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Used often in between the Doctor and Jack, although at the time neither were part of military organisations. (The Doctor is/was a UNIT employee but hates their constant saluting, and Jack has served in both World War 1 and 2. More than once.) Usually, it shows the respect between the two characters. The final salute given between them shows Jack's thanks, and Ten's final goodbye.
      • As mentioned above, on a couple of occasions, UNIT, most notably Col. Mace, attempted to salute The Doctor (as they do seemingly hold some sort of official rank in UNIT as the Scientific Adviser). These were almost always rebuffed with an annoyed "oh, don't salute..." during the Tenth Doctor's tenure.
    • In The Day of the Moon, Rory poses as an American military officer and salutes NASA security. He gives the British salute by mistake, which goes neatly with his inability to fake an American accent.
    • The Brigadier and his UNIT troops were portrayed quite realistically on a military level: Sergeant (later RSM) Benton would always salute the Brigadier when reporting something to him. The Brigadier also renders a hand salute to the Doctors when it seems they're about to sacrifice themselves to stop Omega.
      • The first time John Levene played Benton, his botching of the salute was bad enough that actual British Army men wrote to the producers demanding he be turned over to them for training so he could get it right. The training apparently involved everyone drinking quite a lot of Scotch, and the Army men yelling instructions at Levene until his salute was more regulation (and apparently included some tips on when to salute, resulting in the above).
    • In a later episode, the now-deceased Brigadier's daughter tells the Doctor that her father had always wanted to be saluted by him, and the Doctor replied that he'd never asked. At the end of the episode, the Doctor realizes that one of the Cybermen being created from human corpses had been made from the Brigadier, and he gives him that salute just before the reprogrammed Cybermen go off to save the world.
  • JAG: In "War Stories", Admiral Chegwidden bawls out a sailor who failed to salute him while passing. The "sailor" snaps at him sarcastically, because it turns out he was an actor in a movie being shot next to JAG HQ.
  • NCIS: In the Season 2 episode "Call of Silence", Lieutenant Commander Faith Coleman brings along two burly Marines to take a World War II veteran into custody. Tony derails the attempt by flashing the veteran's Medal of Honor, forcing Coleman and the Marines to snap to attention and render a salute.
  • Band of Brothers: When one of the characters declines to salute a superior officer with whom he has personal issues, he is gently reminded, "We salute the rank, not the man." The salutee was Major Dick Winters, and the saluter was Captain Herbert Sobel, Winters' former CO.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Hornblower as Midshipman has been having some difficulties to be respected by his men. He's visibly pleased when surly Styles voluntarily salutes him after he praised their division and showed concern for their fallen lower-deck fellow.
    Hornblower: Please convey my thanks to the men. Their conduct in this afternoon's action was exemplary.
    Styles: Aye, aye, sir. [salutes]
    Hornblower: [to himself] A salute. Well, it's a start, I suppose.
  • An episode of Dad's Army sees Captain Mainwaring instructing the platoon to practise their salutes, describing the motion between the hand and head as, "Longest way up one; shortest way down two." The platoon proceed to narrate the motion as they drill the salute until Lance Corporal Jones (who had been left in charge) recommends that they should "add a little wiggle" of their hand when they bring it to their head. Cue the entire platoon narrating, "Longest way up one, wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle..."

    Pro Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • In Empire: Total War, western commanding officers would give you a Roman salute when you select them on the campaign map.
  • Mass Effect features this at several points; given that The Alliance shares several similarities with the USMC and US Navy, the salute is American style. However, multiple times, they are shown saluting with their left hand, which is improper for pretty much every single military on Earth, which means it should be improper for a military force derived from those Earth militaries. This isn't even getting into the amount of times someone salutes indoors outside of an official capacity (much less wears a cover indoors).
    • One interesting example is seen in the Action Prologue of Mass Effect 3. When James Vega goes to retrieve Shepard from their prison cell, they do so with a salute—which is not appropriate considering Shepard is a prisoner awaiting trial for their conduct in Mass Effect 2. A few minutes later Shepard corrects Vega that they're also not entitled to be addressed as "sir", and Vega replies, "Yeah, and I'm not supposed to salute you, either"—meaning that Vega is breaking the rules on purpose out of admiration for Shepard.
  • 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. This is also an insulting gesture in several countries, implying that the salutee is a Loser.
    • The Demoman does the ironic variant in his Meet the Team video, both left handed and with a smug grin on his face as the enemy team walked right into his sticky trap.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and 4 has the Teary-Eyed Salute version in front of The Boss's grave.
  • When you liberate a POW in the Metal Slug games, he'll give you a military salute before running off the screen.
  • In the ending of Resident Evil 0, Rebecca and Billy, having come to respect and trust one another, exchange a salute after Rebecca helps fake Billy's death.
  • The ending of BattalionWars 2 shows us different salutes of the armies in the game.
    • The Solar Empire salute is the left hand raised to the chest, palm open and pointing up, followed by a short bow. It should be noted that apart from the Solar Empire, all CO's do this salute with their right hand, while soldiers (who carry their weapons in the right hand) do them with the left hand.
    • The Western Frontier and The Anglo Isles share the same salute, similar to real life Britain, with minor difference. The Western Frontier soldiers bring their hand to the forehead, before straightening their hand to a Roman salute. The Anglo Isles salute is the same, but in reverse (Hand straight to the Roman salute, then to the head).
    • Finally, the Tundran Territories has the right hand closed to a fist, the arm straight forward before bringing it to the chest, held vertically.
  • In The Movies, actors playing the parts of soldiers will give a British Naval/US Salute, even when being put in British Army uniforms. Justified because it's a game about Hollywood film-making.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask after you defeat Captain Keeta, the giant skeletal officer of Ikana, he asks to be dismissed from duty. Link does so by giving a single salute, after which Keeta dissolves into the earth. Interestingly enough, Link was given a saluting animation for each of his different forms, even though this is the only place in the game it's used. Overall, it's a very touching moment.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has different salute animations that you can perform depending on which Grand Company you are allied with, with the Maelstrom's salute resembling a traditional real-world military salute. You can also learn the salute used by The Empire when you're Dressing as the Enemy for one quest that requires you to look and act like one of their soldiers to sneak by.
  • Much like in Final Fantasy XIV above, World of Warcraft has race/gender-specific salute animations when a player inputs the /salute command. There's the usual military "hand to the brow" and the "fist across the chest" style (more recently seen in Attack On Titan) salutes among others. As one example, the female Blood Elves go for the former, but do so in an almost intentionally mocking fashion. They even lean forward a little juuust to make sure the object of their salute saw it. At least they're using the right hand...

  • Terminal Lance #88: "Shiny Things" has a Marine grunt accidentally salute a Navy petty officer, then start complaining about how confusing the Navy rank insignia is. In The Rant the author, a retired USMC lance corporal, explains that any Marine who's never done this is either lying or a boot.
    Max Uriarte: Hell, I’ve accidentally saluted other enlisted Marines with worn out rank. Even further, Marines have accidentally saluted me! It happens.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
    • This gesture was commonly (though mistakenly) believed to be an ancient Roman salute, which was why the Italian Fascists adopted it (and the Nazis took it from them). Expect to see it in films set in Ancient Grome, especially if they were made before World War II. In fact, that gesture was originally the one used by American civilians giving the Pledge of Allegiance, until the Nazis put it dead out of fashion, at which place it was truncated, with the right-hand-over-heart gesture being kept throughout the Pledge, instead of moving to the straight-arm salute at the words "to the Flag" as prescribed originally.
    • The Nazi salute (also called Deutscher Gruß "German salute", because it was reminiscent of an actual gesture of greeting used in Germany in the middle ages) was however not a military salute but originally a party salute and later one expected of civilians and Nazi party members on certain occasions. (For instance, everybody had to give a Nazi salute at the memorial to the Nazis killed in the beerhall putsch of 1923 at the Feldherrnhalle in Munich, which led a lot of people to take a detour to avoid passing that way). It only became mandatory to the German armed forces after the failed attempt on Hitler's life in July 1944.
    • An interesting aside: in the revival of formal ritual magick at the turn of the 20th century, with its rigid heirarchies and emphasis on bringing about the advent of the "Super Man" (in the Nietchzean sense), the Zelator, the footsoldier of the Golden Dawn/O.T.O. ritual school, was taught to salute his/her superiors in the Order with... yes, the straight-armed palm-down Roman salute. And rumours persist of Hitler and other Nazi heriarchs being initiates of ritual magickal orders...
    • Because US military men were often ignorant of the military protocols in Nazi Germany, American POW camp commandants took it for granted that All Germans Are Nazis and accepted the Nazi salute from the German prisoners in their charge long before July, 1944. This had the unfortunate effect of, along with other causes, reinforcing the influence of the Nazis in the camps.
    • Oddly enough, Mexicans use both Nazi and American salutes, when honoring the Mexican flag in both official ceremonies and schools. The American salute is used when singing the Mexican anthem and the Nazi one for honoring the flag. Unlike with the rest of the world, Mexicans don't see any problem using the Nazi salute, since it was used for years before World War II, albeit it doesn't prevent many people to lampshade that fact.note 
  • 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.
  • At President Kennedy's funeral, little John John does this, and America burst into tears.
  • Dick Clark regularly did this as part of his Signing-Off Catchphrase, "For now, Dick Clark... so long." He gave the salute just before saying the "so long" bit.
  • Another alternative to the military salute is the raised fist, which for instance was used by Republican units in the Spanish Civil War.
  • Not just military, but also in funerals for public safety, such as police, fire, and EMS. During the funeral of an active firefighter, the color guard calls all in uniform to attention, then calls to "Present Arms," and all in uniform salute. The salute is held as the dispatcher makes the firefighter's "last call" over the radio , and Taps is played. Finally the color guard calls to "Release Arms" and the salute is lowered.


Video Example(s):


Salute the Rank, not the Man

Major Winters makes Captain Sobel acknowledge him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / MilitarySalute

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