The General of the Armies of the United States, or more commonly referred to as General of the Armies (abbreviated as GAS), is the highest possible rank in the United States Army. The rank is informally equated to that of a six-star general or Generalissimo and is one of the two highest possible military ranks in the United States Armed Forces.
The rank has been held only twice in history – by an active-duty officer (John J. Pershing), and by posthumous promotion to George Washington in 1976. The rank of General of the Armies is equivalent to the Admiral of the Navy and is senior to General of the Army, General of the Air Force, and Fleet Admiral.
|General of the Armies|
Unofficial Army service uniform shoulder-strap design for the proposed insignia for a General of the Armies.
Unofficial proposed rank flag of a General of the Armies.
|Service branch||United States Army|
|Formation||September 3, 1919|
|Next lower rank||General of the Army|
|Equivalent ranks||Admiral of the Navy (U.S. Navy)|
Appointment to the rank or grade of General of the Armies of the United States has a history spanning over two centuries. In the course of its existence the authority and seniority of the rank, and perceptions by both the American public and the military establishment, have varied. The first mention of the rank "General of the Armies" was in an Act of the United States Congress on March 3, 1799. Congress provided:
That a Commander of the United States shall be appointed and commissioned by the style of General of the Armies of the United States and the present office and title of Lieutenant General shall thereafter be abolished.
The rank of General of the Armies was intended for bestowal upon George Washington, who held the rank of "General and Commander-in-Chief" which was a grade senior to all American major generals and brigadier generals from the American Revolutionary War. However, only a few months after the Congressional proposal, Washington died on December 14, 1799. The United States Army at that time had also drastically reduced in size and there was no practical need for a superior General rank, thus the proposal for General of the Armies was soon forgotten.
In 1865, after the close of the American Civil War, Congress again revisited the idea of a superior General rank. The result was the creation of a special rank called "General of the Army of the United States", which was held by Ulysses S. Grant. This early version of General of the Army was in fact a four-star general officer rank although, unlike in modern times, Congress intended for only one Army officer to hold the position, thus granting the rank the same authority as the initial concept of General of the Armies. William T. Sherman and Philip Sheridan would also hold the position. During Sherman's tenure, the insignia was changed to that of a major general superimposed upon a golden national eagle.
The rank of General of the Army of the United States ceased to exist upon the death of Sheridan in 1888. The next proposal to create a superior general rank would occur thirty one years later during the First World War. In the interim, the highest possible general officer rank of the United States Army was that of two-star major general. Within the United States Navy, three- and four-star ranks continued into the 20th century, leading to the creation of the Admiral of the Navy rank in 1899. George Dewey was appointed this rank which, at the time of its creation, was considered a four-star admiral with an added honorary title. A comparison between Admiral of the Navy and General of the Armies was first made in 1944, although the rank of Admiral of the Navy was never declared equal in seniority.
During World War I, the United States Congress authorized the appointment of three-star lieutenant generals and four-star generals to be granted temporarily for service in the National Army. Tasker H. Bliss and John J. Pershing were promoted to general in October 1917, and Peyton C. March was promoted to that rank in May 1918. Hunter Liggett and Robert Lee Bullard were both promoted to lieutenant general on October 16, 1918. In 1919, by Congressional directive, the rank of General of the Armies was formally established and John J. Pershing became the first person to hold the rank.
After the close of the First World War, the highest active grade in the U.S. Army again became major general, with all lieutenant generals and generals (except for Pershing) reverted to this permanent rank of major general. Pershing then retired from the United States Army on September 13, 1924, and retained his rank on the U.S. Army retirement rolls until his death in 1948. Four-star generals were reauthorized in 1929, starting with Charles Pelot Summerall. Pershing at this time was no longer on active duty, but his rank was regarded as senior to a full general outside the regular promotion tier.
On December 14, 1944, the United States Army established a five-star general position and named this new rank "General of the Army", which was a title that had not been used since the 1880s after the Civil War. Unlike the Civil War version, this new rank was clearly a five-star position, whereas the old version was considered a four-star rank; the five-star rank was also intended to be held by more than one person rather than a single supreme rank for the head of the U.S. Army.
Pershing was still living during World War II, although he was over eighty years old. Nevertheless, the question was immediately raised by both the media and the public as to whether Pershing's rank "fit in" with the new five-star position. The situation was touchy from a diplomatic viewpoint, since the five-star General of the Army rank had been created largely to give American officers equal rank with British Army field marshals. The United States government was very hesitant to declare that Pershing held a senior rank to General of the Army, since this would elevate him to six-star status, the same as a grand marshal or generalissimo in Europe and possibly offend not only the British but also the French.
To solve the situation, it was decided that Pershing would outrank all five-star generals by order of seniority, meaning that even if he did not have a higher rank, he was considered senior by virtue of an earlier date of promotion into that rank. There was still rampant speculation, however, that Pershing was a six-star general, and the media put the matter directly to the War Department for a clear and concise answer.
It appears the intent of the Army was to make the General of the Armies senior in grade to the General of the Army. I have advised Congress that the War Department concurs in such proposed action.
Stimson's answer was very carefully worded and nowhere did he ever actually state that Pershing held six-star rank. The situation with Pershing was seemingly solved, but the matter of a six-star general in the United States military would reappear in only a few months during the summer of 1945 at which time Douglas MacArthur was proposed for promotion to General of the Armies. Efforts to promote MacArthur, although never successful, would continue for the next twenty years and lapse only with his death in 1964.
The rank of General of the Armies was revisited with a posthumous promotion of George Washington in 1976. In 1981, upon the death of Omar Bradley, brief consideration was given for another posthumous promotion; however, no action was taken beyond designing a potential "modern day" insignia for General of the Armies.
The most recent reference to the rank of General of the Armies occurred in 2008 when the Army authorized the Army Service Uniform as the new standard uniform for United States soldiers. As part of the first presentations of the uniform to Army leadership, the Institute of Heraldry created an insignia chart with officer ranks ranging from Second lieutenant to General of the Armies of the United States. This 21st-century insignia chart, showing both a five- and six-star general officer, was considered unofficial by the Army and was later refined to show insignia only to four-star general.
John J. Pershing was the only person in history to hold the rank of General of the Armies while serving on active duty. In 1919, to honor his service in World War I, Congress authorized the promotion of Pershing to the rank of "General of the Armies of the United States" and allowed him to design his own insignia. On September 3, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson, in accordance with Public Law 66-45, promoted Pershing to that same rank. The rank was primarily intended to recognize Pershing's performance as commander of the American Expeditionary Forces.
General Pershing chose to wear the four stars of a general, but in gold, to signify his new position. A bureaucratic loophole in Army regulations did not recognize this insignia, thus Pershing's gold stars did not appear on Army rank precedence charts and were considered as an unofficial rank insignia. The matter was not resolved until after Pershing's retirement when the Army declared that the four gold stars worn by Pershing were the official insignia for General of the Armies of the United States, thus creating the following hierarchy of Army general-officer ranks.
|General of the Armies of the United States|
As part of the American bicentennial celebrations, a proposal was raised in Congress to commemorate the leadership and historical importance of George Washington by appointing him to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States. In his own day, Washington had been appointed and served as "General and Commander in chief of the Army of the [United States]". but only wore the three-star insignia of an Army lieutenant general. As of 1782, when Washington was listed as a lieutenant general on the rolls of the United States Army, his rank was informally called "three-star general". The United States at this point had no four-star general rank and would not until 1866. At that time, the European rank of captain general was shortened to simply "general"; there would also be no lieutenant generals in the American army until Winfield Scott was "brevetted" to the rank of lieutenant general in 1855.
Since Washington had technically retired as a lieutenant general (three stars), he was as a result outranked by later four and five-star generals and admirals of the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. To rectify this discrepancy, and to acknowledge Washington's unique role in military history as serving as a military commander-in-chief not answerable to either the Continental Congress or its President, Congress in 1976 felt it appropriate that Washington be granted a supreme rank to signify that he actively commanded with complete authority all branches of military forces within the United States.
On March 13, 1978, Washington was posthumously promoted to the full grade of General of the Armies of the United States, with effective date from July 4, 1976. The promotion was authorized by a congressional joint resolution on January 19, 1976 which recommended Washington's promotion and further declared that no officer of the United States armed forces should ever outrank George Washington.
The formal promotion order signed by Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander, Jr., simply formalized the promotion. It did not mention six-star status, nor did it include, as the legislation did, the phrasing "such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present". The legislation implicitly clarified the relationship of Washington's rank to Pershing's. Public Law 94-479, which codified the rank of General of the Armies of the United States, did not create a separate rank from Pershing's but rather simply clarified that, while Washington and Pershing held the same rank, Washington was to be considered senior although having obtained the rank at a later date.
Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington of Virginia commanded our armies throughout and to the successful termination of our Revolutionary War;
Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington presided over the convention that formulated our Constitution; Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington twice served as President of the United States of America; and Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list; Now, therefore, be it
- Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That
- (a) for purposes of subsection (b) of this section only, the grade of General of the Armies of the United States is established, such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present.
- (b) The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.
Approved October 11, 1976.
Public Law 94-479
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was considered for appointment to the rank of General of the Armies both during and after World War II, but a formal promotion order for his appointment "to the office of General of the Armies of the United States" was never issued. Supporters of MacArthur would lobby for over two decades to have the general promoted to "six star general".
As part of the preparation for Operation Downfall (the planned invasion of Japan), the United States War Department began drawing up invasion manpower requirements for a large force organized into several Navy fleets and Army groups. The Army also saw the need for a possible promotion of more officers to the rank of General of the Army, depending on the size of the invasion force, as well as the participation of American allies in the Pacific (such as the Royal Navy, Red Army and the Chinese Army) all of which maintained their own equivalents to five-star rank.
It became obvious that the Supreme Commander for the attack of Japan would hold an enormous amount of power and would command an invasion force larger than any seen to date in the Second World War. It was also clear that whoever this commander was would have direct command authority of not one, but several five-star officers. To that end, a proposal was discussed in the War Department to appoint Douglas MacArthur to the rank of "General of the Armies" and have this position be considered a six-star general rank.
The proposal for MacArthur's promotion to a new rank was begun on July 23, 1945. The Army draft for the promotion specified three key points regarding the renewed proposal for General of the Armies:
At the beginning of August 1945, a member of MacArthur's staff drew a single sketch of a five star general insignia superimposed in its center with a sixth star of rank. This sketch was the first known design for a "six star general" insignia, but was never seriously considered since, just a few weeks later, the proposal for MacArthur's promotion was dropped. The United States Army formally closed the file on MacArthur's promotion on August 18, 1945, four days after Japan's surrender announcement which rendered the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands unnecessary. MacArthur's service record was then annotated that the promotion package had been closed due to "lack of necessity for such a rank".
As this proposal to promote MacArthur was simply "on the drawing board", the United States Army firmly stated for the next twenty years that there was never an officially recognized six-star general rank in the United States military hierarchy. John Pershing's status also remained in a very gray area, in particular because of the vague statements made by Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, and the fact that Pershing was never on active duty at the same time as a five-star General of the Army.
In the early 1950s, supporters of Douglas MacArthur began to petition the United States government to authorize a "promotion" to the rank of General of the Armies. MacArthur was at this time a retired five-star general and, with the movement to promote him, it was clear that (Army regulations notwithstanding) the general public felt that the rank of General of the Armies was a six-star position.
In 1955, the United States Congress considered a bill authorizing President Dwight D. Eisenhower to promote MacArthur to the rank of General of the Armies. The language used in the bill states that the rank was to be "re-activated" and that MacArthur was to be "promoted" to the position. With such terms, the Congressional legislation all but confirmed that General of the Armies was a senior rank to that of General of the Army. However, the Army itself still did not declare that General of the Armies was a six-star rank, and Congress did not actually pass, or even vote on, the proposed legislation.
Because of the various complications, MacArthur advised Dwight Eisenhower that he wished to decline promotion and the bill to promote MacArthur was dropped. Supporters of MacArthur continued with further petitions, however, and the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia possesses numerous letters from 1962 through 1964 attempting to obtain MacArthur a "six-star promotion". In the letters, as well as a congressional record appendix from February 1962 (pages A864-A865), this promotion was referred to as both "six-star general" and "general of the armies".
When MacArthur died in 1964, proponents for his promotion petitioned both the Army and Congress to grant a posthumous promotion to General of the Armies, and even went so far as to obtain a vote of neutral support from Harry S. Truman (meaning he would neither support nor attempt to scuttle the promotion). In 1965, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Army Personnel contacted the Institute of Heraldry and requested the feasibility of creating a six star general insignia in the event that MacArthur was in fact posthumously promoted. At the same time, the Army Personnel Office began attempting to resolve the confusion surrounding the status of General of the Armies.
The Army Personnel Office determined that, because of the number of living five-star generals still on the Army rolls in 1964, to introduce a rank of General of the Armies would require a formal regulation dealing with seniority, insignia, and retirement benefits. The Army Judge Advocate General also advised that, should MacArthur receive promotion to rank of General of the Armies, salary and benefits associated with the much more firmly established rank of five-star General of the Army would have to be reexamined. The Joint Chiefs of Staff further stated that because George C. Marshall was senior to MacArthur on the Army rolls, that should MacArthur be made a General of the Armies, a similar measure would have to be passed posthumously promoting Marshall as well (Marshall had died in 1959).
Due to various logistical and administrative difficulties, as well the United States having recovered from the John F. Kennedy assassination coupled with the expansion of the Vietnam War, efforts to promote MacArthur were ultimately dropped and no further petitions to the Army were received after 1966.
Upon the death of Omar Bradley in 1981, Congress considered a special recognition to commemorate the passing of the last of the Second World War five star officers. Six weeks after Bradley's death, the House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to the Institute of Heraldry and the Army requesting to know the feasibility of promoting Bradley to the rank of six star general. A brief was issued which repeated much of the concerns raised in 1964 when Douglas MacArthur had been considered posthumously for the rank.
The Institute of Heraldry released two insignia designs for the rank of the General of the Armies which incorporated a sixth star into the standard five star general design; a third design depicting a six star collar insignia was also proposed. In response to a concern regarding seniority amongst five star officers, Congress also requested clarification as to the procedures should a United States Navy or Air Force officer 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".
The notion of promoting Bradley was never agreed upon within Congress and by 1982 the proposal had been dropped. There have been no further efforts since to promote a member of the United States armed forces to the rank of General of the Armies of the United States.
The Admiral of the Navy (abbreviated as AN) is the highest possible rank in the United States Navy. The rank is equated to that of a six-star admiral and is currently one of the two highest possible military ranks in the United States Armed Forces. The rank is an admiralissimo-type position which is senior to the rank of fleet admiral.
The rank has only been awarded once, to George Dewey, in recognition of his victory at Manila Bay in 1898. On March 2, 1899, Congress approved the creation of the grade of Admiral of the Navy. On March 3, President McKinley transmitted to the Senate his nomination of Dewey for the new grade, which was approved the same day. But McKinley's nomination had used the term "Admiral in the Navy," while the act creating the new grade had used "Admiral of the Navy." On March 14, 1903, this discrepancy was addressed when President Roosevelt nominated and the Senate approved Dewey to the grade of "Admiral of the Navy," retroactive to March 2, 1899. The Navy Register of 1904 listed Dewey for the first time as "Admiral of the Navy" instead of "Admiral."Though this clarified the grade's unique title, the precedence of the new rank was still considered "four star", equivalent to general in the army, in the US Navy Regulations of 1909. In the US Navy Regulations of 1913, perhaps in anticipation of legislation to authorize more admirals, the precedence of Admiral of the Navy had been set at the "five star" level, equivalent to a British field marshal or admiral of the fleet. More four-star officers were appointed after an act authorizing the temporary grade of admiral for three fleet commanders-in-chief was passed in 1915. In terms of insignia, Dewey appears in a photograph soon after his promotion wearing the sleeve stripes last worn by Admiral David Dixon Porter, which are the same as present-day admirals (one two-inch band with three half-inch stripes above). When a new edition of US Navy Uniform Regulations was issued in May 1899, the sleeve insignia for admiral was specified as "two strips of 2-inch gold lace, with one 1-inch strip between, set one-quarter of an inch apart." In the 1905 Uniform Regulations, a similar description was used but with the title "Admiral of the Navy." The collar and shoulder insignia were four silver stars, with gold foul anchors under the two outermost stars.Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
The Army of Occupation of Germany Medal is a service medal of the United States military which was created by the (55 Stat. 781) act of the United States Congress on November 21, 1941. The medal recognizes those members of the United States military who served in the European occupation force following the close of World War I.The medal is retroactive by design and is awarded to any service member who performed occupation garrison duty in either Germany, or the former Austria-Hungary, between the dates of November 12, 1918 and July 11, 1923. The medal was primarily created due to the rising tension with Germany, between 1939 and 1941, and also as a means to honor the World War I service of General of the Armies John J. Pershing, whose likeness appears on the actual medal. Initially the blue edge stripe was wavy, to signify the Rhine River, but that proved impractical to mass-produce and was changed to a straight line.The first Army of Occupation of Germany Medal was presented to General of the Armies Pershing, with retroactive presentations made to any service member upon application to the United States War Department. Less than three weeks after the medal was first authorized, the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor which led to another full-scale war with Germany, now allied with Japan.Black Jack (horse)
A coal-black Morgan-American Quarter Horse cross, Black Jack served in the Caisson Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). Named in honor of General of the Armies John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, he was the riderless horse in more than 1,000 Armed Forces Full Honors Funerals (AFFHF), the majority of which were in Arlington National Cemetery. With boots reversed in the stirrups, he was a symbol of a fallen leader.Dai-gensui
Dai-gensui (大元帥, grand marshal) was the highest rank of the Greater Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy from the 1870s to 1945, when the Empire of Japan was dissolved. The rank was only ever held by the Emperor of Japan as commander-in-chief of the Empire's Armed Forces and, separately, the highest ranking officer in each of the Armed Services. The rank was equivalent to a generalissimo or general of the armies and admiral of the navy, being a six-star rank senior to the rank of gensui ("marshal"). It formally became obsolete in 1947 when the Imperial Japanese armed forces were abolished.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.Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood Home State Historic Site
Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood Home State Historic Site in Laclede, Missouri, is maintained by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as a state historic site. General John Joseph "Jack" Pershing lead the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I and attained the rank of General of the Armies. Pershing was born on a farm outside Laclede, but lived in the home from age six to adulthood. The historic site preserves and interprets the boyhood home and the one-room Prairie Mound School at which he taught for a year before attending West Point Military Academy. The home has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1969, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.General of the Air Force
The General of the Air Force (abbreviated as GAF) 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 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.General officers in the United States
A general officer is an officer of high military rank; in the uniformed services of the United States, general officers are commissioned officers above the field officer ranks, the highest of which is colonel in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force and captain, in the Navy, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps (NOAACC).
General officer ranks currently used in the uniformed services are:
One-star – Brigadier general in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force and rear admiral (lower half) in the Navy, Coast Guard, PHSCC, and NOAACC
Two-star – Major general in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force and rear admiral in the Navy, Coast Guard, PHSCC, and NOAACC
Three-star – Lieutenant general in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force and vice admiral in the Navy, Coast Guard, PHSCC, and NOAACC
Four-star – General in the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force and admiral in the Navy, Coast Guard, PHSCC, and NOAACCAbove these four general-officer ranks are five-star ranks, but these are generally reserved for wartime use. They are the General of the Army (in the Army, equivalent to the foreign rank of field marshal), Fleet Admiral (in the Navy), and General of the Air Force (in the Air Force). Nine Americans have held five-star ranks, but none currently.
The highest ranks, senior to the five-star ranks, are General of the Armies (in the Army) and Admiral of the Navy (in the Navy). These ranks are sometimes called six-star ranks, but holders of the ranks have never used six-star insignia. Only three people have ever held these ranks, which are sometimes considered to be the equivalent of the foreign ranks of generalissimo or grand marshal, and they have never been used at the same time as all other general-officer ranks. The rank of General of the Armies has been held only by John Pershing, promoted in 1919, and George Washington, promoted posthumously in 1976 as part of American Bicentennial celebrations. The rank of Admiral of the Navy has been held only by George Dewey, promoted in 1903 with date of rank retroactive to 1899. Proposals to bring back these ranks was made during World War II, with Douglas MacArthur and Chester W. Nimitz under consideration for appointment as General of the Armies and Admiral of the Navy, respectively, but this was never implemented.
Throughout much of U.S. history, ranks above three stars were either not used at all, used only on a temporary basis, or only used one at a time, with different titles used at different times for the same rank.Generalissimo
Generalissimo ( JEN-(ə-)rə-LISS-im-oh) is a military rank of the highest degree, superior to field marshal and other five-star ranks in the states where they are used.Highest military ranks
In many nations the highest military ranks are classed as being equivalent to, or are officially described as, five-star ranks. However, a number of nations have used or proposed ranks such as generalissimo which are senior to their five-star equivalent ranks. This article summarises those ranks.John J. Pershing
General of the Armies John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing (September 13, 1860 – July 15, 1948) was a senior United States Army officer. His most famous post was when he served as the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) on the Western Front in World War I, 1917–18.
Pershing rejected British and French demands that American forces be integrated with their armies, and insisted that the AEF would operate as a single unit under his command, although some American divisions fought under British command, and he also allowed all-black units to be integrated with the French army.
Pershing's soldiers first saw serious battle at Cantigny, Chateau-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and Soissons. To speed up the arrival of American troops, they embarked for France leaving heavy equipment behind, and used British and French tanks, artillery, airplanes and other munitions. In September 1918 at St. Mihiel, the First Army was directly under Pershing's command; it overwhelmed the salient – the encroachment into Allied territory – that the German Army had held for three years. For the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Pershing shifted roughly 600,000 American soldiers to the heavily defended forests of the Argonne, keeping his divisions engaged in hard fighting for 47 days, alongside the French. The Allied Hundred Days Offensive, which the Argonne fighting was part of, contributed to Germany calling for an armistice. Pershing was of the opinion that the war should continue and that all of Germany should be occupied in an effort to permanently destroy German militarism.
Pershing is the only American to be promoted in his own lifetime to General of the Armies rank, the highest possible rank in the United States Army. Allowed to select his own insignia, Pershing chose to use four gold stars to distinguish himself from those officers who held the rank of General, which was signified with four silver stars. After the creation of the five-star General of the Army rank during World War II, his rank of General of the Armies could unofficially be considered that of a six-star general, but he died before the proposed insignia could be considered and acted on by Congress.
Some of his tactics have been criticized both by other commanders at the time and by modern historians. His reliance on costly frontal assaults, long after other Allied armies had abandoned such tactics, has been blamed for causing unnecessarily high American casualties. In addition to leading the A.E.F. to victory in World War I, Pershing notably served as a mentor to many in the generation of generals who led the United States Army during World War II, including George Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Lesley J. McNair, George S. Patton, and Douglas MacArthur.John J. Pershing General of the Armies
John J. Pershing General of the Armies, is a public artwork by American artist Robert White, located at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., United States. John J. Pershing General of the Armies was originally surveyed as part of the Smithsonian's Save Outdoor Sculpture! survey in 1994. The monument is a tribute to United States Army general John J. Pershing.List of presidents of the United States by military rank
The United States Constitution names the president of the United States the commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces. Many presidents, however, also served in the military before taking office; all but 13 of the 44 men to become president as of 2019 have served.
Of the 33 presidents with military service, 31 have been commissioned officers, of whom five began their careers as regular officers (Jimmy Carter transferred to the Naval Reserve after five years in the Navy). 13 presidents have been general officers (four regular officers, six militia officers, three volunteers).Pershing State Park
Pershing State Park is a public recreation area covering more than 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) off U.S. Route 36, three miles west of Laclede in Linn County, Missouri. The state park was named in honor of General of the Armies John J. Pershing, who led the United States forces in Europe in World War I and who grew up in Laclede.Six-star rank
A six-star rank was a short-lived 1955 proposal for a special grade immediately superior to a five-star rank, to be worn by a proposed General of the Armies of the United States. The rank was also briefly considered near the end of World War II, just prior to the planned invasion of Japan, which would have potentially seen a six-star Admiral of Navy, equal to the then also proposed rank of General of the Armies and superior to five-star rank of Fleet Admiral.United States Army officer rank insignia
United States Army Officer rank insignia in use today.
Warrant Officers (WO) and Chief Warrant Officers (CW) in the US Military rank below officers but above officer candidates and enlisted servicemen. The first warrant officer rank, WO1 does not have a "commission" associated with it, instead having a "Warrant" from the Secretary of the Army. Warrant officers are allowed the same courtesies as a commissioned officer, but may have some restrictions on their duties that are reserved for commissioned officers. Warrant officers usually receive a commission once they are promoted to Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CW2), but are usually not referred to as "commissioned officers". WO-1s may be and sometimes are appointed by commission as stated in title 10USC.United States military seniority
United States military seniority is the method by which the United States Armed Forces determines precedence among commissioned officers, in particular those who hold the same rank. Seniority is used to determine assignments, tactical commands, promotions and general courtesy. To a lesser extent, historical seniority is used to recognize status of honor given to early United States military leaders such as inaugural holders of certain ranks or those officers who served as leadership during major wars and armed conflicts.
|Field marshal or
General of the army
the air force
|Admiral||General||Air chief marshal|
|Vice admiral||Lieutenant general||Air marshal|
|Rear admiral||Major general||Air vice-marshal|
|Commander||Lieutenant colonel||Wing commander|
junior grade or
|Second lieutenant||Pilot officer|
|Officer cadet||Officer cadet||Flight cadet|
|Warrant officer or
chief petty officer
|Warrant officer or
|Petty officer||Sergeant||Flight sergeant|
|Leading seaman||Corporal or
|Pay grade / branch of service||Officer
|Army||CDT / OC||2LT||1LT||CPT||MAJ||LTC||COL||BG||MG||LTG||GEN||GA||GAS|
|Marine Corps||Midn / Cand||2ndLt||1stLt||Capt||Maj||LtCol||Col||BGen||MajGen||LtGen||Gen|||||
|Navy||MIDN / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM||FADM||AN|
|Air Force||Cadet / OT / OC||2nd Lt||1st Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig Gen||Maj Gen||Lt Gen||Gen||GAF|||
|Coast Guard||CDT / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM|||||
| No universal insignia for officer candidate rank; Navy candidate insignia shown|
Official 1945 proposal for General of the Armies insignia; John J. Pershing's GAS insignia: ; George Dewey's Admiral of the Navy insignia:
 Rank used for specific officers in wartime only, not permanent addition to rank structure
 Grade is authorized by the U.S. Code for use but has not been created
 Grade has never been created or authorized
 USAF and U.S. Army insignia shown
United States warrant officer and commissioned warrant officer ranks
 Grade is authorized for use by U.S. Code but has not been created
|Flag Rank Officers|
|Pay Grade||Army||Marine Corps||Navy/Coast Guard||Air Force|
|Special||General of the Armies||none||Admiral of the Navy||none|
|Special||General of the Army||none||Fleet Admiral||General of the Air Force|
|O-9||Lt. General||Lt. General||Vice Admiral||Lt. General|
|O-8||Major General||Major General||Rear Admiral (upper half)||Major General|
|O-7||Brigadier General||Brigadier General||Rear Admiral (lower half)||Brigadier General|
|Pay Grade||Army||Marine Corps||Navy/Coast Guard||Air Force|
|O-5||Lt. Colonel||Lt. Colonel||Commander||Lt. Colonel|
|O-2||1st Lieutenant||1st Lieutenant||Lieutenant, JG||1st Lieutenant|
|O-1||2nd Lieutenant||2nd Lieutenant||Ensign||2nd Lieutenant|
|Pay Grade||Army||Marine Corps||Navy/Coast Guard||Air Force|
|W-5||Chief Warrant Officer, Five||Chief Warrant Officer, Five||Chief Warrant Officer, Five (not used by Coast Guard)||none - discontinued before creation of CW5|
|W-4||Chief Warrant Officer, Four||Chief Warrant Officer, Four||Chief Warrant Officer, Four||Chief Warrant Officer, Four (discontinued)|
|W-3||Chief Warrant Officer, Three||Chief Warrant Officer, Three||Chief Warrant Officer, Three||Chief Warrant Officer, Three (discontinued)|
|W-2||Chief Warrant Officer, Two||Chief Warrant Officer, Two||Chief Warrant Officer, Two||Chief Warrant Officer, Two (discontinued)|
|W-1||Warrant Officer, One||Warrant Officer, One||Warrant Officer, One (not used by Coast Guard)||Warrant Officer, One (discontinued)|
|Pay Grade||Army||Marine Corps||Navy/Coast Guard||Air Force|
|Sergeant Major of the Army||Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps||Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy/Coast Guard||Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force|
|E-9||Command Sergeant Major
Master Gunnery Sergeant
|Command Master Chief Petty Officer
Master Chief Petty Officer
|Command Chief Master Sergeant|
Chief Master Sergeant
|Command Senior Chief Petty Officer
Senior Chief Petty Officer
|Senior Master Sergeant|
|E-7||Sergeant First Class||Gunnery Sergeant||Chief Petty Officer||Master Sergeant|
|E-6||Staff Sergeant||Staff Sergeant||Petty Officer First Class||Technical Sergeant|
|E-5||Sergeant||Sergeant||Petty Officer Second Class||Staff Sergeant|
|E-4||Specialist/Corporal||Corporal||Petty Officer Third Class||Senior Airman|
|E-3||Private First Class||Lance Corporal||Seaman||Airman First Class|
|E-2||Private||Private First Class||Seaman Apprentice||Airman|
|E-1||Private||Private||Seaman Recruit||Airman Basic|
Star officer grades
|By star ranks|
|Life and homes|