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The modern western military salute evolved from the practice of raising ones hat. The salute is used as a symbolic gesture.

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Q: Where did the modern Western military salute come from?
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Where did early explorers and settlers of Anglo-American come from?

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Originally the salute was not a salute but when Medieval Knights happened to cross paths they would raise the visor of their helmets in order to be identified. This developed into the hand salute. Also the sword salute is a derivative of the ancient knights in which the knight would kiss the cross-member of the sword before going into battle. The following explanation of the origin of the hand salute is perhaps closest to the truth: It was an established military custom for juniors to remove their headgear in the presence of superiors. In the British Army as late as the American Revolution a soldier saluted by removing his hat. But with the advent of more cumbersome headgear in the 18th and 19th centuries, the act of a gentleman removing his hat was gradually converted into the simpler gesture of grasping the visor, and issuing a courteous salutation. From there it finally became conventionalized into something resembling our modern hand salute. As early as 1745 (more than 250 years ago) a British order book states that: "The men are ordered not to pull off their hats when they pass an officer, or to speak to them, but only to clap up their hands to their hats and bow as they pass." Ashraf Raffa

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