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Why "2" to salute after pledge of allegiance?

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I am a bit of an interloper who just happened to stumble across your page, but as a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer, I do know where the command "two" comes from.

The US Navy adopted a LOT of traditions from the British Navy, and one of them is the tradition of ships "passing honors" at sea. When a naval vessel passes close aboard another naval vessel with a more senior ranking officer in command (or embarked), it is customary for this "junior" vessel to initiate what we call "passing honors" much the same way it is the junior service member who initiates saluting the senior officer. These days passing honors is some times done by verbal commands instead, but often the commands are still given by blasts on a whistle. As ships don't just materialize at sea the crew will have time in advance to be notified that there is another ship approaching and we should be ready for the command to pass honors when they get closer. This way we don't have to stop working until necessary.

When the ships are less than 600 yards apart (400 yards for "boats" - what we call vessels less than 250' long) the Boatswain's Mate of the Watch (BMOW) would sound either one or two blasts on the whistle, signifying whether the crew should face the starboard or port side. Next there would be one blast on the whistle telling the crew to hand salute, two blasts for ending the salute, and three blasts to carry on. After that we promptly get back to our usual duties.

And that is where the "two" comes from. In the Navy "One" means salute, "Two" means end salute, and "Three" means carry on. The Marine Corps use it as well because the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy and have thus adopted many of our traditions. Whether or not the Army or Air Force use it I do not know.

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Sounds like a good scoutmaster minute. Thanks.

Oh, and it's one more thing we can blame on the British :)


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Mid 70's Army used 'Two' to end a salute.

Large formations, BN size or bigger, always included 'Ready' or 'Ready Up' to improve synchronization.  

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