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Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general. Where relevant, major general has a NATO code of OF-7, and is considered to be a two-star rank.[1] A major general in most armies commands a division, however in some countries he commands a brigade.

In some instances, such as in Estonia, the highest rank currently in use is that of major general.



In the old Austro-Hungarian Army, the major general was called a generalmajor.[2] Today's Austrian Federal Army still uses the same term.


In the Canadian Armed Forces, the rank of major-general (MGen) (major-général or Mgén in French) is an Army or Air Force rank equal to a rear-admiral of the Royal Canadian Navy. A major-general is a general officer, the equivalent of a naval flag officer. A major-general is senior to a brigadier-general or commodore, and junior to a lieutenant-general or vice-admiral. Prior to 1968, the Air Force used the rank of air vice-marshal instead.

The rank insignia for a major-general is two gold maple leaves beneath crossed sword and baton, all surmounted by St. Edward's Crown. It is worn on the shoulder straps of the service dress tunic, and on slip-ons on other uniforms. The service dress tunic also features a wide strip of gold braid around the cuff. On the visor of the service cap are two rows of gold oak leaves.

Major-generals are initially addressed as "general" and name, as are all general officers; thereafter by subordinates as "sir" or "ma'am" as applicable in English or "mon général" in French. Major-generals are normally entitled to staff cars.


In the Estonian military, the major general rank is called kindralmajor.


The Finnish military equivalent is kenraalimajuri in Finnish, or generalmajor in Swedish.


The French equivalent to the rank of major general is général de division.

In the French military, major général is not a rank but an appointment conferred on some generals, usually of général de corps d'armée rank, acting as head of staff of a branch of service. This should not be confused with the chief of staff, who is usually a général d'armée, and the true commander of each service. The position of major général can be considered the equivalent of a deputy chief of Staff. There are five major generals: the Major General of the Armies, head of the General Staff, the Major General of the Army, the Major General of the Navy, the Major General of the Gendarmerie and the Major General of the Air Force.Major-General(General en Chef d'Armee)the Marquis de la Lafayette, is a prominent example of a Major-General holding the same equivalent rank in both the newly created United States and in Ancien-Regime France.

Historically, the French army had some sergent-majors généraux, also called sergents de bataille, whose task was to prepare the disposition of the army on the field before a battle. These sergents-majors généraux became a new rank, the maréchal de camp (not the same as a field marshal, in the French Army from antiquity called a Maréchal de France), which was the equivalent of the rank of major general. However, the term of major général was not forgotten and used to describe the appointment of armies chiefs of staff. One well-known French major général was Marshal Louis Alexandre Berthier, Major General of Napoléon's Grande armée.


The German Army and Luftwaffe refer to the rank as Generalmajor (OF-7) until 1945. Prior to 1955, the rank of Generalleutnant (OF-8) was used to define a division commander, whereas Generalmajor was a brigade commander. With the remilitarization of Germany in 1955 with West Germany's admission to NATO, Germany adopted the rank structure of the U.S. with the authority of the three lower ranks being moved up one level and the rank of Brigadegeneral (brigadier general, OF-6) added below them. The rank of Generaloberst (OF-9, Colonel general) was no longer used. The change was likely made to avoid confusion over relative rank in NATO forces.

National People's Army[]

The Nationale Volksarmee of the German Democratic Republic continued the use Generalmajor (OF-6), short GenMaj, (en Major general) as the lowest general officer rank (one-star rank), followed by Generalleutnant (OF-7), Generaloberst (OF-8), Armeegeneral (OF-9), and finally Marshal of the German Democratic Republic until reunification 1990. The Konteradmiral (OF-6), short KAdm (en: Rear admiral) was equivalent to the Generalmajor.


The Hungarian Defence Force (Hungarian: Magyar Honvédség) refer to the rank as vezérőrnagy.


In the Iranian Army and Air Force, the ranks above colonel are respectively sartip dovom (second brigadier general with no equivalent in other countries), sartip (brigadier general), sarlashkar (major general), sepahbod (lieutenant general), and arteshbod (general)


In the Irish Defence Forces, there are two major generals. They are Deputy Chiefs of Staff with separate responsibility for operations (DCOS Ops) and support (DCOS Sp).


Major general in the Indian Army is equivalent to rear admiral in the Indian Navy and air vice marshal in the Indian Air Force and is the lowest of the general officer ranks, ranking higher than a brigadier and lower than a lieutenant general.


In the Israel Defence Forces, a major general is called an aluf and is the second highest rank, only outranked by rav aluf (lieutenant general or general), who is also the Chief of Staff.


In Italy, the equivalent of major general is the army rank of generale di divisione. In the army the generale di divisione is the commander of a division or as other duties in the various national or international staff, in the Carabinieri or Guardia di Finanza. He/she is usually the commander of the units in a zone of the country.

North Korea[]

The rank of sojang is also used in North Korea, where it is the lowest general officer and flag officer rank, equivalent to a one-star general. The North Korean equivalent to a two-star General is jungjang, which roughly translates as lieutenant general.

South Korea[]

In South Korea, the rank of major general is known as sojang (Korean language: 소장


New Zealand[]

In the New Zealand Army, major-general is the rank held by the Chief of Army (formerly the Chief of General Staff). The more senior rank of lieutenant-general is reserved for when an army officer holds the position of Chief of Defence Force, who commands all New Zealand's armed forces. This position is subject to rotation between the heads of the air force, army, and navy.


In the Norwegian Army, the Royal Norwegian Air Force and the Norwegian Home Guard, generalmajor is the lowest general officer, equivalent to kontreadmiral in the Royal Norwegian Navy.


Major general in the Pakistan Army is equivalent to rear admiral in the Pakistan Navy and air vice marshal in the Pakistan Air Force and is the lowest of the general officer ranks, ranking between brigadier and lieutenant general. The Pakistan Army has two female major generals.


Generał brygady (Polish pronunciation: [ɡɛˈnɛraw brɨˈɡadɨ], literally General of a brigade, abbreviated gen. bryg.) is the lowest grade for generals in the Polish Army (both in the Land Forces and in the Polish Air Force). Depending on the context, it is equivalent to either the modern grade of Major general, or the grade of Brigadier General (mostly in historical context).


The rank of major-general was reintroduced in the Portuguese Army, Air Force and National Republican Guard in 1999 in place of the former rank of brigadier. It was previously used in the Army, from 1862–1864. It is equivalent to contra-almirante in the Portuguese Navy.


In Somalia, Major General is used within the Somali Armed Forces (SAF) for the highest-ranking military official.[3]


In Sweden, the rank of generalmajor (Genmj) is used in the Army, the Amphibious Corps and the Air Force. It is the equivalent to konteramiral in the navy. It is typically held by the Inspector Generals of the three service branches and the head of the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service.


In Thailand, the rank of Major General is called Pon-tree "พลตรี" for Royal Thai Army, which is equivalent to Real Admiral (Pon-reu-tree "พลเรือตรี") for Royal Thai Navy and Air Vice Marshal (Pon-akat-tree "พลอากาศตรี") for Royal Thai Air Force.


The Turkish Army and Turkish Air Force refer to the rank as tümgeneral. The Turkish Navy equivalent is tümamiral. The name is derived from tümen, the Turkish word for a military division (tümen itself is an older Turkish word meaning "10,000"). Thus, linguistically, it is similar to the French equivalent for a major general, général de division.

United Kingdom[]

In the British Army and Royal Marines, major-general ranks below lieutenant-general and above brigadier, and is thus the lowest of the general officer ranks, although always considered equivalent to major-general in other countries. Divisions are usually commanded by major-generals and they also hold a variety of staff positions. The professional head of the Royal Marines currently holds the rank of major-general.

From 1 April 1918 to 31 July 1919, the Royal Air Force maintained the rank of major-general. It was superseded by the rank of air vice-marshal on the following day.

Major-general is equivalent to rear admiral in the Royal Navy and air vice-marshal in the Royal Air Force.

United States[]

In the United States Army, a major general commands a division of 10,000–20,000 soldiers and is capable of fully independent field operation.


In Vietnam, the rank of major general is known as thiếu tướng. It is used in the army and the air force. It is the equivalent to chuẩn Đô đốc in the Navy.

The rank of thiếu tướng is the lowest general officer and flag officer rank, equivalent to a one-star general and admiral. In the Vietnamese People's Army, a major general commands a corps of 30,000–40,000 soldiers and is capable of fully independent field operation.



Air Force[]

Fictional references[]

  • Major-General Stanley is the "modern major general" from Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic operetta, The Pirates of Penzance. Stanley is a satire of the aristocratic, learned officers in the British Army of the day. He sings the immortal "Major-General's Song" ("I am the very model of a modern major-general, I've information vegetable, animal and mineral...")
  • In the science fiction television series Stargate SG-1, the commanding officer of Stargate Command from seasons 1 to 7 is Major General George Hammond (played by Don S. Davis). From season 9, the position is taken up by Major General Hank Landry.
  • Bartholomew Bandy, the air ace from Donald Jack's Bandy Papers series, ends the First World War as a major general at the age of only 26.
  • In the anime movie Robotech II: The Sentinels, the lead character, Rick Hunter, holds the rank of major general.
  • Con artist Private Harry Frigg, played by Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman, is promoted overnight to major general in the 1968 war comedy, The Secret War of Harry Frigg.
  • The third Judge Advocate General of the show JAG (1995–2005) is a major general: Major General Gordon "Biff" Cresswell, USMC, portrayed by David Andrews.
  • The U.S. Army forces sent to occupy Brooklyn, New York in The Siege are commanded by Major General William Deveraux, portrayed by Bruce Willis.

See also[]


  1. In countries that do not maintain the rank of brigadier general, including much of Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth, major general is the lowest of the general-officer ranks. Note, however, if the rank of brigadier is used, although brigadiers are not classed as "generals", they are of equal rank to brigadier generals, and are still considered to be a one-star rank. If neither of the ranks of brigadier or brigadier general (or an equivalent rank) are used, the major general is still considered a two-star rank (independent of how many stars there actually are in the insignia), and that armed force simply has no one-star rank.
  2. Bowden & Tarbox, p 24. The authors write that FML (field-marshal-lieutenant) is the same as lieutenant-general and general-feldwachtmeister the same as major-general. But they list no equivalent rank to brigadier-general. Nevertheless, the page cited is an excellent source of Austro-Hungarian ranks.
  3. Somalia: A Country Study – Army Ranks and Insignia


  • Boatner, Mark M., III. The Civil War Dictionary. New York: David McKay, 1959. ISBN 0-679-50013-8.
  • Bowden, Scotty & Tarbox, Charlie. Armies on the Danube 1809. Arlington, TX: Empire Games Press, 1980. OCLC 6649795.
  • Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative. Vol. 2. New York: Random House, 1986. ISBN 0-394-74621-X.
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