Perhaps no symbol is better suited to convey military service than the sword. Although advances in modern technology have rendered the use of this historical weapon obsolete, its fixture as the primary weapon of choice for thousands of years of military history reserves it a standing of high regard amongst today's modern military forces.
What the Sword Means to Each Military Branch
Although most of the swords issued to members of the U.S. military today as well as in years past are and were required to be returned at the completion of their service, there are a few retired swords that have been passed down through families or that have been purchased by private collectors. Those not in the military but wanting to honor their service can also buy replica swords for display. Yet as powerful as the visual image of the sword is, equally as powerful is the story behind its significance to that particular branch of the military.
- Marines: After having defeated a band of Barbary pirates at the Battle of Derne (more popularly known as the Battle of Tripoli), the Marine lieutenant who helped lead the victorious forces in battle was presented a Mameluke sword by the viceroy of the Ottoman Empire . Given the battle's significance to the Corps, the Mameluke sword thus became the official Marine officer's sword.
- Navy: With simple cutlasses being issued to enlisted men dating back to the Continental Navy, naval swords and cutlasses have held high esteem with the Navy ever since, evolving from a weapon into a symbol to designate Naval officers.
- Army: Among the swords still in use by the military today, the 1840 Army NCO sword has the richest history, having been worn by Army officers since the Spanish-American War. This iconic sword has served as the model for the design of many other modern military swords.
- Air Force: Though difficult to wield in an aircraft, the Air Force sword worn by cadets pays homage to the Air Force's roots as the original Army Air Corp. A decorative sword is also presented to recipients of the Order of the Sword, one of highest honors in U.S. Air Force.
With the deep meaning that each branches' swords hold to those who have served within them, understanding and displaying them is a powerful way to honor those who have fought and died to protect the freedom of the United States.