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The insignia used by the United States of America generals and admirals of OF-10 rank

A five-star rank is the highest military rank in many countries.[1] 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 seven stars; the insignia for the Portuguese marechal contains four gold stars. The stars used on the various Commonwealth of Nations rank insignias are sometimes colloquially referred to as pips, but in fact either are stars of the orders of the Garter, Thistle or Bath or are Eversleigh stars, depending on the wearer's original regiment or corps,[2] and are used in combination with other heraldic items, such as batons, crowns, swords or maple leaves.

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. 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, an even more-senior rank of general of the armies was adopted in the United States. Other names for highly senior ranks from the twentieth century include généralissime (France), reichsmarschall (Nazi Germany), generalísimo (Spain) and generalissimus (USSR).


Only one Australian-born officer, Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey, has held a substantive Australian five-star rank. Lord Birdwood, who commanded the Australian Imperial Force in the First World War, was appointed to honorary five-star rank in the Australian Military Forces on his promotion to field marshal in the British Army in 1925.[3][4] King George VI and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, have held all three Australian five-star ranks in an honorary capacity, and have been the only holders of the Australian ranks of admiral of the fleet and marshal of the RAAF.


Five-star ranks in Brazil are only used in wartime.




Main articles: Marshal of France, Admiral of France, and Army general (France)

In France, the term "five-star general/admiral" refers commonly to the highest full general or admiral rank,[5][6] equivalent to other armed forces' four-star OF-9 rank, as, due to historical complications and the former existence of a rank of brigadier distinct from that of brigade general, French general officers have one more star than their equivalent-rank counterparts in most countries.[7][8]

The ranks of equivalent stature and precedence to other countries' 5-star ranks are known in France as the Marshal of France (Maréchal de France) and the Admiral of France (Amiral de France), and are nominally 7-star "dignities" (there is no 6-star rank). As of late 2023, there have been 342 Marshals of France, of which 78 have been appointed since the Napoleonic revival of the office in the early 19th Century, the most recent being Pierre Kœnig, elevated posthumously to the Marshalcy in 1984. In the same period, there have been 14 Admirals of France, the last being appointed in 1869.[9] Of the 78 Marshals, 77 Marshals have been drawn from the ranks of the Army, and one from the Gendarmerie, Bon-Adrien Jeannot de Moncey, who also had a significant service history as an army officer during foreign campaigns. No officer from the French Air Force has been elevated to the Marshalcy to date. Moreover, one French officer, Darlan, was appointed to the sui generis rank of "Admiral of the Fleet", outranking ordinary full admirals, in order to grant him equal rank and status to his then-British counterpart, who held the higher rank. Darlan does not appear to have received any particular insignia at home in France.[10]


German Empire

Nazi Germany

It is also worth noting that this was not the apex and there was a six-star rank also present in the Wehrmacht known as Reichsmarschall, however it was only ever present in the Luftwaffe and only ever held by one man: Hermann Göring, arguably the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany.[11]


General Sam Manekshaw was the first officer to be promoted to five-star rank. He was promoted to the rank of field marshal on 1 January 1973 after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. General K. M. Cariappa, the first Indian commander-in-chief of the Indian Army was promoted to the rank of field marshal in 1986. In 2001, Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh was promoted to the rank of marshal of the Indian Air Force (MIAF). Around 1998, the Indian Air Force introduced gorget patches (or collar tabs) for its air officers. The MIAF's patches display five stars.[12]


According to Government Regulation No. 32/1997,[13] the Indonesian five-star ranks are:

The five-star ranks above are honorary rank and does not provide additional authority or responsibility.

However, Government Regulation No. 32/1997 has been revoked and replaced by Government Regulation No. 39/2010,[14] and the latest regulation does not mention a five-star rank. Therefore, it is unlikely that there will be any Indonesian military personnel awarded five-star rank in the future.


These ranks are used by the Italian chief of the general staff only.


Main article: Senior general (Myanmar)

Senior general (Burmese: ဗိုလ်ချုပ်မှူးကြီး) is the highest rank in Myanmar Armed Forces. It is the single rank for all three branches, and held by the commander-in-chief of Defence Services (CinCDS). It was created during the expansion of Armed Forces structure in 1990, and the first person to hold is Saw Maung promoted by himself directly from general to senior general on 18 March 1990.[15]

Burmese title English title Rank insignia Golden strap
Rank medal
Car insignia
ဗိုလ်ချုပ်မှူးကြီး Senior general
Insignia on
regular uniform
Myanmar Army Myanmar Navy
Myanmar Air Force


Admiral (Dutch: Admiraal) is theoretically the highest possible military rank in the Royal Netherlands Navy, although this five-star rank is no longer awarded.



Under Article VII, Section 18 of the constitution, the president holds the position of commander-in-chief, which is not considered and recognized to be a five-star rank.[22] Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Philippines, held the title generalissimo and Ministro Mariskal and is considered as the first commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Historically, five-star ranks were held by field marshals. US Army General Douglas MacArthur was the first and only field marshal in the history of the Philippine Army, a position he held while also acting as the military advisor to the commonwealth government of the Philippines with a rank of major general. President Quezon conferred the rank of field marshal on 24 August 1936 and MacArthur's duty included the supervision of the creation of the Philippines nation-state.


Marshal of Poland (Marszałek Polski) is a Polish Army five-star rank. There are today no living marshals of Poland, since this rank is bestowed only on military commanders who have achieved victory in war. The last appointment was in 1963 to Marian Spychalski.


Different from most other countries, the marshals (Army and Air Force) and admirals of the fleet (Navy) of Portugal are not identified by five stars, but by four golden stars, in comparison with generals and admirals who are also identified by four stars, but in silver.

Five-star appointments—and not ranks—were however foreseen in the armed forces of Portugal, at different times in the past, for the officers exercising the several government posts related with defense (minister of national defense, minister for the army, secretary of state for the army, etc.).


Mareșal al Armatei Române (marshal of the Romanian Army) is the highest military rank in the Romanian military forces. This rank can be bestowed to persons from the royal family or to four-star generals or admirals during wartime only. After World War II, the latest surviving marshal of Romania was King Michael I, who was bestowed this rank on May 10, 1941 (the national day of Romania). He died in December 2017.

South Vietnam

Five-star ranks were used by the former Republic of Vietnam Military Forces during the Vietnam War, from 1955 to 1975. The ranks were changed in 1964 to resemble US ranks more closely. The rank only bestowed to Lê Văn Tỵ


Since 1922 it is not properly a rank but a "military dignity". The only full capitán general is currently His Majesty the King of Spain, the last not-royal appointment (honorary) was in 1994 to Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado. The rank of capitán general is currently bestowed also to several images of the Virgin Mary, among them la Virgen de Butarque, la Virgen del Pilar, la Virgen de Guadalupe, Nuestra Señora de los Reyes, la Virgen de los Desamparados (this one properly capitana generalísima), la Virgen de la Serra, la Virgen del Canto y la Virgen de los Remedios. The latest appointment was to Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, April 2011.

Sri Lanka


The monarch of Thailand is appointed to the three ranks automatically upon accession as he is the constitutional head of the Royal Thai Armed Forces. Since 1973 the three ranks have been reserved for members of the royal family.

United Kingdom

The worn insignia of British five-star commanders do not contain stars; the vehicle star plate, mounted on the front of a staff car, does display five stars.[23]

Promotion to the ranks of admiral of the fleet and marshal of the Royal Air Force is now generally held in abeyance in peacetime with exceptions for special circumstances. Promotion to the rank of field marshal was generally stopped in 1995 as a cost-cutting measure but is still made in some cases.[24][25] The most recent appointments to five-star ranks are the promotions in 2012 of the Prince of Wales to honorary five-star rank in all three services, and of former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank to the honorary rank of field marshal.[25][26] In 2014 the former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Stirrup was promoted to the honorary rank of marshal of the Royal Air Force.[27]

During World War II and after, serving NATO, a small number of British five-star commanders have held the additional title Supreme Allied Commander, given operational control over all air, land, and sea units led by the four-star commanders of multi-national forces.

United States

Gravestone of Omar Bradley, with five-star insignia.

Before the five-star ranks were established in 1944,[1] two officers had previously been promoted from their four-star ranks to the superior and unique ranks of Admiral of the Navy and General of the Armies: Admiral George Dewey (appointment 1903 retroactive to 1899, died 1917) and General John J. Pershing (appointed 1919, died 1948). In 1944 the Navy and Army specified that these officers were considered senior to any officers promoted to the five-star ranks within their services (but it was not clear if they were senior by rank or by seniority due to an earlier date of rank).

Five-star ranks were created in the U.S. military during World War II because of the awkward situation created when some American senior commanders were placed in positions commanding allied officers of higher rank.[28] U.S. officers holding five-star rank draw full active duty pay for life, both before and after retiring from active duty.[29] The five-star ranks were retired in 1981 on the death of General of the Army Omar Bradley.[28]

Nine Americans have been promoted to five-star rank, one of them, Henry H. Arnold, in two services (U.S. Army then later in the U.S. Air Force). As part of the bicentennial celebration, George Washington was, 177 years after his death, permanently made senior to all other U.S. generals and admirals with the title General of the Armies effective on 4 July 1976. The appointment stated he was to have "rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present".[nb 2]

During World War II and (later) serving NATO, a small number of American five-star commanders have also held the additional title of Supreme Allied Commander, given operational control over all air, land, and sea units led by the four-star commanders of multi-national forces.

Law enforcement usage

In various law enforcement agencies, such as the Detroit Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, their respective heads wear five-star ranks.[30]

See also


  1. ^ a b c The Australian insignia for admiral of the fleet, field marshal and marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force, depending on the era, are either identical to, or very similar to, the British insignia. Prince Philip was the most recent holder of these Australian ranks. Although the highest active New Zealand rank is three-star, (there are no New Zealand four-star rank holders), Prince Philip held five-star ranks in the New Zealand Armed Forces.
  2. ^ The following Americans have been promoted to five-star rank:
          •   Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy 15 December 1944
          •   General of the Army George Marshall 16 December 1944
          •   Fleet Admiral Ernest King 17 December 1944
          •   General of the Army Douglas MacArthur 18 December 1944
          •   Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz 19 December 1944
          •   General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower 20 December 1944
          •   General of the Army & Air Force Henry H. Arnold     21 December 1944 & 7 May 1949
          •   Fleet Admiral William Halsey, Jr. 11 December 1945
          •   General of the Army Omar Bradley 20 September 1950
          •   General of the Armies George Washington 4 July 1976, with an effective appointment date of 4 July 1776a

    The timing of the first seven appointments was to establish both a clear order of seniority and a near-equivalence between the Army and Navy services. In 1949, Arnold was honored by being made the first, and to date only, General of the Air Force. He is the only American to serve in a five-star rank in two of its military services.

    By a Congressional Act of 24 March 1903, Admiral George Dewey's rank was established as admiral of the Navy, a rank which was specified to be senior to the four-star rank of admiral and was equal to admiral of the fleet in the British Royal Navy. Admiral Dewey was the only individual ever appointed to this rank, which lapsed with his death on 16 January 1917. Admiral of the Navy was considered superior to fleet admiral during World War II. On 3 September 1919, John Pershing was promoted to the rank of General of the Armies (officially General of the Armies of the United States) in recognition of his service during World War I. He is the only person promoted to this rank during their lifetime.

    ^a During the United States Bicentennial year, George Washington was posthumously appointed to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States by the congressional joint resolution Public Law 94-479[dead link] passed on 19 January 1976, with an effective appointment date of 4 July 1976 but having rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present. This restored Washington's position as the most senior U.S. military officer. Between the joint resolution concerning Washington's rank, the fact that Omar Bradley was still alive, and thus still considered to be on active duty, and statements made and actions taken during and after World War II about the relationship between General of the Armies and General of the Army, it appears General of the Armies is superior in rank to General of the Army.
    ^b No official law or regulation established exact seniority or reciprocity between Admiral of the Navy Dewey, and Generals of the Armies Washington and Pershing. While Congress clearly indicated that Washington was senior to Pershing, and also all other "officers of the United States Army," and by decades of custom Pershing was considered senior to all five-star and other four-star generals of the U.S. Army, nowhere is Dewey's exact seniority established. As Washington was explicitly made senior only to Pershing and other officers of the U.S. Army, ambiguity remains whether Admiral Dewey, with a date of rank as early as 1899 above a four-star, and senior to all later five-stars, is not actually senior to Washington by date of rank, and by operation of naval custom making Dewey senior to all five-stars. As Dewey died (and his rank died with him) before Pershing was appointed to his final rank, and the Army and Navy were far more independent before the creation of the Department of Defense unified them, this could indicate Admiral of the Navy Dewey, not General of the Armies Washington, is actually the most senior ranking U.S. military officer in U.S. history. By definition, officers of each Armed Force rank amongst themselves by seniority. And when they serve with other Armed Services (Army and Navy, for example), they rank amongst themselves by date of rank notwithstanding their parent Service. In the case of Dewey, he is undisputedly the seniormost Navy officer ever to have served in the U.S. Navy, and he had nearly 20 years of seniority over Pershing as a "special rank, above 4-star." Washington's own, revised, date of rank in 1976 does not precede Dewey's date of rank nearly 75 years before, nor did Congress describe in unambiguous wording that Washington was – in fact – senior to all officers of the U.S. Army, as well as all other U.S. Armed Forces including the U.S. Navy. Had Congress chosen to explicitly so state, there would be no ambiguity, but it remains unsettled if – in spite of the desired outcome that Washington be the senior U.S. military officer to have ever served – Congress' ways and means achieved their object.


  1. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary (OED), 2nd Edition, 1989. "five" ... "five-star adj., ... (b) U.S., applied to a general or admiral whose badge of rank includes five stars;"
  3. ^ Hill, A. J. (1979). "Birdwood, William Riddell (Baron Birdwood) (1865–1951)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 7. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. pp. 293–296. ISBN 978-0-522-84459-7. ISSN 1833-7538. OCLC 70677943.
  4. ^ "Australian Military Forces". Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. 14 January 1926. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Jean-Louis Georgelin, un général cinq étoiles au chevet de Notre-Dame". Les Echos (in French). 2019-04-17. Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  6. ^ rédaction, La (2023-11-06). "De la Marine à l'Élysée, la destinée "5 étoiles" de l'amiral Bernard Rogel". Nice-Matin (in French). Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  7. ^ à 07h48, Par Yassine El Azzaz Le 20 juillet 2017 (2017-07-20). "Général cinq étoiles ou quatre étoiles : quelle est la différence ?". (in French). Retrieved 2023-11-07.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Pourquoi n'y a-t-il pas de généraux à une étoile ?" [Why are there no one-star generals?] (PDF). Association Nationale des Officiers de Carrière en Retraite (in French). Groupement du Gers de l'Association Nationale des Officiers de Carrière en Retraite.
  9. ^ "Les maréchaux et amiraux de France (du Premier Empire à nos jours) - Cimetières de France et d'ailleurs" [The Marshals and Admirals of France (from the First Empire to now) - Cemeteries of France and elsewhere]. (in French). Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  10. ^ "Ecole Navale / Espace tradition / Officiers célèbres". Retrieved 2023-11-07.
  11. ^ Haskew, Michael (2011). The Wehrmacht. Amber Books. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-907446-95-5.
  12. ^ "Collar Tabs". Archived from the original on 30 December 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  13. ^ Peraturan Pemerintah Republik Indonesia Nomor 32 Tahun 1997 Tentang Perubahan Peraturan Pemerintah Nomor 6 Tahun 1990 Tentang Administrasi Prajurit Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia [Government Regulation No 32 Year 1997 Regarding Revision of Government Regulation No 6 Year 1990 Regarding Regarding Administration of Armed Forces Personnel] (32) (in Indonesian). Government of Indonesia. 1997.
  14. ^ Peraturan Pemerintah Republik Indonesia Nomor 39 Tahun 2010 Tentang Administrasi Prajurit Tentara Nasional Indonesia [Government Regulation No 39 Year 2010 Regarding Administration of Armed Forces Personnel] (PDF) (39) (in Indonesian). Government of Indonesia. 2010.
  15. ^ Mya Win (1991). တပ်မတော် ခေါင်းဆောင်များ သမိုင်း အကျဉ်း (၁၉၄၂ ခုနှစ်မှ ၁၉၉၀ ပြည့်နှစ်အထိ) [A Brief History of Tatmadaw's Leaders (1942 to 1990)] (in Burmese). Yangon: News and Periodical Enterprise. pp. 86–87.
  16. ^ a b "Message of Greetings from Commander in Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee of Armed Forces Day on 27 March 2020". Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  17. ^ KoKo LinnMaung (23 July 2019). တပ်မတော် ရာထူးအဆင့်အတန်း အင်္ဂလိပ်လိုအခေါ်အဝေါ်များ [Tatmadaw appointment ranks' nomenclature in English]. Facebook (in Burmese and English).[user-generated source]
  18. ^ "Myanmar's army chief General Min Aung Hlaing (2nd R) waves as he leaves a ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw March 27, 2012. The event commemorates the Burmese army's rising up against Japanese occupiers in 1945. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR – Tags: MILITARY POLITICS ANNIVERSARY Stock Photo – Alamy". Archived from the original on 19 April 2022. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  19. ^ "Parade of the 76th Anniversary Armed Forces Day held; Chairman of the State Administration Council Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Maha Thray Sithu Min Aung Hlaing delivers address » Senior General Min Aung Hlaing". 28 March 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2022-04-16. Retrieved 2022-04-20.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ "Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing receives a model plane from Gen. Maung Maung Kyaw in 2019. | OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT WEBSITE OF SENIOR GEN. MIN AUNG HLAING". Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  22. ^ "THE 1987 CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES – ARTICLE VII". Official Gazette. Retrieved June 30, 2022.
  23. ^ "Dictionary of Vexillology: R (Race Signals – Rays)". Archived from the original on 16 December 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  24. ^ Heathcote, Tony (1999). The British Field Marshals, 1736–1997: A Biographical Dictionary. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books. ISBN 978-0-85052-696-7.
  25. ^ a b "Prince Charles awarded highest military ranks by Queen". BBC News. 15 June 2012. Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  26. ^ "Honorary Five Star Rank appointment". The British Monarchy. 16 June 2012. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  27. ^ "2014 Birthday Honours for service personnel and defence civilians". Ministry of Defence. 13 June 2014. Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  28. ^ a b E. Kelly Taylor (2009). America's Army and the Language of Grunts: Understanding the Army Lingo Legacy. AuthorHouse. p. 283. ISBN 978-1-4389-6249-8. Archived from the original on 2014-01-07.
  29. ^ Spencer C. Tucker (2011). The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 1685. ISBN 978-1-85109-961-0. Archived from the original on 2015-04-07.
  30. ^ "Five-Star Sheriff Reflects Military Usage". Los Angeles Times. 20 February 2002. Retrieved 28 July 2022.