History of the American Flag
to Correctly Fold the Flag
The History of Saluting
The origin of the Hand Salute is uncertain. Some
historians believe it began in late Roman times when
assassinations were common. A citizen who wanted to
see a public official had to approach with his right
hand raised to show that he did not hold a weapon.
Knights in armor raised visors with the right hand
when meeting a comrade.
This practice gradually became a way of showing
respect and, in early American history, sometimes
involved removing the hat. By 1820, the motion was
modified to touching the hat, and since then it has
become the Hand Salute used today.
In British history, in the early 1800s, the
Coldstream Guards amended the British military
salute custom of tipping the hat. They were
instructed to clap their hands to their hats and bow
as they pass by. This was quickly adopted by other
Regiments as wear and tear on the hats by constant
removal and replacing was a matter of great concern.
By the mid 19th Century, the salute had evolved
further with the open hand, palm to the front, and
this has remained the case since then.
Most historians believe, however, that the U.S.
Military salute was influenced more by the British
Navy. The Naval salute differs from the "Open Hand"
British Army Salute in that the palm of the hand
faces down towards the shoulder. This dates back to
the days of sailing ships, when tar and pitch were
used to seal the timber from seawater. To protect
their hands, officer wore white gloves and it was
considered most undignified to present a dirty palm
in the salute so the hand was turned through 90
When to Salute
The salute is a courteous exchange of greetings,
with the junior member always saluting first. When
returning or rendering an individual salute, the
head and eyes are turned toward the Colors or person
saluted. When in ranks, the position of attention is
maintained unless otherwise directed.
Military personnel in uniform are required to salute
when they meet and recognize persons entitled (by
grade) to a salute except when it is inappropriate
or impractical (in public conveyances such as planes
and buses, in public places such as inside theaters,
or when driving a vehicle).
Persons Entitled to a Salute
•The President of the United States
•Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers
•Any Medal of Honor Recipient
•Officers of Friendly Foreign Countries
A salute is also rendered
When the United States National Anthem, "To the
Color," "Hail to the Chief," or foreign national
anthems are played.
To uncased National Color outdoors.
On ceremonial occasions (such as Change of
Command, and Military Parades).
At reveille and retreat ceremonies, during the
raising or lowering of the flag.
During the sounding of honors.
When the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag
is being recited outdoors.
When turning over control of formations.
When rendering reports.
Salutes are not required when:
Indoors, except when reporting to an officer or
when on duty as a guard.
Addressing a prisoner.
Saluting is obviously inappropriate. In these
cases, only greetings are exchanged. (Example: A
person carrying articles with both hands, or
being otherwise so occupied as to make saluting
impracticable, is not required to salute a
senior person or return the salute to a
Either the senior or the subordinate is wearing
civilian clothes (a salute in this case is not
inappropriate, but is not required.)
Officers of equal rank pass each other (a salute
in this case is not inappropriate, but it is not
Prisoners whose sentences include punitive
discharges have lost the right to salute. All other
prisoners, regardless of custody or grade, render
the prescribed salute except when under armed guard.
Any military person recognizing a need to salute or
a need to return one may do so anywhere at any time.
When reporting to an officer in his office, the
military member removes his headgear, knocks, and
enters when told to do so. He approaches within two
steps of the officer’s desk, halts, salutes, and
reports, "Sir (Ma’am), Private Jones reports." The
salute is held until the report is completed and the
salute has been returned by the officer. When the
business is completed, the member salutes, holds the
salute until it has been returned, executes the
appropriate facing movement, and departs. When
reporting indoors under arms, the procedure is the
same except that the headgear is not removed and the
member renders the salute prescribed for the weapon
with which he is armed.
The expression "under arms" means carrying a weapon
in your hands by a sling or holster.
When reporting to a noncommissioned officer, the
procedures are the same, except no salutes are
When reporting outdoors, the military member moves
rapidly toward the officer, halts approximately
three steps from the officer, salutes, and reports
(as when indoors). When the member is dismissed by
the officer, salutes are again exchanged. If under
arms, the member carries the weapon in the manner
prescribed for saluting.
Saluting Persons in Vehicles
The practice of saluting officers in official
vehicles (recognized individually by grade or
identifying vehicle plates and or flags) is
considered an appropriate courtesy. Salutes are not
required to be rendered by or to personnel who are
driving or riding in privately owned vehicles except
by gate guards, who render salutes to recognized
officers in all vehicles unless their duties make
the salute impractical. When military personnel are
drivers of a moving vehicle, they do not initiate a
In Formation. Individuals in formation do not salute
or return salutes except at the command Present,
ARMS. The individual in charge salutes and
acknowledges salutes for the entire formation.
Commanders of organizations or detachments that are
not a part of a larger formation salute officers of
higher grade by bringing the organization or
detachment to attention before saluting. When in the
field under battle or simulated battle conditions,
the organization or detachment is not brought to
attention. An individual in formation at ease or at
rest comes to attention when addressed by an
Not in Formation. On the approach of an officer, a
group of individuals not in formation is called to
Attention by the first person noticing the officer,
and all come sharply to Attention and salute. This
action is to be taken at approximately 6 paces away
from the officer, or the closest point of approach.
Individuals participating in games, and members of
work details, do not salute. The individual in
charge of a work detail, if not actively engaged,
salutes and acknowledges Salutes for the entire
detail. A unit resting alongside a road does not
come to Attention upon the approach of an officer;
however, if the officer addresses an individual (or
group), the individual (or group) comes to Attention
and remains at Attention (unless otherwise ordered)
until the termination of the conversation, at which
time the individual (or group) salutes the officer.
Outdoors. Whenever and wherever the United States
National Anthem, "To the Color," "Reveille," or
"Hail to the Chief’ is played, at the first note,
all dismounted personnel in uniform and not in
formation face the flag (or the music, if the flag
is not in view), stand at Attention, and render the
prescribed Salute. The position of Salute is held
until the last note of the music is sounded.
Military personnel not in uniform will stand at
Attention (remove headdress, if any, with the right
hand), and place the right hand over the heart.
Vehicles in motion are brought to a Halt. Persons
riding in a passenger car or on a motorcycle
dismount and salute. Occupants of other types of
military vehicles and buses remain in the vehicle
and sit at attention; the individual in charge of
each vehicle dismounts and renders the Hand Salute.
Tank and armored car commanders salute from the
Indoors. When the National Anthem is played indoors,
officers and enlisted personnel stand at Attention
and face the music, or the flag if one is present.
National and organizational flags, which are mounted
on flagstaffs equipped with finials, are called
Colors. Military personnel passing a military
formation in which an uncased National Color is
being carried, salute at six steps distance and hold
the Salute until they have passed six steps beyond
it. Similarly, when the uncased Color passes by,
they salute when it is six steps away and hold the
Salute until it has passed six steps beyond them.
NOTE: Small flags carried by individuals, such as
those carried by civilian spectators at a parade,
are not saluted. It is improper to salute with any
object in the right hand or with a cigarette, cigar,
or pipe in the mouth.
Officers and enlisted men under arms uncover only
Seated as a member of (or in attendance on) a
court or board.
Entering places of divine worship.
In attendance at an official reception.
Personnel remove their headdress indoors. When
outdoors, military headdress is never removed, or
raised as a form of salutation. When appropriate,
civilians may be saluted in lieu of removing the
Saluting Upon Boarding Naval Ships
When military personnel (of any service) board U.S.
Navy ships, either as an individual or as a unit
leader, they salute according to naval procedures.
When boarding a naval ship, upon reaching the top of
the gangway, face and salute the national ensign.
After completing this salute, salute the officer of
the deck who will be standing on the quarter deck at
the head of the gangway. The officer of the deck may
be a commissioned officer, warrant officer, or petty
officer (enlisted). When saluting the officer of the
deck, request permission to board, "Sir (or Ma'am),
Request permission to come aboard." The officer of
the deck will return the salute.
When leaving the ship, render the same salutes in
reverse order, and request permission to leave,
"Sir" (or Ma'am), Request permission to go ashore."
It is customary to salute an officer of the VFW When
both parties are wearing the Official VFW Designated
Hat of the event. At Post meetings, the official hat
is the VFW Cap.
At a Post meeting, it is required to stand and
Salute the Post commander when addressing him or any
of the other officers at the main table.
The VFW follows the customs of the United States
Military, with saluting the Flag, saluting officers
or higher ranking officers. At Sporting events, any
Veteran can salute the Flag at opening Ceremonies,
or with saying the Pledge of Allegiance.