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.
Adopted from Italian (generalissimo) and Latin (generalissimus), the rank titles literally mean "the utmost general". A number of countries, including the Republic of China, France, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Sweden and the USSR, have used these ranks. In most of these countries, the rank has only been held by one or two men.
The rank of grand marshal has been used by the armed forces of the Empire of Japan, the Republic of China and the military of North Korea. All three nations have used the Chinese rank of 大元帥 (da yuan shuai; literally "great marshal") with their own languages. In Japanese, the rank is dai-gensui and in Korean it is taewonsu.
During the early years of the Republic of China, three individuals assumed the rank of "grand marshal of the army and navy" (陸海軍大元帥): Yuan Shikai in 1913, Sun Yat-sen in 1917 and Zhang Zuolin in 1927. The rank of "general special class" or "generalissimo" (特級上將) was awarded to Chiang Kai-shek in 1935. No one in the People's Republic of China has ever been awarded the rank, though the supreme rank of "grand marshal of the People's Republic of China" (中華人民共和國大元帥 zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó dà yuánshuài) was proposed (perhaps for Mao Zedong) after the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949, but was never conferred.
The title Marshal General of France or more exactly "Marshal General of the King's camps and armies" (French: Maréchal général des camps et armées du roi) was given to signify that the recipient had authority over all the French armies in the days when a marshal usually governed only one army. This dignity was bestowed only on Marshals of France, usually when the dignity of Constable of France was unavailable or, after 1626, suppressed.
Marshal of France (French: Maréchal de France, plural Maréchaux de France) is a military distinction in contemporary France, not a military rank but is granted to generals for exceptional achievements. It was one of the great officers of the Crown of France during the Ancien Régime and Bourbon Restoration and one of the great dignitaries of the Empire during the First French Empire (when the title was not "marshal of France" but was "marshal of the Empire").
"Marshal of the Empire" (French: Maréchal d'Empire) was a civil dignity during the First French Empire. It was created by Sénatus-consulte on 18 May 1804 and to a large extent resurrected the formerly abolished title of marshal of France. According to the Sénatus-consulte, a marshal was a grand officer of the Empire, entitled to a high-standing position at the court and to the presidency of an electoral college.
The Italian rank of "first marshal of the Empire" was granted in 1938 to Benito Mussolini and King Victor Emmanuel III, who remain the only holders, as the rank (and the Italian Empire) was abolished after World War II.
The Japanese rank of dai-gensui ("grand marshal") was held by the Emperor of Japan in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Army (from 1889 to 1945), and was abolished in 1947. It was held by three people: Emperor Meiji, Emperor Taishō, and Emperor Shōwa.
In 1940 Nazi Germany, Hermann Göring was promoted by Adolf Hitler to Reichsmarschall, the highest rank in the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II (after the position of supreme commander, which was held by Hitler himself). Göring was the only person to hold this rank in modern times.
The rank of Reichsmarschall was originally created before the 12th century, during the time of the Holy Roman Empire. Historically, holding the rank of Reichsmarschall was neither unique nor as prestigious as it was during World War II. During the time of the German Empire and World War I, no one in the German armed forces held this rank.
The highest rank in North Korea is taewonsu and is intended to be an honorific title for the nation’s leaders. Its insignia is based on the North Korean wonsu insignia, but with an added crest. The rank was created in 1992 when it was awarded to Kim Il-sung, who was the only holder until 2012, when his successor Kim Jong-il was awarded the title posthumously. It is a seven-star equivalent rank.
The rank of wonsu is the highest military rank except taewonsu. Its insignia is a large single star, based on the insignia of marshal of the Soviet Union which is itself based on the marshal's star. North Koreans awarded the rank of wonsu have included: Kim Jong-il (1992), O Jin U (1992), Choe Kwang (1995) and Ri Ul-sol (1995). Rank of marshal with the title "marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (konghwaguk wonsu) is superior to "marshal of the Korean People's Army" (wonsu).
The Spanish rank mariscal presidente de los ejércitos (English: "marshal president of the armies") was a rank given by the Paraguayan Congress to Francisco Solano López at the beginning of the Paraguayan War. It is equivalent to the rank of grand marshal. López remains the only Paraguayan that was ranked as a marshal during his lifetime and also the only one with the title mariscal presidente de los ejércitos. José Félix Estigarribia posthumously received the rank of field marshal.
Marshal of the Russian Federation (Russian: Маршал Российской Федерации, tr. Marshal Rossiyskoy Federatsii) is the highest military rank of Russia, created in 1993 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The rank of "generalissimus of the Soviet Union" was created on 27 June 1945, and granted to Joseph Stalin, who never actually wore the insignia; instead, his tunic with Marshal had a special design different from the regular military uniform of a Marshal. He was the only person ever to hold the rank.
George Dewey was promoted to the U.S. rank of admiral of the navy on March 24, 1903, with effect from March 2, 1899. In 1944 the Navy Department declared Dewey's rank to be senior to the then newly created five-star rank of fleet admiral.
During the preparations for the invasion of Japan, a proposal was raised by the Navy Department to appoint Chester Nimitz to the rank of admiral of the navy, or grant him some equivalent rank. The proposal, however, was dropped after the Japanese surrender.
The U.S. rank of general of the armies was first created in 1799, but not awarded.
John Pershing was promoted to "General of the Armies" in 1919, from what was then the highest rank, the four-star rank of general. Under the regulations of the time, he was permitted to choose his insignia, and he chose four gold stars, in contrast to the four silver stars used by U.S. general and admiral rank insignia.
In 1945, in preparation for the invasion of Japan, it was proposed that General Douglas MacArthur be promoted to "general of the armies", and that this would explicitly be a six-star rank. However, this and a subsequent proposal in 1955 were never adopted.
In 1976, as part of the American Bicentennial celebrations, a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress stated that "it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington". Hence, it was resolved that "the grade of General of the Armies of the United States (be) established" and George Washington be posthumously appointed to this grade.
Alexander Nikolaevich Manvelov (Georgian: ალექსანდრე მანველიშვილი Alexandre Manvelishvili. Russian: Манвелов, Александр Николаевич) (6 April 1824 – 2 April 1906) was a general of imperial Russia, Active Privy Councillor and a patron to several Russian civilian institutions.Augustus II the Strong
Augustus II the Strong (Polish: August II Mocny; German: August II. der Starke; Lithuanian: Augustas II; 12 May 1670 – 1 February 1733), also known in Saxony as Frederick Augustus I, was Elector of Saxony from 1697, Imperial Vicar and elected King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania in the years 1697–1706 and from 1709 until his death in 1733.
Augustus' great physical strength earned him the nicknames "the Strong", "the Saxon Hercules" and "Iron-Hand". He liked to show that he lived up to his name by breaking horseshoes with his bare hands and engaging in fox tossing by holding the end of his sling with just one finger while two of the strongest men in his court held the other end. He is also notable for fathering a very large number of children.
In order to be elected King of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Augustus converted to Roman Catholicism. As a Catholic, he received the Order of the Golden Fleece from the Holy Roman Emperor. As Elector of Saxony, he is perhaps best remembered as a patron of the arts and architecture. He established the Saxon capital of Dresden as a major cultural centre, attracting artists from across Europe to his court. Augustus also amassed an impressive art collection and built lavish baroque palaces in Dresden and Warsaw.
His reigns brought Poland some troubled times. He led the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Great Northern War, which allowed the Russian Empire to strengthen its influence in Europe, especially within Poland. His main pursuit was bolstering royal power in the Commonwealth, characterized by broad decentralization in comparison with other European monarchies. He tried to accomplish this goal using foreign powers and thus destabilized the state. Augustus ruled Poland with an interval; in 1704 the Swedes installed nobleman Stanisław Leszczyński as king, who officially reigned from 1706 to 1709 and after Augustus' death in 1733 which sparked the War of the Polish Succession.Field marshal (United Kingdom)
Field Marshal has been the highest rank in the British Army since 1736. A five-star rank with NATO code OF-10, it is equivalent to an Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy or a Marshal of the Royal Air Force in the Royal Air Force (RAF). A Field Marshal's insignia consists of two crossed batons surrounded by yellow leaves below St Edward's Crown. Like Marshals of the RAF and Admirals of the Fleet, Field Marshals traditionally remain officers for life, though on half-pay when not in an appointment. The rank has been used sporadically throughout its history and was vacant during parts of the 18th and 19th centuries (when all former holders of the rank were deceased). After the Second World War, it became standard practice to appoint the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (later renamed Chief of the General Staff) to the rank on his last day in the post. Army officers occupying the post of Chief of the Defence Staff, the professional head of all the British Armed Forces, were usually promoted to the rank upon their appointment.In total, 141 men have held the rank of field marshal. The majority led careers in the British Army or the British Indian Army, rising through the ranks to eventually become a field marshal. Some members of the British Royal Family—most recently Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and Charles, Prince of Wales—were promoted to the rank after shorter periods of service. Three British monarchs—George V, Edward VIII, and George VI— assumed the rank on their accessions to the throne, while Edward VII was already a field marshal, and two British consorts—Albert, Prince Consort and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh—were appointed by their respective queens. Other ceremonial appointments were made as diplomatic gestures. Twelve foreign monarchs held the honour, though three (Wilhelm II, German Emperor; Franz Joseph I, Austrian Emperor; and Hirohito, Emperor of Japan) were stripped of it when their countries became enemies of Britain and her allies in the two world wars. Also awarded the rank were one Frenchman (Ferdinand Foch) and one Australian (Sir Thomas Blamey), honoured for their contributions to World War I and World War II respectively, and one foreign statesman (Jan Smuts).A report commissioned by the Ministry of Defence in 1995 made a number of recommendations for financial savings in the armed forces' budget, one of which was the abolition of the five-star ranks. Part of the rationale was that these ranks were disproportionate to the size of the forces commanded by these officers and that none of the United Kingdom's close allies, such as the United States (which reserves the rank of general of the army for officers who have commanded large armies in major wars), used such ranks. The recommendation was not taken up in full, but the practice of promoting service chiefs to five-star ranks was stopped and the ranks are now reserved for special circumstances. Sir Peter Inge was, in 1994, the last active officer to be promoted to the rank. Inge relinquished the post of Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) in 1997 and his successor, Sir Charles Guthrie, was the first officer not to be promoted upon appointment as CDS.The most recent promotions to field marshal came in 2012, eighteen years after the moratorium on routine promotions to the rank, when Queen Elizabeth II promoted Prince Charles, her son and heir apparent, to the five-star ranks in all three services, in recognition of support provided for her in her capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces. At the same time, Guthrie, who relinquished the post of CDS and retired from active service in 2001, was promoted to honorary field marshal. In June 2014 former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Walker of Aldringham was also promoted to honorary field marshal.Although the rank of field marshal is not used in the Royal Marines, the insignia is used on the uniform of the Captain General, the ceremonial head of the corps (equivalent to colonel-in-chief).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).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.Head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces
The Head of the Thai Armed Forces (Thai: จอมทัพไทย; RTGS: Chom Thap Thai) is a position vested in the Thai monarch, who as sovereign and head of state is the commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Armed Forces.
The position is only nominal. The armed forces are actually managed by the Ministry of Defence, headed by the Minister of Defence (a member of the cabinet) and commanded by the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, which in turn is headed by the Chief of the Defence Forces.History of Germany
The concept of Germany as a distinct region in central Europe can be traced to Roman commander Julius Caesar, who referred to the unconquered area east of the Rhine as Germania, thus distinguishing it from Gaul (France), which he had conquered. The victory of the Germanic tribes in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (AD 9) prevented annexation by the Roman Empire, although the Roman provinces of Germania Superior and Germania Inferior were established along the Rhine. Following the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Franks conquered the other West Germanic tribes. When the Frankish Empire was divided among Charles the Great's heirs in 843, the eastern part became East Francia. In 962, Otto I became the first Holy Roman Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the medieval German state.
In the Late Middle Ages, the regional dukes, princes, and bishops gained power at the expense of the emperors. Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation against the Catholic Church after 1517, as the northern states became Protestant, while the southern states remained Catholic. The two parts of the Holy Roman Empire clashed in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which was ruinous to the twenty million civilians living in both parts. The Thirty Years' War brought tremendous destruction to Germany; more than 1/4 of the population and 1/2 of the male population in the German states were killed by the catastrophic war. 1648 marked the effective end of the Holy Roman Empire and the beginning of the modern nation-state system, with Germany divided into numerous independent states, such as Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Austria and other states, which also controlled land outside of the area considered "Germany".
After the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars from 1803–1815, feudalism fell away and liberalism and nationalism clashed with reaction. The German revolutions of 1848–49 failed. The Industrial Revolution modernized the German economy, led to the rapid growth of cities and the emergence of the socialist movement in Germany. Prussia, with its capital Berlin, grew in power. German universities became world-class centers for science and humanities, while music and art flourished. The unification of Germany (excluding Austria and the German-speaking areas of Switzerland) was achieved under the leadership of the Chancellor Otto von Bismarck with the formation of the German Empire in 1871. This resulted in the Kleindeutsche Lösung, ("small Germany solution", Germany without Austria), rather than the Großdeutsche Lösung, ("greater Germany solution", Germany with Austria). The new Reichstag, an elected parliament, had only a limited role in the imperial government. Germany joined the other powers in colonial expansion in Africa and the Pacific.
By 1900, Germany was the dominant power on the European continent and its rapidly expanding industry had surpassed Britain's while provoking it in a naval arms race. Germany led the Central Powers in World War I (1914–1918) against France, Great Britain, Russia and (by 1917) the United States. Defeated and partly occupied, Germany was forced to pay war reparations by the Treaty of Versailles and was stripped of its colonies as well as of home territory to be ceded to Czechoslovakia, Belgium, France, and Poland. The German Revolution of 1918–19 put an end to the federal constitutional monarchy, which resulted in the establishment of the Weimar Republic, an unstable parliamentary democracy.
In the early 1930s, the worldwide Great Depression hit Germany hard, as unemployment soared and people lost confidence in the government. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. His Nazi Party quickly established a totalitarian regime, and Nazi Germany made increasingly aggressive territorial demands, threatening war if they were not met. Remilitarization of the Rhineland came in 1936, then annexation of Austria in the Anschluss and parts of Czechoslovakia with the Munich Agreement in 1938, and further territory of Czechoslovakia in 1939. On 1 September 1939, Germany initiated World War II in Europe with the invasion of Poland. After forming a pact with the Soviet Union in 1939, Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe. After a "Phoney War" in spring 1940, the Germans swept Denmark and Norway, the Low Countries, and France, giving Germany control of nearly all of Western Europe. Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.
Racism, especially antisemitism, was a central feature of the Nazi regime. In Germany, but predominantly in the German-occupied areas, the systematic genocide program known as the Holocaust killed 11 million, including Jews, German dissidents, disabled people, Poles, Romanies, Soviets (Russian and non-Russian), and others. In 1942, the German invasion of the Soviet Union faltered, and after the United States entered the war, Britain became the base for massive Anglo-American bombings of German cities. Following the Allied invasion of Normandy (June 1944), the German Army was pushed back on all fronts until the final collapse in May 1945.
Under occupation by the Allies, German territories were split up, Austria was again made a separate country, denazification took place, and the Cold War resulted in the division of the country into democratic West Germany and communist East Germany, reduced in territory by the establishment of the Oder-Neisse line. Millions of ethnic Germans were deported from pre-war Eastern Germany, Sudetenland, and from all over Eastern Europe, or fled from Communist areas into West Germany, which experienced rapid economic expansion, and became the dominant economy in Western Europe. West Germany was rearmed in the 1950s under the auspices of NATO but without access to nuclear weapons. The Franco-German friendship became the basis for the political integration of Western Europe in the European Union. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was destroyed, the Soviet Union collapsed, and East Germany was reunited with West Germany in 1990. In 1998–1999, Germany was one of the founding countries of the eurozone. Germany remains one of the economic powerhouses of Europe, contributing about one-quarter of the eurozone's annual gross domestic product. In the early 2010s, Germany played a critical role in trying to resolve the escalating euro crisis, especially concerning Greece and other Southern European nations. In the middle of the decade, the country faced the European migrant crisis as the main receiver of asylum seekers from Syria and other troubled regions.
For more events, see Timeline of German history.Manuel the Armenian
Manuel the Armenian was a prominent Byzantine general of Armenian origin, active from circa 810 until his death. After reaching the highest military ranks, a palace conspiracy forced him to seek refuge in the Abbasid court in 829. He returned to Byzantine service the next year, receiving the position of Domestic of the Schools from Emperor Theophilos, who had married his niece Theodora. Manuel remained in the post throughout Theophilos's reign, and reportedly saved the emperor's life in the Battle of Anzen in 838. According to one report, he died on 27 July 838 of wounds received during the battle, but other sources record his survival past this date, ascribing him a major role in the regency that governed the empire after Theophilos's death, and report that he died some time around 860.National Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela
The National Bolivarian Armed Forces (Spanish: Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana) are controlled by the Commander-in-Chief (the President) and a civilian Minister of Defense. In addition to the army, navy, and air force there is also a national guard and national militia primarily focused on internal security.
The armed forces primary purpose is to defend Venezuelan territory from attack, combat drug trafficking, provide search and rescue capabilities, aid the civilian population in case of natural disasters protection, as well as numerous internal security assignments. As of 2018, the armed forces had 123,000 active personnel and 8,000 reservists as well as 220,000 paramilitary troops.Pavel Yaguzhinsky
The Count (from 1731) Pavel Ivanovich Yaguzhinsky (Yagushinsky) (1683, Grand Duchy of Lithuania – April 17, 1736, Saint Petersburg) was a Russian statesman and diplomat, associate of Peter the Great, Chamberlain (1712), Ober-Stallmeister (1727), General-in-chief (1727), the first Attorney General in Russian history (1722–1726, 1730–1735). He was famous for his honesty and integrity, which Peter the Great appreciated in him in the first place.Piłsudski's colonels
Piłsudski's colonels, or the colonels' regime (in Polish called simply "the colonels"), dominated the government of the Second Polish Republic from 1926 to 1939. In some contexts, the term refers primarily to the final period, 1935–39, following the death of their mentor and patron, Józef Piłsudski.President of Armenia
The President of Armenia (Armenian: Հայաստանի Նախագահ, Hayastani Nakhagah) is the head of state and the guarantor of independence and territorial integrity of Armenia elected to a single seven year term by the National Assembly of Armenia. Under Armenia's parliamentary system, the President is simply a figurehead and holds ceremonial duties, with most of the political power vested in the Parliament and Prime Minister.President of Georgia
The President of Georgia (Georgian: საქართველოს პრეზიდენტი, translit.: sakartvelos p'rezident'i) is the constitutional Head of State of Georgia as well as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Forces. They represent Georgia in foreign relations. The constitution defines the presidential office as "the guarantor of the country’s unity and national independence."The President's role is largely ceremonial as in many parliamentary democracies. Prime Minister is the head of government. The office was first introduced by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia on 14 April 1991, five days after Georgia's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. The President serves a five-year term.President of Uzbekistan
The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Uzbek: Oʻzbekiston Respublikasining Prezidenti, Ўзбекистон Республикасининг Президенти) is the head of state and executive authority in Uzbekistan. The office of President was established in 1991, replacing the position of Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Uzbek SSR, which had existed since 1925. The president is directly elected for a term of five years, by citizens of Uzbekistan who have reached 18 years of age.Islam Karimov was the only President of Uzbekistan for 25 years following the establishment of the office, and he won three consecutive elections which many consider to have been rigged. The third election was the most controversial since he had been elected twice, and the current constitution stipulated a maximum of two terms. The official explanation was that his first term in office, of five years, was under the previous constitution and did not count towards the new limit. He died in office on 2 September 2016. A joint session of both houses of the Supreme Assembly of Uzbekistan appointed Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev as interim president on 8 September 2016. In December 2016, Mirziyoyev was elected president in a popular vote, though international observers described the election as not free and fair, due to restrictions on media reporting and ballot stuffing.
Highest military ranks
Star officer grades
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