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Published on: Monday, July 8, 2024 read more ...

Five-Star Generals and Admirals

Gravesite of General Omar N. Bradley, one of five five-star military officers buried at Arlington National Cemetery

On December 14, 1944, Congress passed Public Law 482, authorizing the temporary establishment of a five-star rank: General of the Army and, for the U.S. Navy, Fleet Admiral. This aligned the United States' military ranks with those of its World War II allies, thus eliminating the problem of U.S. officers commanding Allied officers of technically higher rank. In December 1944, the Army promoted four general officers to General of the Army: Generals George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Henry H. "Hap" Arnold. The Navy, meanwhile, promoted three admirals to Fleet Admiral — Admirals William D. Leahy, Ernest J. King and Chester Nimitz — and a fourth, Admiral William F. Halsey, in December 1945. After the establishment of the Air Force as a separate service branch in 1947, General Arnold also became General of the Air Force. In September 1950, Omar N. Bradley became the fifth Army general to be promoted to five-star rank. 

The five-star rank still exists, although no U.S. officers have held it since the death of General Bradley in 1981. The president may promote a general or admiral to five-star rank at any time, with Senate approval. However, U.S. military policy has been to award five-star rank only when the rank of an American commander must be equal to or higher than that of officers from other nations under his or her control (as was the case in World War II). 

Five of the nine five-star officers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery: Generals Marshall, Arnold and Bradley, and Admirals Leahy and Halsey. 

 Name Date of Rank   Gravesite Location
Admiral William D. Leahy        Dec. 15, 1944                  Section 2, Grave 932
General George C. Marshall     Dec. 16, 1944 Section 7, Grave 8198
General Henry H. Arnold Dec. 21, 1944  Section 34, Grave 44-A       
Admiral William F. Halsey Dec. 11, 1945  Section 2, Grave 1184
General Omar N. Bradley Sept. 20, 1950  Section 30, Grave 428-1-2       

Only three U.S. officers have held a rank higher than General of the Army or Fleet Admiral: John J. Pershing, George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, who hold the rank of General of the Armies. Pershing was promoted to General of the Armies in 1919; Washington received a posthumous promotion in 1976, as part of the United States' bicentennial celebration; and Grant received a posthumous promotion as part of the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. However, the Army has never officially adopted six stars to correspond with this rank.

General Pershing is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 34, Grave S-19.