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In many nations the highest military ranks are classed as being equivalent to, or are officially described as, five-star ranks. However, a number of nations have used or proposed ranks such as generalissimo which are senior to their five-star equivalent ranks. This article summarises those ranks.

Generalissimo and Generalissimus[]

Generalissimus of the Soviet Union

Adopted from Italian (generalissimo) and/or Latin (generalissimus), the rank titles literally mean "the utmost general". A number of countries, including the Republic of China, France, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Sweden and the USSR, have used these ranks.[citation needed] In most countries the rank has only been held by one or two men throughout their 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, who never actually wore the insignia. He was the only person ever to hold the rank.[1][2]


Shoulderboard of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring

In 1940 Nazi Germany, Hermann Göring was promoted by Adolf Hitler 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[citation needed] 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[]

First marshal of the empire (Italy)

The Italian rank of "first marshal of the Empire" was granted in 1938 to Benito Mussolini and King Victor Emmanuel III, who remain the only holders, as the rank, and the Italian Empire, was abolished after World War II.[3]


Dai-gensui insignia

The Japanese rank of dai-gensui ("grand marshal") was held by the Emperor of Japan in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1889 to 1945, and abolished in 1947. It was held by three people: Emperor Meiji, Emperor Taishō, and Emperor Shōwa.[4]


Wonsu insignia

Konghwaguk wonsu insignia

Taewonsu insignia

The rank of wonsu 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 the U.S. General of the Army.[5][6]

North Korea also maintains a rank of chasu, senior to the four-star rank of daejang, but junior to wonsu. Its insignia is a large single star, based on the insignia of marshal of the Soviet Union which is itself based on the marshal's star.[citation needed] North Koreans awarded the rank of wonsu have included: Kim Jong-il (1992), O Jin U (1992), Choe Kwang (1995) and Li Ul-sol (1995). Rank of marshal with the title "marshal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (konghwaguk wonsu) is superior to "marshal of the Korean People's Army".[citation needed]


North Korea also has the rank of taewonsu, 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, who was the only holder until 2012, when his successor Kim Jong-il was awarded the title posthumously.[7]

Admiral of the navy[]

Dewey's admiral of the Navy insignia

Admiral of the Navy (United States)[]

George Dewey 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.[citation needed]

During the preparations for the invasion of Japan, a proposal was raised by the Navy Department to appoint Chester Nimitz to the rank of admiral of the navy, or grant him some equivalent rank.[8] 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 and the equivalent of the U.S. Army's rank of general of the armies.[citation needed]

General of the armies of the United States[]

Pershing's general of the armies insignia

Unofficial 1945 design for general of the armies insignia

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

John Pershing was promoted to "general of the armies" in 1919, from what was then the highest rank, the four-star rank of general. Under the regulations of the time, he was permitted to choose his insignia, and he chose four gold stars, (in contrast to the four 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 was created. It was explicitly stated[by whom?] that he remained senior to the new five-star appointments.[citation needed]

In 1945, in preparation for the invasion of Japan, it was proposed[by whom?] that General Douglas MacArthur be promoted to "general of the armies", and that this would explicitly be a six-star rank.[citation needed] However, this and subsequent proposals were never adopted.

In 1976, as part of the American Bicentennial celebrations, George Washington was (posthumously) promoted to general of the armies of the United States. He had retired with the rank of lieutenant general, the highest rank in the Army for much of the early part of American history. However, as a result of reforms in the Army's ranking system, Washington was now outranked by all four- and five-star generals since his time. The resolution was intended to correct this in light of Washington's role in American history. It explicitly stated that no American officer—past, present or future—is to ever outrank him.[9]

See also[]


  1. S. M. Stemenko. Bộ Tổng tham mưu Xô viết trong chiến tranh. NXB Tiến bộ. Maskva. 1985. Bản tiếng Việt (tập II) . trang 587-588. (Vietnamese)
  2. Service, Robert (2005). Stalin: A Biography. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 548. ISBN 978-0-674-01697-2.
  3. Montanelli, Cervi Storia d'Italia 1935/1943
  4. Donald Keene (Hirohito), Emperor of Japan, Meiji and his World 1852-1912
  5. Sohn 2006, p. 38
  6. Sohn, Ho-min (2006). "Korean language in culture and society". University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-2694-9. 
  7. Image of Kim Jong Il Wonsu and Kim Il Sung Dae Wonsu shoulder/collar insignia and crests.
  8. United States Naval Service Record of Chester Nimitz, Military Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, Missouri
  9. wikisource:Public Law 94-479

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