I read your reasonings behind why a LT General outranks a MAJ General, and it’s a little simpler than that. Being in the Army for 18 years, I’ve heard this explanation numerous times, here’s how it goes.
When the rank of General was first created, there were three ranks:
Sergeant Major General
As time went by, the “Captain” and the “Sergeant” were dropped from the names, giving us what we have today:
I’m having trouble seeing the difference between this and what Cecil wrote. Other than that he also outlined the history of the primary ranks at the company and regiment levels, and how the extra verbiage dropped off some of those rank names over time. So, I guess it is simpler in the sense of ‘less comprehensive’.
Plus, even to this day we have armies (mostly central and eastern European and those inspired therein) where the general officer two steps above Major General is a “Colonel General”, which would make the intermediate Lieutenant General an implicit Lieutenant*-Colonel* General, thus fully parallelling the field ranks.
(That anglophone armies eventually reintroduced the Sergeant Major in the sense of the enlisted adjutant to field commanders just bears witness to that the job itself still needed to be done…)
The outranks notion fails in several areas.
The notion comes into play in the real world in this: AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY.
So, a full general of all four stars cannot overrule a brigadier general if his area of responsibility doesn’t cover the “junior” general.
That can occur within a theater, command or nationally. As an example the US CENTCOM commanding general cannot order a brigadier general outside of his command, whether it be geographical or military, to perform any action that is unrelated to that US CENTCOM’s AOR. In short, he cannot order a SAC bomber to nuke something (actually, THAT gets even MORE complicated, as civilians “own” nuclear weapons). He can’t order a BG to ignore the national command authority. He can’t order a BG to even give him a pistol that isn’t owned by his command, he can only request it.
In the REAL world, I’ve watched officers in charge of officers senior to them, as THEY were placed in command.
For, command is where it lays. WHO is in command of whom. In theory, one COULD place a full general under the command of a brigadier general. In practice, it would be a breach of protocol and a disgrace, but it is possible.
In the National Archives in Washington, D.C. in one of the cases in the Rotunda is a handwritten note from Lincoln to the Senate, I have seen it in person when I was there before.
If I can quote from memory;
I nominate Ulysses Grant to the rank of LT. General.
Before that he was a Major General according to his bio on Wikipedia So, Lt. does outrank Major, one would think it the opposite, yes.
Now, I am unsure if the Senate had to confirm it, or they were just being notified?
Does anyone know of today if a General has to be confirmed by the Senate?
And as for the note, the terms “major general” and “lieutenant general” were already in use, with the latter being a promotion over the former , in the late 18th Century. George Washington’s last US Army rank in his lifetime was in fact LTG (posthumously promoted since all the way to GOTArmies).
Wizard One, there is a well-understood distinction between rank and line of command. You appear to be suggesting that Cecil was equating the two. He was not, he was just avoiding the unnecessary complication of line of command from the question about rank.
…though the story about how he became a six-star general has gotten a little muddy. Everybody says now that he was promoted to that rank in 1976, but my ca.-1955 World Book Encyclopedia already said he had it.
Is it true that General Marshall (the first five-star General) refused to accept the rank of ‘Field Marshall’ because he was not going to be called Marshall Marshall? So the title ‘General of the Army’ was created instead?
The title itself was originally proposed to replace Washington’s Lieutenant General title (he was briefly recalled to service during the Adams administration) who died before it could be put into effect. Then there was nobody above MG until the Civil-War, after which Grant, Sherman and Sheridan successively occupied the then-one-person-at-a-time 4-star supreme billet that was officially styled “General of the Army” until allowed to lapse again until the early 20th Century when we readopted Lieutenant General and just plain General in the manner of the rest of the English-speaking world. After the Spanish American War, Dewey was named “Admiral Of The Navy”, (not “Fleet Admiral”) and he wore a sleeve insignia consisting of two admiral’s braids plus one regular braid, but still only 4 stars; after WW1, Pershing was officially named “General of the Armies of the United States” – but he too kept wearing the 4-star insignia. For both of them it was one of those things where the title was so uniquely bound to the person there was no need to add stars.
So there was precedent for the “…of the…” styling in US Army history, and avoiding the inconvenience of a Marshal Marshall was a factor but relatively minor (more like “Field Marsal” or “Generalissimo” would have sounded kind of alien and imperial to American ears). When the General of the Army and Fleet Admiral ranks were created in the US in WW2, they were set immediately behind the elder “of the Armies” and “of the Navy” titles for ceremonial precedence.
The military long considered George Washington to be senior to every other officer ever in the US Armed Forces, so he was always treated as above whatever the highest grade at the time might be, but until 1976 nobody had never gotten around to actually passing the Act of Congress required to officially get him there.
But if Trinity had fizzled, MacArthur and Nimitz would have been promoted to be the first to wear six stars on their uniforms, and to hold six-star ranks on active wartime duty. The proposed design was the five-star arrangement with one more star in the center.
However, you’re wrong about them potentially being the first six-stars on active duty. As noted just above, Pershing was the first–and probably only–one. It’s just that he never bothered to actually wear six stars.
Basically, in order to command the planned allied invasion of Japan, MacArthur would be superior to numerous five-star-level officers in both U.S. and allied forces. So until Japan surrendered after Nagasaki, plans were in the works to establish a six-star rank to make that chain of command incontrovertible.
As a reference, Wikipedia cites Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan by D.M. Giangreco, as well as MacArthur’s own service record.
He never even wore five stars. Nor was his rank ever officially established as a five- or six-star rank. From what I’ve read, Pershing’s rank today is considered either a super-four-star or an early five-star. Not six.
He wore four physical stars on his uniform by his own choice, but there is no question that he and Washington are officially regarded as six-star today, and that the five-star rank was explicitly stated when it was established during WW2 to be lower than Pershing’s.
Until it was standardized with the various WW2 theater commanders, the General of the Army/Armies had been appointed only one at a time, so it was not a big deal to make him choose a distinctive insignia.
No, it wasn’t. The then-retired Pershing was stated to be superior to the new five-stars by virtue of seniority, but the question of whether his rank alone was sufficient to outrank the five-stars was never officially addressed.
If Pershing’s rank was considered six-star, then Washington’s posthumous promotion to six stars wouldn’t have achieved the stated goal of making him superior to all other Army officers, because Pershing would still have more seniority. (Washington’s promotion was effective July 4, 1976; it was not retroactive.) Thus, the clear intent is that Pershing’s rank is inferior to Washington’s.