Highest military ranks
In many nations the highest military ranks are classed as being equivalent to or officially described as five-star ranks. However, a number of nations have used or proposed ranks such as generalissimo
Generalissimo and Generalissimus are military ranks of the highest degree, superior to Field Marshal and other five-star ranks.-Usage:...

which are senior to their five-star equivalent ranks. This article summarises those ranks.

Generalissimo and generalissimus

Adopted from Italian (generalissimo) or Latin (generalissimus), the rank titles literally mean the utmost general. A number of countries, including China, France, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Sweden and the USSR, have used these ranks. In most countries the rank has only been held by one or two men throughout history.

Generalissimus of the Soviet Union

The rank of generalissimus of the Soviet Union was created on June 27, 1945 and granted to Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

, who never actually wore the insignia. He was the only person ever to hold the rank.


In 1940 Nazi Germany, Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 was promoted by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 to reichsmarschall, the highest rank in the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II after the position of supreme commander, (which was held by Hitler himself). Göring was the only person to hold this rank in modern times.

The rank of reichsmarschall was originally created before the 12th century, during the time of the Holy Roman Empire. Historically, holding the rank of reichsmarschall was neither unique nor as prestigious as it was during World War II. During the time of the German Empire and World War I, no one in the German armed forces held this rank.

First marshal of the empire

The Italian rank of "first marshal of the empire" was granted in 1938 to Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 and King Victor Emmanuel III, who remain the only holders as the rank was abolished after World War II.


The Japanese rank of dai-gensui ("grand marshal") was held by the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 from 1852 to 1945, and abolished in 1947. It was held by three people: Emperor Meiji
Emperor Meiji
The or was the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death...

, Emperor Taishō
Emperor Taishō
The was the 123rd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 30 July 1912, until his death in 1926.The Emperor’s personal name was . According to Japanese customs, the emperor has no name during his reign and is only called the Emperor...

, and finally Emperor Shōwa
, posthumously in Japan officially called Emperor Shōwa or , was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order, reigning from December 25, 1926, until his death in 1989. Although better known outside of Japan by his personal name Hirohito, in Japan he is now referred to...



The rank of wonsu
Wonsu is a very high military rank of the armed forces of the Republic of Korea and of North Korea.-South Korea:Wonsu, known in English as "General of the Army of the Republic of Korea", is the highest military rank of the Republic of Korea armed forces and is the combined equivalent of a Field...

is used in both North Korea and South Korea.

In South Korea it is considered a five-star rank, and uses an insignia based on the five-star insignia of general of the army
General of the Army (United States)
General of the Army is a five-star general officer and is the second highest possible rank in the United States Army. A special rank of General of the Armies, which ranks above General of the Army, does exist but has only been conferred twice in the history of the Army...


North Korea also maintains a rank of chasu
Chasu is a superior military rank of North Korea, often translated as Vice-Marshal. The rank is senior to that of Daejang and junior to that of Wonsu...

, senior to the four-star rank of daejang
Daejang is a senior military rank of the Korean Peninsula, used by both North and South Korea. It is considered the combined equivalent of a General and Admiral in other nations...

but junior to wonsu. Its insignia is a large single star, based on the insignia of marshal of the Soviet Union
Marshal of the Soviet Union
Marshal of the Soviet Union was the de facto highest military rank of the Soviet Union. ....

 which is itself based on the marshal's star
Marshal's Star
The marshal's star is an additional badge of rank worn by marshals of the armed forces of the USSR, and subsequently the Russian Federation. The armed forces of the former USSR and the Russian Federation have two such insignia for higher military ranks, both in the form of a five-pointed star of...

. North Koreans awarded the rank of wonsu have included Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il
Kim Jong-il, also written as Kim Jong Il, birth name Yuri Irsenovich Kim born 16 February 1941 or 16 February 1942 , is the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea...

 (1992), O Jin U (1992), Choe Kwang (1995) and Li Ul-sol (1995).

Dae wonsu

North Korea also has a rank of dae wonsu, superior to wonsu. Its insignia is based on the North Korean wonsu insignia but with an added crest. The rank was created in 1992 when it was awarded to Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung
Kim Il-sung was a Korean communist politician who led the Democratic People's Republic of Korea from its founding in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Prime Minister from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to his death...

, who remains the only holder.

Admiral of the navy

Admiral of the navy (United States)

George Dewey
George Dewey
George Dewey was an admiral of the United States Navy. He is best known for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War...

 was promoted to the U.S. rank of admiral of the navy on March 24, 1903, retroactive to March 2, 1899. In 1944 the Navy Department declared the newly created five-star rank of fleet admiral to be junior to George Dewey's rank.

During the preparations for the invasion of Japan, a proposal was raised by the Navy Department to appoint Chester Nimitz
Chester Nimitz
Fleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, GCB, USN was a five-star admiral in the United States Navy. He held the dual command of Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet , for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas , for U.S...

 to the rank of admiral of the navy, or grant him some equivalent rank. The proposal, however, was dropped after the Japanese surrender, and the United States Navy has never officially appointed anyone to the rank of six-star admiral. Even so, admiral of the navy is considered to be senior to the U.S. rank of fleet admiral
Fleet Admiral (U.S.)
Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy, or more commonly referred to as Fleet Admiral , is a five-star flag officer rank, and it is considered to be the highest possible rank attainable in the United States Navy. Fleet Admiral ranks immediately above admiral and is equivalent to General of the...

 and the equivalent of the U.S. Army's rank of general of the armies
General of the Armies
General of the Armies of the United States, or more commonly referred to as General of the Armies, is the highest possible officer rank of the United States Army.Only two soldiers have been granted the rank of General of the Armies; John J...


General of the armies

The rank U.S. rank of general of the armies was first created in 1799, but not awarded.

John Pershing was promoted to general of the armies in 1919, from what was then the highest rank, the four-star rank of general
General (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps, general is a four-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-10. General ranks above lieutenant general and below General of the Army or General of the Air Force; the Marine Corps does not have an...

. Under the regulations of the time he was permitted to choose his insignia, and he chose four gold stars, in contrast to the silver stars used by U.S. general and admiral rank insignia. General Pershing was still alive in 1944 when the five-star rank of general of the army
General of the Army
General of the Army is a military rank used in some countries to denote a senior military leader, usually a General in command of a nation's Army. It may also be the title given to a General who commands an Army in the field....

 was created. It was explicitly stated that he remained senior to the new five-star appointments.

In 1945, in preparation for the invasion of Japan, it was proposed that General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 be promoted to general of the armies, and that this would explicitly be a six-star rank. However, this and subsequent proposals were never adopted. The Institute of Heraldry produced a single sketch of how the insignia for a six-star rank would appear, which was later filed in Douglas MacArthur's service record
Service record
A service record is a collection of either electronic or printed material which provides a documentary history of a person's activities and accomplishments while serving as a member of a given organization...


General of the armies of the United States

In 1976, as part of the American Bicentennial celebrations, George Washington was posthumously promoted to general of the armies of the United States, senior to all other officers.

General of the army of the United States

The rank of general of the army of the United States held the same authority as the rank of general of the armies as created in 1799.

It was held by Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

, William T. Sherman, and Philip Sheridan
Philip Sheridan
Philip Henry Sheridan was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S...

 after the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. Pershing's 1919 rank of general of the armies of the United States was legally the same as Grant's 1866 rank of general of the army of the United States.

The rank ceased to exist with the death of Sheridan in 1888.
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