General of the Air Force
Rank flag of a General of the Air Force.
General of the Air Force insignia[1][2]
Country United States
Service branch United States Air Force
Rank groupGeneral officer
NATO rank codeOF-10
Pay gradeSpecial grade
Formation7 May 1949
Next lower rankGeneral
Equivalent ranks

General of the Air Force (GAF)[3] is a five-star general officer rank and is the highest possible rank in the United States Air Force. General of the Air Force ranks immediately above a general and is equivalent to General of the Army in the United States Army and Fleet Admiral in the United States Navy. The rank has only been held by one man, General Henry H. Arnold, who had served as head of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. As the Air Force was a component of the Army instead of its own branch, the rank has never been held by a member of the Air Force.


Henry "Hap" Arnold as a General of the Army. His rank was changed in 1949 to that of General of the Air Force.

General Henry H. Arnold, commanding general of the United States Army Air Forces, became the first airman to be promoted to the five-star rank of general of the Army on 21 December 1944. The four other individuals promoted to the rank of General of the Army, all from the Army Ground Forces, were chief of staff of the United States Army George C. Marshall, supreme commander of the South West Pacific Area Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force Dwight D. Eisenhower and commander of the Twelfth United States Army Group Omar Bradley.[4] Four Navy admirals were also promoted to the five-star rank of fleet admiral, including William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Ernest King, Chief of Naval Operations and commander-in-chief, United States Fleet, Chester W. Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the Pacific Ocean Areas and United States Pacific Fleet, and William Halsey Jr., commander of the South Pacific Area.[5]

General of the Army Arnold retained the rank after the U.S. Air Force gained its independence from the U.S. Army on 18 September 1947.[6] On 7 May 1949, under Pub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 81–58, Henry Arnold's official U.S. rank was redesignated from General of the Army to General of the Air Force. General of the Air Force Arnold is the only individual in the U.S. Armed Forces to possess two five-star ranks and is the only airman to have a five-star rank.[6]

The Air Force currently declares that General of the Air Force is an active rank and it could again be bestowed at the discretion of the United States Congress. However, the President, with consent from the Senate, may award a fifth star at any time he sees fit.[7][8][9]

Rank senior to General of the Air Force

The only United States Armed Forces rank senior to General of the Air Force is General of the Armies.[10] The rank of General of the Armies has only been granted to Generals John J. Pershing, Ulysses S. Grant and George Washington.

See also


  1. ^ Aldebol, Lt. Col. Anthony (1999). Army Air Force and United States Air Force Decorations, Medals, Ribbons, Badges and Insignia (2nd ed.). MOA Press. p. 61. ISBN 1-884452-05-1.
  2. ^ Armed Forces Information and Education (1960). Military Uniforms: A Manual of United States and Foreign Armed Forces Uniforms, Insignia and Organizations (DOD PAM 1-14) (3rd ed.). Department of Defense. p. 55. Retrieved 2 July 2022.
  3. ^ "Commissioned Officer rank and descriptions". 927th Air Refueling Wing. United States Air Force. 17 November 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  4. ^ "How many U.S. Army five-star generals have there been and who were they?". U.S. Army Center of Military History. 31 January 2021. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  5. ^ "Fleet Admirals, U.S. Navy". Naval Historical Foundation. 1 August 1966. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  6. ^ a b Boyne, Walter J. (1 September 1997). "Hap". Air Force Magazine. Retrieved 22 March 2021.
  7. ^ "U.S. Sen. Kasten Pushing Effort To Award Powell With Historic Fifth Star". Jet. 79 (23). March 1991. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved 21 February 2011. ...there is a movement afoot in the U.S. Senate to award an historic fifth star to the nation's first Black Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin L. Powell for his military proficiency.
  8. ^ Italia, Bob (1991). Armed Forces: War in the Gulf. Abdo & Daughters. pp. 44–46. ISBN 978-1-56239-026-6. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  9. ^ Stephanopoulos, George (1999). All Too Human: A Political Education. Thorndike Press. pp. 330–331. ISBN 978-0-7862-2016-8. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  10. ^ Public Law 94-479 of 1976 to provide for the appointment of George Washington to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States