In militaries and paramilitary organizations, a general order is a published directive, originated by a commander, and binding upon all personnel under his command, the purpose of which is to enforce a policy or procedure unique to his unit's situation which is not otherwise addressed in applicable service regulations, military law, or public law. A general order has the force of law; it is an offense punishable by court martial or lesser military court to disobey one. What makes it a general order (as opposed to a direct order), is that the actor is not explicitly named, nor precisely that (or whom) which is to be acted upon.
A general order of indefinite duration may be referred to as a standing order. Standing orders are necessarily general and vague since the exact circumstances for execution occur in the future under unknown conditions. For example, in most military agencies there is a standing order for enlisted men to salute officers. The officers are required by the same law to return the salute to the enlisted person; however, the name of each enlisted man is not explicitly named in the order, nor is the name of each officer, nor is the exact time which the salute should occur.
List of notable general orders
- General Orders for Sentries - often referred to as the 11 General Orders.
- General Order No. 1
- General Douglas MacArthur's first order to the forces of the Empire of Japan following the Japanese surrender in World War II
- Order applicable to United States military personnel in the CENTCOM Area of Operations following the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan forbidding various activities such as alcohol consumption, sexual relations, religious promotion, etc.
- General Order No. 9 (or Lee's Farewell Address) - Confederate General Robert E. Lee's announcement of his surrender that ended the American Civil War
- General Order No. 11 (1862) - an American Civil War order expelling Jews from areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky
- General Order No. 11 (1863) - an American Civil War order expelling the residents of four Missouri counties which were then to be burned.
- General Order No. 100
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