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As I watch movies involving the U.S. military from years past (i.e. Glory and others), as well as photos from that period, I noticed that the salute they use is the British style, with the palm facing outward. I have tried several times over the years to find when it changed to the salute used today, but have had no luck. Can you help, please?

Thank you,

r. lorio




Dear Mr. Lorio,

The transition from palm forward to palm down in the U.S. military is somewhat evolutionary in nature. The palm forward style similar to the British army was predominant in the Civil War, although by then the Royal Navy had adopted a palm-down salute, allegedly because sailors’ hands tended to be covered in dirt and tar, taking a lot of “respect” out of the gesture (the British Army and Royal Air Force still salute palm forward). In the case of the U.S. Army, palms down becoming widespread during the Indian Wars and was universally adopted by the time of the Spanish-American War of 1898. It was not officially standardized in writing, however, until the issuance of the Drill and Ceremony manual of 1914.



Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History

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