Major general (United States)

In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general.[Note 1] A major general typically commands division-sized units of 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers. Major general is equivalent to the two-star rank of rear admiral in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard, and is the highest-permanent rank during peacetime in the uniformed-services. Higher ranks are technically-temporary ranks linked to specific positions, although virtually all officers promoted to those ranks are approved to retire at their highest earned rank.

Major general
US-O8 insignia
Army, Air Force and Marine Corps two-star insignia of the rank of major general.
USN-USMC O8 insignia
Shoulder two-star rank insignia of major general for the above services.
Country United States
Service branch
NATO rankOF-7
Non-NATO rankO-8
Next higher rankLieutenant General
Next lower rankBrigadier General
Equivalent ranks

Statutory limits

Flag of a United States Army major general
Rank flag of a major general in the United States Army. The flag of a major general of the Army Medical Department has a maroon background; the flag of a chaplain (major general) has a black background.
Flag of a United States Marine Corps major general
Flag of a United States Marine Corps Major general.
Flag of a United States Air Force major general
Flag of a United States Air Force Major general.
U.S. Army insignia of the rank of Major general. Style and method of wear may vary between the services.
US Marine O8 shoulderboard
U.S. Marine Corps insignia of the rank of Major general. Style and method of wear may vary between the services.
US Air Force O8 shoulderboard
U.S. Air Force insignia of the rank of Major general. Style and method of wear may vary between the services.

The United States Code explicitly limits the total number of general officers that may be on active duty at any given time. The total number of active duty general officers is capped at 231 for the Army, 62 for the Marine Corps, and 198 for the Air Force.[1] Some of these slots are reserved or finitely set by statute. For example, the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Army[2] is a major general in the Army; the same rank is held by the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Air Force;[3] the Army's Chief of Engineers[4] is also appointed as a major general and thereafter promoted to lieutenant general.

The United States Code also limits the total number of general officers that may be on the Reserve Active Status List (RASL) in the Reserve Component, which is defined in the case of general officers as the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve.

Promotion, appointment, and tour length

To be promoted to the permanent grade of major general, officers who are eligible for promotion to this rank are screened by an in-service promotion board comprising other general officers from their branch of service.[5] This promotion board then generates a list of officers it recommends for promotion to general rank.[6] This list is then sent to the service secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff for review before it can be sent to the President, through the Secretary of Defense for consideration.[7] The President nominates officers to be promoted from this list with the advice of the Secretary of Defense, the service secretary, and if applicable, the service's chief of staff or commandant.[8] The President may nominate any eligible officer who is not on the recommended list if it serves in the interest of the nation, but this is uncommon. The Senate must then confirm the nominee by a majority vote before the officer can be promoted. Once confirmed, the nominee is promoted to that rank on assuming a position of office that requires an officer to hold the rank. For positions of office that are reserved by statute, the President nominates an officer for appointment to fill that position. For all three of the applicable uniformed services, because the grade of major general is a permanent rank, the nominee may still be screened by an in-service promotion board to add their input on the nominee before the nomination can be sent to the Senate for approval. Since the grade of major general is permanent, the rank does not expire when the officer vacates a two-star position. Tour length varies depending on the position, by statute, and/or when the officer receives a new assignment or a promotion, but the average tour length per two-star billet is two to four years.

In the Army, Major Generals (MG) typically serve as division commanders (e.g., infantry divisions, cavalry division, etc.), training center commanders, joint task force commanders, deputy commanding generals to 3-star generals, chief of staff in 4-star commands, senior directors on Army and joint staffs, and, in the case of the Army National Guard, as The Adjutant General (TAG) for their state, commonwealth or territory.

In the Marine Corps, Major Generals (MajGen) typically serve as commanding generals or deputy commanding generals of Marine Expeditionary Forces, Marine Divisions, Marine Aircraft Wings, Joint Task Force Commanders, or senior directors on Marine Corps and joint staffs.

In the Air Force, Major Generals (Maj Gen) typically serve as Numbered Air Force commanders, vice commanders of 3-star commands, joint task force commanders, warfare center, training center, weapons center, or logistics center commanders, or senior directors on Air Force and joint staffs. In the case of the Air National Guard, they may also serve as The Adjutant General (TAG) for their state, commonwealth or territory.


Other than voluntary retirement, statute sets a number of mandates for retirement of general officers (called flag officers in the Navy and Coast Guard). All major generals must retire after five years in grade or 35 years of service, whichever is later, unless appointed for promotion or reappointed to grade to serve longer.[9] Otherwise, all general officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday.[10]


Marquis de Lafayette 2
Lafayette in a uniform of a major general of the Continental Army.

U.S. Army

The Continental Army was established on June 15, 1775 when the Continental Congress commissioned George Washington as a general and placed him in command of the Army of Observation then besieging Boston. The rank of major general was first established two days later on June 17, 1775 when two major generals were commissioned by Congress soon followed by two more major generals being appointed on June 19.

Following the disbanding of the Continental Army at the end of 1783 only one major general, Henry Knox, remained in service until his resignation in June 1784. The rank was revived on March 4, 1791 when Arthur St. Clair was appointed as major general in command of the U.S. Army. St. Clair was succeeded by Major General Anthony Wayne who commanded the Army (then named the Legion of the United States) until his death on December 15, 1796. The rank was revived on July 19, 1798 when Alexander Hamilton and Charles C. Pinckney were commissioned as major generals during the Quasi War with France. The expanded Army was demobilized on June 15, 1800 when it was reduced to only four regiments of infantry and two of artillery commanded by a brigadier general.

The rank of major general was abolished in the U.S. Army by the Act of March 16, 1802,[11] and restored by the Act of January 11, 1812,[12] as preparations were being made for the War of 1812. Major general has been a rank in the U.S. Army ever since.

Until the American Civil War, major general was the highest rank that could be attained by an officer in the U.S. Army, though Winfield Scott had been given the brevet rank of lieutenant general[13] in 1855. This was a consequence of the fact that at his death George Washington was officially listed as holding the rank of lieutenant general, rather than full general, and it was regarded as improper for an officer to hold a rank equal to or superior to Washington's. To address this anomaly, Washington was posthumously promoted by Congress to the rank of General of the Armies of the United States in 1976.

The position of Major General Commanding the Army was entitled to wear three stars according to General Order No. 6 of March 13, 1861.[14] When Ulysses S. Grant was appointed lieutenant general on March 9, 1864,[15] and took command of the Union forces, he used the three-star insignia formerly assigned to that position.

Confederate States Army

The Confederate States Army maintained a similar rank of major general, usually associated with the command of a division, while lieutenant generals often commanded corps and full generals led armies as a general convention.

U.S. Marine Corps

There was no major general in the U.S. Marine Corps until Commandant Charles Heywood was specially promoted by Act of Congress in July 1902. From his retirement on October 3, 1903, brigadier general was again the highest rank in the Marine Corps until May 21, 1908, when the rank held by the commandant was raised to major general. It remained the highest rank in the Marine Corps until January 20, 1942, when the rank held by the commandant was raised to lieutenant general.

U.S. Air Force

Given that the U.S. Air Force evolved from its predecessors, the U.S. Army Air Service, the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Army Air Forces, the rank of major general in the Air Force coincides with its establishment as an independent service in 1947.

See also


  1. ^ 10 USC § 526. Authorized strength: general and flag officers on active duty
  2. ^ 10 USC 3037 Judge Advocate General, Assistant Judge Advocate General, and general officers of Judge Advocate General's Corps: appointment; duties
  3. ^ 10 USC 8037 Judge Advocate General, Deputy Judge Advocate General: appointment; duties
  4. ^ 10 USC 3036 Chiefs of branches: appointment; duties
  5. ^ 10 USC 611 Convening of selection boards
  6. ^ 10 USC 616 Recommendations for promotion by selection boards
  7. ^ 10 USC 618 Action on reports of selection boards
  8. ^ 10 USC 624 Promotions: how made
  9. ^ 10 USC 636 Archived 2009-02-24 at the Wayback Machine Retirement for years of service: regular officers in grades above brigadier general and rear admiral (lower half)
  10. ^ 10 USC 1253 Archived 2015-11-01 at the Wayback Machine Age 64: regular commissioned officers in general and flag officer grades; exception
  11. ^ "Act of March 16, 1802, ch. 9, 2 Stat. 132". Archived from the original on 2017-06-27. Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  12. ^ "Act of January 11, 1812, ch. 14, 2 Stat. 671". Archived from the original on 2017-06-27. Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  13. ^ Foote, p 918
  14. ^ General Order No. 6 Archived 2008-02-15 at the Wayback Machine Regulations for the Uniform and Dress of the Army of the United States 1861
  15. ^ Boatner, p 353


  1. ^ Lt. General outranks a Maj. General because historically the title of Maj. General began as Sergeant-major general. A Lt. outranks a Sergeant-major, which is typically the highest rank in the enlisted ranks. Over time the "Sergeant" was dropped and by about the late 17th/early 18th century it had been shortened to Maj. General. But the ranking remained the same, i.e. under that of Lt. General.
Carroll LeTellier

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Charles Henry Muir

Charles Henry Muir (July 18, 1860 – December 8, 1933) was a Major general in the United States Army. He served on active duty during the American Indian Wars, Spanish–American War, Philippine–American War, occupation of Cuba, and World War I.

Clarion University of Pennsylvania

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Cragg is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Alistair Cragg (born 1980), South African-born Irish long-distance runner

Dan Cragg (born 1939), American writer

Edward "Porky" Cragg (1919-1943), American fighter ace of World War II

Edward Joseph Cragg (1887-1953), civil servant, businessman and political figure in Nova Scotia, Canada

Ernest T. Cragg (1922-2006), American Major General, United States Air Force

John Cragg (1767–1854), English ironmaster

Kenneth Cragg (1913–2012), British Anglican priest and scholar

Stephen Cragg, American television producer and director

Tony Cragg (born 1949), English artist

Douglas M. Stone

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Galusha Pennypacker

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Hiram Berdan

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Oliver Edwards

Oliver Edwards (January 30, 1835 – April 28, 1904) was a machine company executive, an inventor, and a volunteer officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, Edwards moved to Illinois as a young man to pursue a career as a manager of manufacturing. At the start of the Civil War, he became adjutant of the 10th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and later aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Darius N. Couch. In the fall of 1862, he took command of the 37th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry as colonel and led that unit through numerous major battles including the Battle of Gettysburg. Just after Gettysburg, in July 1863, he was placed in command of a provisional brigade sent to assist in quelling the New York Draft Riots. During the Overland Campaign in the spring of 1864, he was placed in command of a brigade and, during the Valley Campaigns of 1864 he was briefly placed in command of a division of the VI Corps. For his service during these campaigns, Edwards was awarded the honorary rank of brevet brigadier general and later promoted to full grade brigadier general United States Volunteers. In 1866 he was awarded the honorary rank of brevet major general, United States Volunteers, to rank from April 5, 1865, for his service during the Appomattox Campaign.After the war, Edwards returned to a career in manufacturing, most notably as manager of the Florence Machine Company in Northampton, Massachusetts and the Gardner Machine and Gun Company in England.

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Pershing House

The Pershing House is located on Fort Sam Houston, in the Bexar County city of San Antonio in the U.S. state of Texas. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Bexar County, Texas on July 30, 1974. Although this Commanding General housing was actually constructed in 1881, it has been referred to by its current name since John J. Pershing served as the base Commandant in 1917. Architect Alfred Giles was contracted to design the 10,830 square feet (1,000 m2), two-story house. In various phases during the 20th century, improvements have included the installation of electricity and air conditioning. The porch is now enclosed, and the plumbing upgraded.At one point in its existence, Fort Sam Houston was the largest Army post within the United States. The commanding officers who have called the house a home were some of the most accomplished leaders in the United States Army prior to their being given charge of the base. Numerous Medal of Honor recipients have lived in the house. Almost half of the base commandants were buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Pershing had been transferred to Fort Sam Houston from Fort Bliss, following his participation in the Pancho Villa Expedition. He would only be at Fort Sam Houston for two months before being given charge of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Pershing held the highest rank ever given an American army officer, and was one of the architects of the Treaty of Versailles.The names of the house's residents appear on a plaque presented to Fort Sam Houston by Julia Cotton White, wife of base commandant General Isaac D. White. The plaque continues to be updated as an historical record of who lived there. Mrs. White died in 1989.

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Samuel P. Carter

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Two-star rank

An officer of two-star rank is a senior commander in many of the armed services holding a rank described by the NATO code of OF-7. The term is also used by some armed forces which are not NATO members. Typically, two-star officers hold the rank of rear admiral, counter admiral, major general, or in the case of those air forces with a separate rank structure, air vice-marshal.

United States uniformed services commissioned officer and officer candidate ranks
Pay grade / branch of service Officer
O-1 O-2 O-3 O-4 O-5 O-6 O-7 O-8 O-9 O-10 O-11 Special
Officer Candidate[1] Second lieutenant / Ensign First lieutenant / Lieutenant (junior grade) Captain / Lieutenant[6] Major / Lieutenant commander Lieutenant colonel / Commander Colonel / Captain Brigadier general / Rear admiral (lower half) Major General / Rear admiral[6] Lieutenant general / Vice admiral[6] General / Admiral[6] General of the Air Force / General of the Army / Fleet Admiral General of the Armies / Admiral of the Navy[2]
Midn / Cand 2ndLt 1stLt Capt Maj LtCol Col BGen MajGen LtGen Gen [5] [5]
Cadet / OT / OC 2nd Lt 1st Lt Capt Maj Lt Col Col Brig Gen Maj Gen Lt Gen Gen GAF[3] [5]
United States warrant officer ranks
W-1 W-2 W-3 W-4 W-5
USMC WO1.svg
US Navy WO1 insignia.svg
US Navy CW2 insignia.svg
US Navy CW3 insignia.svg
US Navy CW4 insignia.svg
US Navy CW5 insignia.svg
USAF CW5.png
USCG WO1 insignia.svg
USCG CW2 insignia.svg
USCG CW3 insignia.svg
USCG CW4 insignia.svg
[2] [2] [2] [2] [3]
[3] [3] [3] [3] [3]

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