General of the Armies


General of the Armies

General of the Armies (or in its full title General of the Armies of the United States) is the highest possible rank in the United States Army. For the next rank down, see General of the Army.

No one currently holds this rank, and it has never been used by an active duty Army officer at the same time as General of the Army, so it is not entirely clear how the two ranks would legally compare to each other.

History

American Revolutionary War era

During the American Revolutionary War the Continental Congress appointed General Officers to lead the Continental Army. They were normally distinguished community leaders and statesmen, with several having served as provincial officers in the British Army. While there were some General Officers who were promoted to the grade from the Colonel ranks, most held their ranks by initial appointment and then with such appointment at the pleasure of the Congress, to be expired or revoked at the end of a particular campaign.

With the exception of George Washington, the General Officers at that point were Brigadier Generals or Major Generals. Their insignia was one or two stars worn on a golden epaulet.

During the American Revolutionary War George Washington was the highest ranking officer of the Continental Army, and he held the title of "General and Commander in Chief" of the Continental Army. He wore three stars on his epaulets.

A year prior to his death, Washington was appointed by President John Adams to the rank of Lieutenant General in the United States Army during the Quasi-War with France. Washington never exercised active authority under his new rank, however, and Adams made the appointment to frighten the French, with whom war seemed certain.

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 proposed senior general officer rank was not bestowed, however. When George Washington died, he was listed as a lieutenant general on the rolls of the United States Army. After World War II, which saw the introduction of U.S. "5-star" officers, Washington's rank was readdressed (see below).

After the Revolutionary War, the tiny United States Army at first had no active duty general officers. When general officer ranks were recreated, the highest rank was Major General. The senior Major General on the Army rolls was referred to as the Commanding General of the United States Army. The position was abolished at the start of the 20th century and replaced with that of Chief of Staff of the United States Army.

World War I era

Three star Lieutenant Generals and four star Generals were reauthorized temporarily during nowrap|World War I. Tasker H. Bliss and John J. Pershing were promoted to General in October 1917, and Peyton C. March was promoted in May 1918. Hunter Liggett and Robert Lee Bullard were promoted to Lieutenant General on October 16, 1918. On September 3, 1919 USPL|66|45 granted Pershing the rank of "General of the Armies" in recognition of his performance as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force. After the war, in 1920, the Lieutenant Generals and Generals reverted to their permanent ranks of Major General [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9501E2DB103AE03ABC4850DFB066838B639EDE Only Major Generals Now; March, Liggett and Bullard Lose War Rank] The New York Times, June 30, 1920] , except for Pershing. Pershing retired from the United States Army on September 13, 1924, and retained his rank of General of the Armies of the United States until his death in 1948. [ [http://www.army.mil/cmh/faq/FAQ-5star.htm How many U.S. Army five-star generals have there been and who were they?] ] Pershing wore four gold stars during his tenure as General of the Armies. Four star Generals were reauthorized in 1929, starting with Charles Pelot Summerall, and five star Generals of the Army were created in 1944. Pershing was deemed senior to both of those ranks, but it remains unclear whether General of the Armies was considered a five or six star rank.

ix Star Rank

Insignia

General Pershing was offered the option to create his own insignia for the position General of the Armies. He chose to continue to wear the four stars of a General, but in gold, instead of the four silver stars used by a regular general. Army Regulations 600-35, Personnel: The Prescribed Uniform, October 12, 1921, and all subsequent editions during General Pershing's lifetime, made no mention of insignia for General of the Armies but prescribed that generals would wear four stars.

On December 14, 1944, when the rank of General of the Army was established, Army Regulations 600-35 were changed to prescribe that Generals of the Army would wear five silver stars. General Pershing continued to wear only four gold stars, but he remained preeminent among all Army personnel until his death in 1948.

In 1945, the Institute of Heraldry prepared a conjectural insignia which would have incorporated a sixth star into the five-star design of General of the Army. As no proposal to appoint a new General of the Armies was ever firmly developed, the United States Army has never officially approved a six-star general insignia. [Service Record of Douglas MacArthur -- 1945 Promotion Proposal Package.]

eniority

During World War II the United States Army established the five-star rank of General of the Army. By order of seniority, it was decided that General Pershing (still living when the rank of General of the Army was created in 1944) would be senior to all the newly appointed General of the Army officers. The 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."

Official Army regulations do not presently declare General of the Armies as a six star rank; however, some military historians and enthusiasts alike have interpreted General Pershing's seniority to five-star generals to mean that General of the Armies is a six-star rank. [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?r104:S17SE6-894: Congratulations to Joseph J. Frank] ] However, it could alternatively be said that General of the Armies is a five-star rank, and Pershing's seniority is merely a result of the fact that he achieved his rank earlier than the other five-star generals.

However, it has been speculated that if the United States ever created a six-star rank, it might be called General of the Armies. This almost occurred with Douglas MacArthur.

Douglas MacArthur

In 1945 as part of the preparation for Operation Downfall (the planned invasion of Japan) a proposal was discussed in the War Department to appoint Douglas MacArthur to the rank of General of the Armies. Following the use of the atomic bomb in August 1945 and the subsequent Japanese surrender, the proposal was dropped.

The matter was raised again in 1955, when the United States Congress considered a bill authorizing President Dwight D. Eisenhower to promote MacArthur to General of the Armies, in recognition of his many years of service. At that time, the Army Judge Advocate General warned that, should MacArthur accept promotion to the new rank, he would lose a large amount of retirement pay and benefits associated with the much more firmly established rank of five-star General of the Army, which he still held. The Army General Staff was also concerned that George C. Marshall was senior to MacArthur and that, should MacArthur be made a General of the Armies, a similar measure would have to be passed promoting Marshall as well. Because of the various complications, MacArthur declined promotion and the bill to promote him was dropped.

But some people continued to push for MacArthur to get promoted. The MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk has numerous letters on file dating from 1962 to 1964 between advocates (former MacArthur aides and others) and government officials attempting to obtain the six-star promotion. In the letters, in a congressional record appendix from February 1962 (pages A864-A865), and in the bill to promote him, this promotion was referred to alternately as "six-star general" and "general of the armies." The proponents even obtained a vote of neutral support from Harry Truman. (He would neither support nor attempt to scuttle the promotion.) The proponents' promotion attempts were ultimately scuttled by the John F. Kennedy assassination and then MacArthur's passing in 1964.

George Washington

After World War II, which saw the introduction of U.S. "5-star" officers who outranked Washington, both Congress and the President revisited the issue of Washington's rank. To maintain George Washington's proper position as the first Commanding General of the United States Army, he was appointed, posthumously, to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States by congressional joint resolution ).] The rank ensures that no United States military officer will ever outrank George Washington. [ [http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2004/winter/gw-birthday-1.html By George, IT IS Washington's Birthday!] By C. L. Arbelbide] [ [http://usinfo.state.gov/scv/Archive/2006/Feb/17-646244.html Washington's Birthday Holiday Honors "Father of our Country"] ]

Equivalent ranks

The rank of General of the Armies is equivalent to the U.S. Navy's rank of Admiral of the Navy. Admiral of the Navy has only been held by one person in history, George Dewey. As with General of the Armies, a proposal was made during World War II to bring back the rank as a six-star equivalent, under the title Flag Admiral. Chester Nimitz was briefly considered for the position, but the proposal was dropped by the United States Navy Department before the war ended, and has not been revived since.

The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps do not have an equivalent to the rank of General of the Armies.

References

* [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/cg&csa/CG-TOC.htm Commanding Generals and Chiefs of Staff] (Center for Military History)
* [http://www.army.mil/cmh/faq/FAQ-5star.htm "How many U.S. Army five-star generals have there been and who were they?"] from the [http://www.army.mil/cmh/ U.S. Army Center of Military History]
* Military service record of Douglas MacArthur, Military Personnel Records Center
* Naval service record of Chester Nimitz, Military Personnel Records Center

External links

* [http://www.history.navy.mil/trivia/triv4-5m.htm The Origin of the Ranks and Rank Insignia Now Used by the United States Armed Forces]
* [http://www.eisenhowermemorial.org/stories/Ike-fifth-star.htm Abandoned proposal for six-star rank in Second World War]
* [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]

ee also

* List of United States four-star officers
* List of United States Army four-star generals
* List of United States military leaders by rank
* United States Army officer rank insignia


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  • general of the armies — the highest United States Army rank of World War I (as conferred upon General John J. Pershing upon his retirement) * * * U.S. Army. a special rank held by John J. Pershing, equivalent to general of the army. * * * General of the Armies, U.S. a… …   Useful english dictionary

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