Generals of the Army: Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, Bradley

Generals of the Army: Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, Bradley

Generals of the Army: Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, Bradley

Generals of the Army: Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, Bradley

Excerpt

Five-star flag rank is the highest rank awarded within the U.S. military establishment in modern times. There were four five-star fleet admirals and five five-star Generals of the Army named during World War II and the years immediately after. To put those promotions in the proper context, it is appropriate to review the evolution of the highest ranks in the U.S. military establishment.

The highest rank ever conferred in the U.S. military is General of the Armies of the United States. Only two officers in our history have been awarded that rank, George Washington and John J. Pershing, although only General Pershing actually held the rank. During the Civil War, Congress conferred the rank of General of the Army on Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, who would eventually wear four stars as the insignia of his new rank. Lieutenant General William T. Sherman, Grant’s successor as Commanding General of the Army after the war, was also appointed General of the Army on March 4, 1869. After Sherman’s death in 1891, however, the title ceased to exist as a military rank.

Sherman’s successor was Lieutenant General Philip H. Sheridan. In June 1888, shortly before Sheridan’s death, Congress enacted legislation that discontinued the grade of lieutenant general and merged it with that of General of the Army. This rank was conferred on Sheridan and was discontinued when he died, while still on active duty, on August 5, 1888.

Congress revived the rank of General of the Armies of the United States (which had never before been bestowed) by Public Law 66-45, approved on September 3, 1919, and awarded the title to General John J. Pershing for his wartime service. Pershing continued to wear four stars as the insignia of his rank. No other person held this rank until 1976, when President Gerald Ford posthumously appointed George Washington General of the Armies of the United States and specified that he would rank first among all officers of the Army, past and present.

On December 14, 1944, the temporary rank of General of the Army was reestablished by the passage of Public Law 78-482. Army . . .

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