17-gun salute??


July 24, 2005, 06:31 PM
"Today, General William Westmoreland, onetime commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, was buried yesterday at the U.S. Military Academy [at 91]. . . following a private chapel service . . . 17-gun salute at West Point" following the coffin's descent. (Quoted from my local newspaper).

Now, this might be kinda random, but when did we start giving 17-gun salutes? I always thought that it was more along the lines of a 21-gun salute for military members (or volleys of factors of 21 in order to match that number) :confused: ? Am I just confused, or did I miss the boat that dictates how many guns of a salute exist? Would someone please explain this so that those of us who aren't up-to-date on military procedures have an idea of what is the deal?

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July 24, 2005, 06:41 PM
21-gun salutes are reserved for nations and heads of state. As a general officer, Westmoreland rated 17 guns.


July 24, 2005, 06:43 PM
Yeap, not everyone gets 21 guns.


Jeff White
July 24, 2005, 06:43 PM
Many people confuse the firing of a salute with the volleys of musketry which are fired over the grave at a military funeral.

There is a protocol that states how many guns fire in salute of a dignitary. This salute is fired with howitzers. I believe a 21 gun salute is reserved for heads of state.

Three volleys of musketry are fired at the end of a military funeral to signal the end of the funeral. It dates back to the days when conflicting armies would call a truce to clear the battlefield of dead and wounded. Three volleys of musketry was the signal to the other side that you had finished burying your dead and evacuated your wounded and were ready to continue operations. The custom lives on today as the closing (along with the playing of taps) of a funeral where military honors are rendered.



July 24, 2005, 06:45 PM
It's an old military tradition. The number of guns fired depended on the person's rank. The president (CIC) got 21, full generals got 17 guns, and then down the rank meant lesser guns.

July 24, 2005, 07:33 PM
See here (http://www.sizes.com/society/salute.htm) for a brief summary of gun salutes and who rates how many guns.

July 24, 2005, 07:56 PM
I believe Charles de Gaulle got a 17 gun salute when he came to the US. The history channel said 17 gun salutes were fashioned for generals and such. *Shrug* just what I heard.

July 25, 2005, 09:57 PM
So how many gun salute do I get if I'm killed in Iraq? None?

I always though it'd be a 21 gun salute, but apparently not.

I remember when I was about 5, I attended a WW2 vet's funeral where they played taps, and I thought there was a gun salute of sorts.

July 26, 2005, 09:16 PM

July 26, 2005, 09:24 PM
just remember how many salutes the enlisted rifleman receives. ;)

July 26, 2005, 09:46 PM
The only 21 guns I'm ever going to see or hear are the ones in my GUN SAFE

July 26, 2005, 10:24 PM
just remember how many salutes the enlisted rifleman receives.Dont forget "This is my rifle, this is my gun", howitzers serve a different purpose than riflemen.


Double Maduro
July 27, 2005, 01:37 AM
You may not get a gun salute, but you are entitled to a real bugler and a piper if you want.

I have told everyone I know that I want a bugler to blow taps. I get misty whenever I hear it.

I also want a piper to play "Ina godda davida", all 18 minutes of it.


July 27, 2005, 02:01 AM
In a military funeral, there are the pallbearers, the NCOIC, and the firing squad.

The firing squad consists of 7 servicemembers. Each has a rifle and 3 rounds of blank ammunition.

The command sequence goes like this:


(Execute port arms, half right face, and open stance to the same position as parade rest.

Chamber the first round if this has not been done; or place your selector switch to semi, or release the safety lock.

The butt of the weapon is snapped smartly under the right arm, weapon pointed upward at about a 40 degree angle, finger on trigger.


One volley is fired.

Cycle the bolt if necessary.

Second volley fired.

Cycle if needed.

Final volley fired.

Weapon returned to port arms, execute a half left face.


Then, Taps is played.

(Note: This procedure is Army-oriented; I'm not sure about the other branches.

7 rifles X 3 rounds = 21 rounds fired.

July 27, 2005, 02:49 AM
This thread brings back the memory of when we laid my farther,aWWII vet, to rest in the Vetegans' Cematery,almost five years ago. Three rounds.Three spent shells to the family members,our mouther and the five of us.We ,the 5 of us mom is now gone also,will get together for a remberance on that day in August.God how we all miss him,even my granddauther(all of 7) misses her popa-popa.

July 27, 2005, 10:56 AM
Pretty much the same, except IIRC we (I was a jarhead) didn't use the "With Blank ammunition" part. I'm pretty sure it was "Load", "ready", etc.

July 27, 2005, 01:37 PM
Powderman, thank you.

That's how I remember it.

So while not technically a 21 gun salute, it's a great compromise.

Jeff White
July 27, 2005, 09:41 PM
The firing party can consist of 3-10 soldiers. Seven is normally used, but FM 21-5 (they've renumbered them since I retired don''t have the current number handy) allowed for a firing party of various sizes depending on manpower as available.

As I stated in my earlier post, the firing of volleys of musketry is not a 21 gun salute even if it consists of 21 rounds being fired. It has a totally different meaning. A gun salute consists of firing a certain number of artillery pieces.


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