General of the Air Force

The General of the Air Force (abbreviated as GAF[1]) is a five-star general officer rank and is the highest possible rank in the United States Air Force. General of the Air Force ranks immediately above a general and is equivalent to General of the Army in the United States Army and Fleet Admiral in the United States Navy. The rank has been held only once in history, by General Henry H. Arnold, who served as head of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.

General of the Air Force
US Air Force O11 shoulderboard with seal
General of the Air Force insignia
(1949-1993)
US General of the Air Force flag
Rank flag of a General of the Air Force.
Country United States
Service branch United States Air Force
AbbreviationGAF
RankFive-star
NATO rankOF-10
Non-NATO rankO-11
FormationDecember 21, 1944
Next lower rankGeneral
Equivalent ranks

History

1944–1947

The term "General of the Air Force" was first informally used in 1944 after General Henry H. Arnold was promoted, along with other senior World War II American officers, to the rank of General of the Army. Arnold was at that time head of the United States Army Air Forces which had, for all intents and purposes, become its own branch of service in all but name. To differentiate Arnold from the other five-star generals in the regular U.S. Army (such as Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur), Arnold was commonly referred to as "General of the Air Force Arnold" in all but official correspondence in which his rank was listed as "General of the Army (USAAF)".

19471949

General of the Air Force Hap Arnold
Henry "Hap" Arnold in the uniform of General of the Army. His rank was changed in 1949 to that of General of the Air Force.

On September 18, 1947, the United States Air Force was founded as a separate branch of service. For the first few months of its existence, U.S. Air Force ranks were identical to the Army, and Air Force service members continued to wear the olive drab U.S. Army Air Force uniforms. In early 1948, the Air Force slightly changed some of the rank titles to include codifying Air Force warrant officer positions as well as specifying that the five-star general rank within the Air Force would be known thereafter as "General of the Air Force".[2] On 7 May 1949, under Public Law 58 of the 81st Congress, Henry Arnold's official U.S. Air Force rank was changed from General of the Army to General of the Air Force.

In 1949 the first Air Force blue uniforms were introduced, although regulations allowed former Army Air Force personnel to continue wearing brown uniforms complete with Army badges and insignia (full adoption of the new Air Force uniform would not occur until 1952). Although a "General of the Air Force" insignia was created for the blue jacket, General Arnold was at the time living in retirement in California, and in somewhat poor health, and as such the five-star Air Force rank was never actually worn on active duty by Arnold. Public Law 333 of the 79th Congress had previously changed the five-star rank to a permanent grade, and established that officers placed on the retirement list while in that grade would receive full pay and allowances (under Public Law 282 first establishing this grade, retirement had been at 75 per centum), meaning that Arnold did receive full pay as a General of the Air Force for the rest of his life.

19501980

AirForce5starSleeve
The briefly created five star sleeve stripe for General of the Air Force on the McPeak Uniform

General of the Air Force Arnold died in 1950 with no further Air Force officer since promoted to General of the Air Force. The Air Force currently declares that General of the Air Force is an active rank and it could again be bestowed at the discretion of the United States Congress. In 1962, during the Cold War, a petition was raised with the Department of the Air Force to promote General Curtis LeMay to the rank of General of the Air Force due to LeMay's accomplishments with the rise of the Strategic Air Command. The Air Force officially responded to the LeMay promotion proposal in a Chief of the Air Force General Officers Branch letter dated February 28, 1962:

It is clear that a grateful nation, recognizing the tremendous contributions of the key military and naval leaders in World War II, created these supreme grades as an attempt to accord to these leaders the prestige, the clear-cut leadership, and the emolument of office befitting their service to their country in war. It is the conviction of the Department of the Air Force that this recognition was and is appropriate. Moreover, appointments to this grade during periods other than war would carry the unavoidable connotation of downgrading of those officers so honored in World War II.

Over the next thirty years, various other petitions were made to the Air Force, including granting five-star rank to such senior generals as the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), as well as to any Air Force officer selected as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. None of these petitions were accepted and the Air Force promoted no other officers to the rank of General of the Air Force, although continued to state that the rank was officially listed in the Air Force promotion hierarchy.

1981–present

GenUSAFinsignia
Modern day insignia for General of the Air Force

In 1981, the last surviving five-star officer (General of the Army Omar Bradley) died, thus leaving no living officer of five-star rank.[3] The General of the Air Force rank was listed in a number of Air Force publications as "inactive" or "reserved for wartime", although the rank still remained on most insignia charts.

In 1993, General Merrill McPeak introduced an extremely unpopular uniform design which changed Air Force officer insignia to a stripe-based system reminiscent of the United States Navy and often derogatorily referred to as an airline-pilot uniform. During the single year in which this uniform was official, a five-star insignia was designed which appeared on a limited number of insignia charts. The insignia included both a sleeve-strip design as well as dress shoulder boards for the General of the Air Force rank. This insignia, along with the entire uniform design itself, was discontinued in 1994. At that time, General of the Air Force insignia was depicted on insignia charts as simply five stars, without an eagle crest above the stars as had been the previous design. A shoulder-board design for the Air Force dress shirt and sweater was also published.[4]

In the modern age, General of the Air Force insignia is depicted as five stars on the Air Force blue uniform jacket. The official policy of the Air Force remains that General of the Air Force is an active rank which could be bestowed in time of war, particularity if a U.S. Air Force officer is given command over allied troops in which one or more five-star equivalent ranks of a foreign military is under operational U.S. control.

Equivalent and senior ranks

US Air Force O12 shoulderboard
Air Force "six-star general" insignia as proposed in 1981

The Air Force's rank of General of the Air Force is equivalent to the U.S. Army's rank of General of the Army and the U.S. Navy's rank of Fleet Admiral. In foreign militaries, the United States' rank of General of the Air Force has been equated to the rank Marshal of the air force. The only United States Armed Forces rank senior to General of the Air Force is General of the Armies; Admiral of the Navy is also technically senior, but an official comparison between General of the Air Force and Admiral of the Navy has never been made by the United States military. The General of the Armies rank has been held only twice in United States history, both times by United States Army officers (John J. Pershing and George Washington, respectively) and then only once on active duty (Pershing). No Air Force officer has ever been promoted to a six-star position, although Congress retains the right to do so.

When Omar Bradley died in 1981, Congress sent a letter to the United States Army Institute of Heraldry requesting to know the feasibility of promoting Bradley to the rank of six-star general,[5] as well as requesting clarification as to the procedure should a United States Navy or Air Force officer ever be promoted to six-star rank. The response to Congress stated: "Should an officer of the Air Force or Navy be promoted to six star rank, that officer should be entitled to the six star insignia with a service specific crest".[6]

The Institute of Heraldry designed a sketch depicting the six-star rank utilized in the three major armed force branches; color images were later produced including a design for a six-star Air Force general rank. This insignia has never been declared official by the United States Air Force, but the insignia design has been retained by the awards and decorations branch of Randolph Air Force Base.

There is no established equivalent five-star rank in the other four uniformed services (Marine Corps, Coast Guard, PHSCC, and NOAA Corps).

See also

References

  1. ^ Professional Development Guide, Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241 dated 1 July 2009, Randolph AFB, TX
  2. ^ Department of the Air Force, "Air Force uniform regulations and insignia", 13 February 1948
  3. ^ E. Kelly Taylor (2009). America's Army and the Language of Grunts: Understanding the Army Lingo Legacy. AuthorHouse. p. 283. ISBN 978-1-4389-6249-8.
  4. ^ Department of the Air Force, "Air Force uniform regulations and insignia", 14 September 1995
  5. ^ Congressional Record 1981, Cong. 97 Sess. 1 – Parts 6-8, "Comparison and Promotion Procedures for General of the Armies and General of the Army of the United States".
  6. ^ Congressional Record 1981, Cong. 97 Sess. 1 – Part 8, "Promotion of other service branches to General of the Armies of the United States".

Sources

Captain general of the Air Force

Captain General of the Air Force (Capitán General del Aire / Capitán General del Ejército del Aire in Spanish) is a five-star air force officer rank and the highest rank of the Spanish Air Force. The five-star NATO rank code is OF-10. The honorary appointments formally ceased in 1999. The rank of Air captain general is equivalent to a Marshal of the Air Force in many nations such as the United Kingdom, a general of the Air Force of the United States, a capitain general of the Spanish Army (Ejército de Tierra Español) or the Navy (Armada Española). This rank is reserved to the monarch as Commander-in-chief. An Air captain general's insignia consists of two command sticks under five four-pointed stars below the Royal Crown and a golden string.

The Spanish Air Force as a separated branch of the Spanish Armed Forces was officially established on 7 October 1939, after the Spanish Civil War. Francisco Franco as head of Spanish state and commander-in-chief named himself 1st captain general of the Spanish Air Force. General Ángel Salas Larrazábal, a veteran fighter pilot, has been the only honorary Air captain general (1991-1994).

Chief of Air Force (Sweden)

Chief of Air Force (Swedish: Flygvapenchef, FVC) is the most senior appointment in the Swedish Air Force. The position Chief of Air Force was introduced in 1926 and the current form in 2014.

Five-star rank

A five-star rank is a very senior military rank, first established in the United States in 1944, with a five-star general insignia, and corresponding ranks in other countries. The rank is that of the most senior operational military commanders, and within NATO's "standard rank scale" it is designated by the code OF-10.

Not all armed forces have such a rank, and in those that do the actual insignia of the "five-star ranks" may not contain five stars. For example: the insignia for the French OF-10 rank maréchal de France contains 7 stars; the insignia for the Portuguese marechal contains four gold stars; and many of the insignia of the ranks in the Commonwealth of Nations contain no stars at all.

Typically, five-star officers hold the rank of general of the army, admiral of the fleet, field marshal, marshal or general of the air force, and several other similarly named ranks. Five-star ranks are extremely senior—usually the highest ranks. As an active rank, the position exists only in a minority of countries and is usually held by only a very few officers during wartime. In times of peace, it is usually held only as an honorary rank. Traditionally, five-star ranks are granted to distinguished military commanders for notable wartime victories and/or in recognition of a record of achievement during the officer's career, whether in peace or in war. Alternatively, a five-star rank (or even higher ranks) may be assumed by heads of state in their capacities as commanders-in-chief of their nation's armed forces.

Despite the rarity and seniority of five-star officers, even more-senior ranks have been adopted in the United States, namely, admiral of the navy and general of the armies. Other names for highly senior ranks from the twentieth century include généralissime (France), generalisimo (Spain) and generalissimus (USSR).

Fleet admiral (United States)

Fleet admiral (abbreviated FADM) is a five-star flag officer rank in the United States Navy. Fleet admiral ranks immediately above admiral and is equivalent to General of the Army and General of the Air Force. Although it is a current and authorized rank, no U.S. Navy officer presently holds it, with the last U.S. Navy fleet admiral being Chester W. Nimitz, who died in 1966.

General (Sweden)

General, Finnish: kenraali is the highest officer's rank in Sweden and Finland. In Sweden, it is held by the Supreme Commander (Swedish: överbefälhavare) of the Swedish Armed Forces and the monarch. In Finland, it is held by the Chief of Defence. In Sweden, the monarch still holds the nominal rank of General as well as Admiral and General of the Air Force.

Finnish Defence Forces rank of kenraali is comparable to Ranks of NATO armies officers as OF-9.

General (United States)

In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, general (abbreviated as GEN in the Army or Gen in the Air Force and Marine Corps) is a four-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-10. General ranks above lieutenant general and below General of the Army or General of the Air Force; the Marine Corps does not have an established grade above general. General is equivalent to the rank of admiral in the other uniformed services. Since the grades of General of the Army and General of the Air Force are reserved for wartime use only, and since the Marine Corps has no five-star equivalent, the grade of general is currently considered to be the highest appointment an officer can achieve in these three services.

General Counsel of the Air Force

The General Counsel of the Air Force (acronym SAF/GC) is the chief legal officer of the U.S. Department of the Air Force.

By U.S. law, the General Counsel of the Air Force is appointed from civilian life by the President of the United States upon the advice and consent of the United States Senate, and performs such duties as the Secretary of the Air Force specifies.According to Secretary of the Air Force Order No. 111.5, dated July 14, 2005, "The General Counsel is the chief legal officer and chief ethics official of the Department of the Air Force. Legal opinions issued by the Office of the General Counsel shall be the controlling opinions of the Department of the Air Force. The General Counsel provides advice in accordance with applicable statues on any legal subject and on other matters as directed by the Secretary." In other words, the General Counsel of the Air Force advises the Secretary of the Air Force, the Under Secretary of the Air Force, and the Assistant Secretaries of the Air Force, as well as the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and other military leaders of the United States Air Force on legal matters, other than those statutory duties under the Uniform Code of Military Justice performed by the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force.

General der Fallschirmtruppe

General der Fallschirmtruppe (en: General of the parachute corps) was a General of the branch rank of the Deutsche Luftwaffe (en: German Air Force) in Nazi Germany. Until the end of World War II in 1945, this particular general officer rank was on three-star level (OF-8), equivalent to a US Lieutenant general.

The "General of the branch" ranks of the Luftwaffe were in 1945:

General of parachute troops

General of anti-aircraft artillery

General of the aviators

General of air force communications troops

General of the air forceThe rank was equivalent to the General of the branch ranks of the Heer (army) as follows:

Heer

General of artillery

General of mountain troops

General of infantry

General of cavalry

General of the communications troops

General of panzer troops (armoured troops)

General of engineers

General of the medical corps

General of the veterinary corpsOther services

The rank was also equivalent to the German three-star ranks:

Admiral of the Kriegsmarine, equivalent to (US Vice admiral) and

SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS in the Waffen-SS.

General der Flieger

General der Flieger (English: General of the aviators) was a General of the branch rank of the Luftwaffe (air force) in Nazi Germany. Until the end of World War II in 1945, this particular general officer rank was on three-star level (OF-8), equivalent to a US Lieutenant general.

The "General of the branch" ranks of the Luftwaffe were in 1945:

General of parachute troops

General of anti-aircraft artillery

General of the aviators

General of air force communications troops

General of the air forceThe rank was equivalent to the General of the branch ranks of the Heer (army) as follows:

Heer

General of artillery

General of mountain troops

General of infantry

General of cavalry

General of the communications troops

General of panzer troops (armoured troops)

General of engineers

General of the medical corps

General of the veterinary corpsOther services

The rank was also equivalent to the German three-star ranks:

Admiral of the Kriegsmarine, equivalent to (US Vice admiral) and

SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS in the Waffen-SS.

General der Luftwaffe

General der Luftwaffe (en: General of the air force) was a General of the branch rank of the Deutsche Luftwaffe (en: German Air Force) in Nazi Germany. Until the end of World War II in 1945, this particular general officer rank was on three-star level (OF-8), equivalent to a US Lieutenant general.

The "General of the branch" ranks of the Luftwaffe were in 1945:

General of parachute troops

General of anti-aircraft artillery

General of the aviators

General of air force communications troops

General of the air forceThe rank was equivalent to the General of the branch ranks of the Heer (army) as follows:

Heer

General of artillery

General of mountain troops

General of infantry

General of cavalry

General of the communications troops

General of panzer troops (armoured troops)

General of engineers

General of the medical corps

General of the veterinary corpsOther services

The rank was also equivalent to the German three-star ranks:

Admiral of the Kriegsmarine, equivalent to (US Vice admiral) and

SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS in the Waffen-SS.

General of the Army (United States)

General of the Army (abbreviated as GA) is a five-star general officer and the second highest possible rank in the United States Army. A General of the Army ranks immediately above a general and is equivalent to a Fleet Admiral and a General of the Air Force. There is no established equivalent five-star rank in the other federal uniformed services (Marine Corps, Coast Guard, United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps). Often called a "five-star general", the rank of General of the Army has historically been reserved for wartime use and is not currently active in the U.S. military. The General of the Army insignia consisted of five 3/8th inch stars in a pentagonal pattern, with points touching. The insignia was paired with the gold and enameled United States Coat of Arms on service coat shoulder loops. The silver colored five-star metal insignia alone would be worn for use as a collar insignia of grade and on the garrison cap. Soft shoulder epaulettes with five 7/16th inch stars in silver thread and gold-threaded United States Coat of Arms on green cloth were worn with shirts and sweaters.

The rank of "General of the Army" has had two incarnations. The rank was introduced in 1866, the year after the American Civil War. It was reserved for the single senior officer of the U.S. Army, was a four-star rank, and was held by three different individuals from 1866 to 1888. The rank was revived as the modern five-star rank during World War II, and may be awarded to more than one serving officer at a time. It was held by five different individuals from 1944 to 1981. A special rank of General of the Armies, which ranks above General of the Army, exists but has been conferred only twice, a four-star rank with unique gold (rather than silver) stars to World War I's John J. Pershing, and posthumously to George Washington, by proclamation 177 years after his death, with no specific star insignia designated.

Gerald W. Johnson (military officer)

Gerald Walter Johnson (July 10 1919–September 9 2002) was a lieutenant general in the United States Air Force and World War II flying ace. Enlisting in 1941, Johnson served as a fighter pilot in Europe, and was credited with shooting down 16.5 enemy aircraft before being shot down himself and taken prisoner. After the war, he continued his military career rising to command several fighter and bomber wings during the 1950s and 60s. He commanded the Eighth Air Force for a period during the Vietnam War, and retired in 1974 after serving as Inspector General of the Air Force.

Inspector General of the Air Force

The Office of Inspector General of the Air Force for the United States Air Force is responsible for conducting investigations and inspections as directed by the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force. The position in the Air Force was originally established after World War II as The Air Inspector, which was carried over from the Army Air Forces. The current mission of the Air Force Inspector General is prescribed by Title 10 (§ 8020) and Title 32 of the United States Code (§ 105) to develop Air Force and Air National Guard policy to assess readiness, discipline and efficiency with a vision to help shape senior leader decisions affecting the readiness of the Air Force to strengthen the nation's defense.

The Office of Inspector General of the Air Force consists of four directorates:

The complaints resolution program investigates complaints and potential cases of fraud, waste, and abuse.

The inspection system program is designed to evaluate different levels of command in the Air Force to accurately assess the effectiveness of key processes, procedures and requirements based on either public law, executive orders, directives and instructions. The Air Force Inspection Agency heads the inspection program and operates under direction of the Air Force Inspector General.

A senior officials inquiry program to conduct inquiries and investigations of complaints and allegations made against senior Air Force officials (particularly generals and senior executive service members).

A special investigations directorate which provides policy, planning, program evaluation, and resources for the Air Force's security and investigative activities along with foreign counterintelligence programs

Surgeon General of the United States Air Force

The Surgeon General of the Air Force is the senior-most Medical Service officer in the United States Department of the Air Force. In recent times, this has been a Lieutenant General who serves as head of the United States Air Force Medical Service (AFMS). The Surgeon General is usually the senior Medical Corps officer, but acting surgeons general have been from other branches of the medical service.

United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps

The Judge Advocate General's Corps also known as the "JAG Corps" or "JAG" is the legal arm of the United States Air Force.

United States Air Force Medical Service

The United States Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) consists of the five distinct medical corps of the Air Force and enlisted medical technicians. The AFMS was created in 1949 after the newly independent Air Force’s first Surgeon General, Maj. General Malcolm C. Grow (1887–1960), convinced the United States Army and President Harry S. Truman that the Air Force needed its own medical service.

In the summer of 1949, Air Force General Order No. 35 established a medical service with the following officer personnel components: Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Veterinary Corps, Medical Service Corps, Air Force Nurse Corps, and Women's Medical Specialist Corps.

The AFMS is led by The Surgeon General of the Air Force, who holds the rank of lieutenant general. The AFMS is found in all three components of the Air Force, including the Active Air Force, the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and the Air National Guard. Headquartered at The Air Staff, Defense Health Headquarters, Falls Church, VA., AFMS senior leaders can be found in all of the Major Commands and in the Pentagon.

The current Air Force Surgeon General is Lieutenant General Dorothy A. Hogg.

United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations

The U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI or OSI) is a U.S. federal law enforcement agency that reports directly to the Secretary of the Air Force. AFOSI is also a U.S. Air Force field operating agency under the administrative guidance and oversight of the Inspector General of the Air Force. By federal statute, AFOSI provides independent criminal investigative, counterintelligence and protective service operations worldwide and outside of the traditional military chain of command. AFOSI proactively identifies, investigates, and neutralizes serious criminal, terrorist, and espionage threats to personnel and resources of the Air Force and the U.S. Department of Defense, thereby protecting the national security of the United States.

United States Air Force officer rank insignia

The United States Air Force officer rank insignia in use today.

United States uniformed services commissioned officer and officer candidate ranks
Pay grade / branch of service Officer
candidate
O-1 O-2 O-3 O-4 O-5 O-6 O-7 O-8 O-9 O-10 O-11 Special
grade
alt=alt=Officer Candidate[1] alt=alt=Second lieutenant / Ensign alt=alt=First lieutenant / Lieutenant (junior grade) alt=alt=alt=Captain / Lieutenant[6] alt=alt=Major / Lieutenant commander alt=alt=Lieutenant colonel / Commander alt=alt=Colonel / Captain alt=alt=Brigadier general / Rear admiral (lower half) alt=alt=Major General / Rear admiral[6] alt=alt=Lieutenant general / Vice admiral[6] US-O10 insignia[6] alt=alt=General of the Air Force / General of the Army / Fleet Admiral alt=alt=General of the Armies / Admiral of the Navy[2]
CDT / OC 2LT 1LT CPT MAJ LTC COL BG MG LTG GEN GA[3] GAS[3]
Midn / Cand 2ndLt 1stLt Capt Maj LtCol Col BGen MajGen LtGen Gen [5] [5]
MIDN / OC ENS LTJG LT LCDR CDR CAPT RDML RADM VADM ADM FADM[3] AN[3]
Cadet / OT / OC 2nd Lt 1st Lt Capt Maj Lt Col Col Brig Gen Maj Gen Lt Gen Gen GAF[3] [5]
CDT / OC ENS LTJG LT LCDR CDR CAPT RDML RADM VADM ADM [5] [5]
[OC] ENS LTJG LT LCDR CDR CAPT RADM RADM VADM ADM [5] [5]
OC ENS LTJG LT LCDR CDR CAPT RDML RADM VADM [4] [5] [5]
W-1 W-2 W-3 W-4 W-5
US-Army-WO1.svg
WO1
US-Army-CW2.svg
CW2
US-Army-CW3.svg
CW3
US-Army-CW4.svg
CW4
US-Army-CW5compare.svg
CW5
USMC WO1.svg
WO1
USMC CWO2.svg
CWO2
USMC CWO3.svg
CWO3
USMC CWO4.svg
CWO4
USMC CWO5.svg
CWO5
US Navy WO1 insignia.svg
WO1
US Navy CW2 insignia.svg
CWO2
US Navy CW3 insignia.svg
CWO3
US Navy CW4 insignia.svg
CWO4
US Navy CW5 insignia.svg
CWO5
USAF-WO1.svg
WO1[1]
USAF-CW2.svg
CWO2[1]
USAF-CW3.svg
CWO3[1]
USAF-CW4.svg
CWO4[1]
USAF CW5.png
CWO5[1]
USCG WO1 insignia.svg
WO1[1]
USCG CW2 insignia.svg
CWO2
USCG CW3 insignia.svg
CWO3
USCG CW4 insignia.svg
CWO4
[2]
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