Old Glory, Long May She Wave!

The red and white and starry blue Is freedom's shield and hope. ~ John Philip Sousa

The Twenty-One Gun Salute

In 1842, the United States declared the 21-gun salute as its "Presidential Salute." In 1890, the "national salute" was also formally reestablished as the 21-gun salute, although the traditional Independence Day salute is a 50-gun salute -- one round for each of state in the union. This "Salute to the Nation" is fired at noon on July 4, (Independence Day) at U.S. military installations. The U.S. Navy full-dresses ships and fires 21 guns at noon on July 4, Independence Day and February 22, Presidents' Day. On Memorial Day, batteries on military installations fire a 21-gun salute to the nation's fallen. As well, batteries at Naval stations and the ships themselves, fire a salute of 21-minute guns and display the ensign at half-mast from 8 a.m. until completion of the salute.

Today, a 21-gun salute is rendered on the arrival and departure of the President of the United States; it is fired in concordance with four ruffles and flourishes, which is immediately followed by Hail to the Chief -- the actual gun salute begins with the first ruffle and flourish, and concludes after Hail to the Chief has ended. A 21-gun salute is also rendered to former U.S. Presidents, foreign Heads of State (or members of a reigning royal family), as well as to Presidents-elect. In such a ceremony, the national anthem of the visiting dignitary's country is played, following the salute.

Each round in a gun salute is fired one at a time. The number of cannon used in a battery depends upon the intervals between each round fired. For example, a 3-gun battery has 2 of its guns firing, each at 5 second intervals between rounds, with 1 gun at the ready in case of a misfire; such a battery would be used at an Armed Forces Full Honors Funeral, or for an arrival ceremony of a dignitary at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. A 4-gun battery has its first 3 guns firing rounds at 3 second intervals, with the 4th gun (again) at the ready in case of misfire.

The U.S. Army SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for Gun salutes provides a 2-man gun crew (one loader, one gunner) for each cannon, as well as a 5-man 'staff' of soldiers to give the fire commands. The staff includes an Officer in Charge, a watchman (who marks the intervals and signals each gun to fire), an assistant watchman (as a backup), a counter (who keeps track of the number of rounds fired and signals the last round to the Officer in Charge), and a Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (who marches the battery into place as well as signals the backup cannon to fire in case another gun misfires).

21 Gun Salute

Urban Legend The REAL story
Do you know that at military funerals, the 21 gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?

Have you ever noticed the honor guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the American flag 13 times? You probably thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, . but we learn something new every day!

The 1st fold of our flag is a symbol of . Our Liberty.

The 2nd fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.

The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.

The 4th fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.

The 5th fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decaur, "Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.

The 6th fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States Of America, and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

The 7th fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.

The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.

The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.

The 10th fold is a tribute to the Father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.

The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews' eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the Christians' eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nation's motto, "In God We Trust. "

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.

There are some traditions and ways of doing thing that have deep meaning. In the future, you'll see flags folded and now you will know why. Share this with the children you love and all others who love the symbol of "Liberty and Freedom. "
The use of gun salutes for military occasions is traced to early warriors who demonstrated their peaceful intentions by placing their weapons in a position that rendered them ineffective. Apparently this custom was universal, with the specific act varying with time and place, depending on the weapons being used. A North African tribe, for example, trailed the points of their spears on the ground to indicate that they did not mean to be hostile.

The tradition of rendering a salute by cannon originated in the 14th century as firearms and cannons came into use. Since these early devices contained only one projectile, discharging them once rendered them ineffective. Originally warships fired seven-gun salutes--the number seven probably selected because of its astrological and Biblical significance. Seven planets had been identified and the phases of the moon changed every seven days. The Bible states that God rested on the seventh day after Creation, that every seventh year was sabbatical and that the seven times seventh year ushered in the Jubilee year.

Land batteries, having a greater supply of gunpowder, were able to fire three guns for every shot fired afloat, hence the salute by shore batteries was 21 guns. The multiple of three probably was chosen because of the mystical significance of the number three in many ancient civilizations. Early gunpowder, composed mainly of sodium nitrate, spoiled easily at sea, but could be kept cooler and drier in land magazines. When potassium nitrate improved the quality of gunpowder, ships at sea adopted the salute of 21 guns.

The 21-gun salute became the highest honor a nation rendered. Varying customs among the maritime powers led to confusion in saluting and return of salutes. Great Britain, the world's preeminent seapower in the 18th and 19th centuries, compelled weaker nations to salute first, and for a time monarchies received more guns than did republics. Eventually, by agreement, the international salute was established at 21 guns, although the United States did not agree on this procedure until August 1875.

The gun salute system of the United States has changed considerably over the years. In 1810, the "national salute" was defined by the War Department as equal to the number of states in the Union--at that time 17. This salute was fired by all U.S. military installations at 1:00 p.m. (later at noon) on Independence Day. The President also received a salute equal to the number of states whenever he visited a military installation.

In 1842, the Presidential salute was formally established at 21 guns. In 1890, regulations designated the "national salute" as 21 guns and redesignated the traditional Independence Day salute, the "Salute to the Union," equal to the number of states. Fifty guns are also fired on all military installations equipped to do so at the close of the day of the funeral of a President, ex-President, or President-elect.

Today the national salute of 21 guns is fired in honor of a national flag, the sovereign or chief of state of a foreign nation, a member of a reigning royal family, and the President, ex-President and President-elect of the United States. It is also fired at noon of the day of the funeral of a President, ex-President, or President-elect.

Gun salutes are also rendered to other military and civilian leaders of this and other nations. The number of guns is based on their protocol rank. These salutes are always in odd numbers.
 

http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/faq/salute.htm