Korean War
War and Military History

Why is a 21 gun salute given at funerals?

Top Answer
User Avatar
Wiki User
Answered 2009-03-22 20:12:26

What is the origin of the 21-gun salute? 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. Source: Headquarters, Military District of Washington, FACT SHEET: GUN SALUTES, May 1969.

User Avatar

Your Answer

Still Have Questions?

Related Questions

What is the difference between a gun salute and a 21 gun salute?

21 gun salute has 7 shooters that shoot 3 times

How many 21 gun salutes have been given in the US at funerals?

No way to find out.

Must the 21 gun salute be done facing North?

3 volley is not 21 gunsyou appear to be confusing the 3 volley salute, executed at the grave of a veteran, with a 21 gun salute. 3 volley salute, even if accomplished with 7 rifles, is not a 21 gun salute. It is simply called a 3 volley salute using 2 to 7 rifles. Execute the 3 volley salute facing north, if possible, over the casket. Keep your distance from the mourners. keep the volleys clean - no popcorn.21 gun salute is done with cannon. one shot at a time, in 5 second intervals unless it is a 21 minute gun salute. 21 guns only for POTUS funerals, otherwise, the number of guns fired, 13 to 21, according to status of high officials and ranking officers.21 guns (cannon) also fired at noon for Washington's birthday, Memorial Day, Independence day.

What is the difference between a 21 gun salute and a 12 gun salute?

The difference between a 21 gun salute and a 12 gun salute? - 9 guns- LOL (Joke). Seriously, according to US Protocol, there is no provision of any sort describing a 12 gun salute.

Has the 21 gun salute been outlawed?

In certain countries a 21 gun salute is used for heads of state.

21 g s?

gun salute ? 21 Gun Salute21 GS

What gun is used in the 21 gun salute?

M1 Garand

What comes first playing taps or the 21 gun salute?

The gun salute (which usually isn't a 21 gun salute). Three volleys will be fired, the firing line will be brought to the position of present arms, then Taps will be played.

How many guns salute does a soldier get?

A soldier gets a 21 gun salute.

What salute is considered the highest honor at a military funeral?

21 gun salute................

Why is there the 21 gun salute?

It is the sum of "1776"

In 1841 the gun salute was standardized to how many guns?

The gun salute was standardized in 1841 to include 21 guns, 3 shots per gun.

In1841 the gun salute was standardized to how many guns?

The gun salute was standardized in 1841 to include 21 guns, 3 shots per gun.

Are enlisted men eligible for a 21 gun salute?


When was the 21 gun salute formally adopted?

In 1841

Is the 21 gun salute before or after the playing of TAPS?

The 21 gun salute is fired and then the playing of taps. On the first note of taps servicemen in uniform and retired servicemen come to Present Arms. (hand salute)

Was there ever a 9 gun instead of the 21 gun salute?

Do an internet search to find the answer.

Green day come in peace but have 21---- just in case?

21 guns in this song is a reference to the 21 gun salute that is given to soldiers killed in this pointless war we are fighting.

Why is there a 3 volley salute in military ceremonies?

Seven riflemen; 3 volleys=21 rounds fired; which equates to a 21 gun salute.

Why does the guard of the Tomb of the Unknown take 21 steps?

It is in reference to the 21 Gun Salute.

Brain teaser 21 G S?

Gun Salute

What does the term 21 guns suicide mean?

You are probably thinking of a 21 gun salute, not a 21 gun suicide. It only takes one gun to commit suicide.

What does a 21 gun salute mean?

Gun salutes are the firing of cannons or arms as a (military or naval) honour.

How many gun firings salute the Queens Birthday at The Tower Of London?


What was the inspiration for 21 guns by greenday?

Something about the characters Christian and Gloria being in love and the 21 gun salute

Still have questions?