General of the Army (United States)
General of the Army (GA) is a five-star
general officerand is the highest possible rank in the United States Army. 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 four uniformed services. Often referred to as a five-star general, General of the Army is reserved for war-time use only and is not currently in use by the Army.
Post-American Civil War era
July 25, 1866, the U.S. Congress established the rank of "General of the Army of the United States" for Ulysses S. Grant. When appointed General of the Army, Grant wore the rank insignia of four stars and coat buttons arranged in three groups of four.
Unlike the World War II rank with a similar title, the 1866 rank of General of the Army was a four-star rank. Unlike the modern four-star rank of general, only one officer could hold the 1866–1888 rank of General of the Army at any time.
After Grant retired to private life, he was succeeded as General of the Army by
William T. Sherman, effective March 4, 1869. In 1872, Sherman ordered the insignia changed to two stars with the coat of arms of the United States in between.
By an Act of
June 1 1888, the grade of lieutenant general was discontinued and merged in that of General of the Army, which was then conferred upon Philip H. Sheridan. (The cover of Sheridan's autobiography was decorated with four stars within a rectangle evocative of the four-star shoulder strap worn by Grant.) The rank of general of the Army ceased to exist upon the death of Sheridan on August 5 1888and the highest rank of the United States Army was again the two star major general rank.
World War II era
The second version of General of the Army was created by Pub.L. passed on
14 December 1944, [cite web
title= Public Law 482
accessdate= 2008-04-29] first as a temporary rank, then made permanent
23 March 1946by an act of the 79th Congress. [cite web
title= Public Law 333, 79th Congress
April 11 2007|publisher= Naval Historical Center
accessdate= 2007-10-22 ] It was created to give the most senior American commanders parity of rank with their British counterparts holding the rank of
Field Marshal. The acts also created a comparable rank of Fleet Admiral for the Navy. This second General of the Army rank is not considered comparable to the American Civil War era version.
The insignia for General of the Army, as created in 1944, consisted of five stars in a pentagonal pattern, with points touching. The five officers who have held the 1944 version of General of the Army were
The timing of the first four appointments was coordinated with the appointment of the U.S. Navy's five-star Fleet Admirals (on 15, 17, and 19 December 1944) to establish both a clear order of seniority and a near-equivalence between the services.
A historical rumor suggests that the title 'General of the Army' was used instead of the 'Field Marshal' so that George Marshall would not be known as "Marshal Marshall". Most military sources agree that it is more likely that the rank was named after its 19th century counterpart and was so named because the rank of Field Marshal was considered by the U.S. military to be a European rank. Fact|date=November 2007
Dwight Eisenhower resigned his Army commission on
May 31 1952to run for president. After he served two terms, his successor, John F. Kennedy, signed USPL|87|3 on March 23, 1961, which returned Eisenhower to Active Duty of Regular Army in grade of General of the Army dated back to December 1944.This rank is today commemorated on the signs denoting Interstate Highways as part of the Eisenhower Interstate System, which display five silver stars on a light blue background. [cite web
title= Eisenhower Military Ranks
Eisenhower Presidential Center
accessdate= 2007-10-22 ] [cite web
title= Eisenhower Resigned as General
publisher= Eisenhower Presidential Center
accessdate= 2007-10-22 ]
There have been no officers appointed to the rank of General of the Army since
Omar Bradley. The rank of General of the Army is still maintained as a rank of the U.S. military, and could again be bestowed, during a time of war, pending approval of the United States Congress. Current U.S. military policy is that General of the Army, General of the Air Force, and Fleet Admiral are ranks only to be used when a commander of U.S. forces must be equal to or of higher rank than commanders of armies from another nation.Fact|date=September 2008
In the 1990s, the Defense Department gave indication that the office of
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffwould possibly one day be a position worthy of five-star rank.Fact|date=September 2008 This would be problematic in that with the appointment of United States Marine Corps Generals as Chairman, there is no current five-star USMC rank. Congressional sourcesWho|date=September 2008 indicated that there were no plans to promote any modern-day general officers to the rank of General of the Army. Fact|date=November 2007
General of the Armies
The rank of General of the Armies is considered senior to General of the Army, and was bestowed on only one officer,
John J. Pershing, in 1919 for his services in World War I.
When the five-star rank of General of the Army was introduced, it was decided that General Pershing (still living at the time) would be superior to all the newly-appointed Generals of the Army. Then-Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson was asked whether Pershing was therefore a six-star general. Stimson stated:
:"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."
George Washingtonwas posthumously appointed to the rank of "General of the Armies of the United States" in 1976 as part of the American Bicentennialcelebrations. According to , General of the Armies of the United States is established as having "rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present," clearly making it distinctly superior in grade to General of the Army.
The rank of General of the Army is equivalent to the U.S. Air Force's rank of
General of the Air Forceand the U.S. Navy's rank of Fleet Admiral. None of the other uniformed services of the United Stateshave an equivalent rank.
* [http://usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/armyorank/blgoa.htm General of the Armies of the United States and General of the Army of the United States]
List of United States military leaders by rank
United States Army officer rank insignia
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