Can George Washington Be Outranked

Carole Stephens
• Thursday, 24 December, 2020
• 14 min read

While the popular image of Washington is usually that of a buttoned-down, no-nonsense, commanding figure, the fact is that wasn't always the case, Mount Vernon.org added. Like many families that made their money in agriculture at the time, Washington grew up with a great many brothers and sisters, Mount Vernon.org further noted.

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General Washington served in that capacity for eight and a half years before retiring at the end of the American Revolutionary War. So the highest rank that Washington held in the United States Army was Lieutenant General.

In 1976, President Ford signed into law a bill that revived a defunct Army rank:. The law also gave Washington precedence over the only other bearer of that rank: John J. Pershing.

General of the Armies John J. Pershing, the only person to hold that grade during his own lifetime. CountryUnited StatesService branch United States Army Formation September 3, 1919 (1919-09-03)Next higher rankNoneNext lower rank General of the Army The grade is sometimes speculated to be a six-star general, as being senior to the five-star grade of general of the Army, but no six-star insignia was ever officially created and Pershing, the only person to be General of the Armies during his own lifetime, never wore more than four stars.

To make Washington unambiguously the highest ranking Army officer in 1976, Congress specified that his new grade of General of the Armies ranked above all other grades of the Army, past or present. The General of the Armies enjoyed several privileges not afforded to other generals, including a much higher salary and the right to retire at full pay and allowances.

That a commander of the army of the United States shall be appointed and commissioned by the style of “General of the Armies of the United States,” and the present office and title of Lieutenant-General shall thereafter be abolished. The law was intended to elevate George Washington, who was then a lieutenant general commanding the provisional army being organized to fight the Quasi-War against France, but President John Adams never made the appointment, thinking it would infringe on his constitutional functions.

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Washington died on December 14, 1799, and the grade lapsed on March 16, 1802, when not mentioned in the law that defined the peacetime military establishment. American Civil War That the grade of “general of the army of the United States” be, and the same is hereby, revived....

It thus appears that the office of general was first created in 1799 by the title of “General of the Armies of the United States;” that it was revived in 1866 as “General of the Army of the United States;” and that it was again revived in 1919 by the title of “General of the Armies of the United States.” Pershing would inherit several of his unique perquisites as General of the Armies through this legislative continuity with the Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan grade, including a much higher salary than other generals and the right to retire at full pay instead of three-quarters pay.

John J. Pershing was General of the Armies from September 3, 1919, until his death on July 15, 1948. During World War I, Congress authorized the ex officio grade of general for the chief of staff of the Army and the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France, but only during the wartime emergency. Unlike the 1866 grade, which was a permanent personal appointment, the 1917 grade was only held while occupying a specific office.

Army chief of staff Tasked H. Bliss and AEF commander John J. Pershing were commissioned emergency generals on October 8, 1917, with Peyton C. March succeeding Bliss as chief of staff and emergency general on May 20, 1918. Attempt to appoint March with Pershing When the war ended, Pershing and March were due to lose their emergency grades and revert to major general, so on June 18, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to promote both men to permanent general in a way that gave Pershing precedence over March.

Six weeks later, the House Military Affairs Committee reported out two bills authorizing Pershing and March to each be appointed General of the Armies. To ensure that Pershing would outrank March, Pershing's bill also repealed the 1917 law that gave the Army chief of staff precedence over all other Army officers.

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Congress and Pershing both opposed March's promotion, having clashed with him during the war, so March's bill did not pass, and he reverted to major general, eventually advancing to general on the retired list but never becoming General of the Armies. Pershing's appointment That the office of General of the Armies of the United States is hereby revived... a general officer of the Army who, on foreign soil and during the recent war, has been especially distinguished in the higher command of military forces of the United States...and any provision of existing law that would enable any other officer of the Army to take rank and precedence over said officer is hereby repealed....

The bill had been rushed through Congress in only two days so that Secretary of War Newton D. Baker could hand Pershing his new commission as soon as he arrived from France on September 8, when his emergency grade would expire. In the haste to promote Pershing, Wilson accidentally nominated him to be a general in the Army instead of a General of the Armies, a difference that could have cost Pershing half his income when he retired.

Official Army publications subsequently took care to spell out Pershing's title as General of the Armies, as distinct from the emergency generals of 1917 and the rank of general that was held by the chief of staff of the Army after 1929. In 1928, Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis even increased the 17-gun salute authorized for a General of the Armies to the 19 guns of a European field marshal.

Continued privileges during retirement Pershing transferred to the retired list on September 12, 1924, but continued to draw full pay and allowances, a privilege not granted to other generals. Even after retiring, the General of the Armies maintained a spacious office in the old State, War, and Navy Building until it was relocated to the Pentagon in 1947, years after ill health had permanently confined Pershing to Walter Reed General Hospital.

In 1939, Congress created the office of military secretary to the General of the Armies with the rank of colonel so Pershing's longtime aide, Captain George E. Adamson, could continue to manage Pershing's affairs after his own retirement. There were several attempts to appoint senior World War II officers as Generals of the Armies, but none came to fruition.

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King and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson both suspected that as Pershing's longtime protégé, Marshall would resist any rank equivalent to General of the Armies while his mentor was still alive. Stimson did ask President Franklin D. Roosevelt to appoint Marshall as General of the Armies in September 1943, so he could command the planned invasion of France while remaining chief of staff, but Roosevelt ultimately gave the command to Dwight D. Eisenhower instead.

Creation of five-star grade With the invasion of Europe well underway by September 1944, the War Department finally gave its blessing to a five-star grade on condition that it not be called General of the Armies, a title reserved for the higher rank held by Pershing. I have been asked by members of Congress for the War Department's view on an amendment which will provide for similar advanced army rank.

I have advised Congress that the War Department concurs in such proposed action. This concurrence, however, is contingent on the understanding that a distinction will be made between the title conferred by the new advanced rank and the title now accompanying the higher rank of 'The General of the Armies' held by General John J. Pershing.

On December 14, 1944, Public Law 78-482 established the five-star grade of general of the Army, preserving Pershing's status as the only General of the Armies and further stating that nothing would change about the 1919 law that had promoted him: Nothing in this Act shall affect the provisions of the Act of September 3, 1919...or any other law relating to the office of General of the Armies of the United States.

Six-star debate By specifying that nothing about the General of the Armies would be changed by the law that created the five-star grades, Congress intended Pershing to remain the highest ranking officer in the Army. This sparked a long-running debate over whether Pershing was now a six-star general; the senior five-star general; or even just a four-star general, as later argued by an influential pair of articles by Frederick Bernays Wiener, who pointed out that the 1919 law that revived his office did not actually say that the General of the Armies outranked all other Army officers, but merely repealed a 1917 law that would have let the Army chief of staff outrank him.

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For the rest of Pershing's life, official publications consistently treated the General of the Armies as being one grade higher than a five-star general. Army regulations let the General of the Armies design his own uniform, but by the time the five-star grade was created in 1944, Pershing was too infirm to consider updating his insignia.

When Pershing died on July 15, 1948, a proposal to bury him in a uniform bearing six stars was rejected in favor of the four stars he had always worn. Attempts to appoint MacArthur In January 1955, Congressional supporters of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur introduced legislation to appoint him General of the Armies, backdated to his 75th birthday on January 26.

The proposal stalled in the House Armed Services Committee after the Defense Department opposed it on the grounds that promoting only MacArthur would downgrade all other five-star officers and “arouse interservice, in-service and popular misunderstanding and controversies.” Another attempt was still pending in Congress when MacArthur died on April 5, 1964.

Citing this low rank, Senator Edward Martin introduced a bill in April 1954 to appoint Washington posthumously as General of the Armies. Twenty-three years later, a veterans group in the district of Representative Mario Bragg observed that Washington had still not been promoted, prompting Bragg to sponsor a joint resolution to elevate Washington to General of the Armies as part of the United States Bicentennial celebration in 1976.

(a) for purposes of subsection (b) of this section only, the grade of General of the Armies of the United States is established, such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present. (b) The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.

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Although President Gerald Ford signed the law on October 11, 1976, no further action was taken to promote Washington until February 1978, when a military driver studying for a promotion board asked his passenger, General Donn A. Starry, whether Washington now outranked Pershing. The specialist five's question to a four-star general triggered a chain of inquiries that caused the Department of the Army to issue Orders 31-3 on March 13, 1978, posthumously promoting Washington to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, effective from the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1976.

When the question was asked again in 1992, the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry considered Pershing's rank to be equivalent to five stars and junior to Washington. Pershing never wore more than four stars as General of the Armies. No insignia was ever officially specified for the General of the Armies, who was allowed to define it for himself.

Upon being appointed General of the Armies in 1919, Pershing continued to wear the four silver stars and gold collar eagle that he had selected for his insignia as a general in 1917, when Army regulations authorized generals to prescribe their own shoulder and collar insignia. Pershing and Generals Tasked H. Bliss and Peyton C. March all chose to wear four silver stars on their shoulders, instead of the previous insignia of two silver stars and a gold eagle.

Pershing and Bliss also replaced the regulation bronze “U.S.” insignia on their collars with a gold eagle representing the Great Seal of the United States. In 1937, Pershing created a custom full dress uniform to attend the coronation of George VI and Elizabeth, denoting his rank with four gold stars embroidered on each sleeve.

Full dress uniforms for other general officers used silver stars, including the custom uniform that Army chief of staff Main Craig designed for himself the following year. Because the General of the Armies prescribed his own insignia, later tradition held that Pershing could have worn as many stars as he wanted.

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Claimed one expert in 1976, “if a General of the Armies wants to wear six stars, he can. The creation of the five-star grades in 1944 led to suggestions that Pershing clarify his seniority by adopting a six-star insignia, but by then he was too ill.

When Pershing died in 1948, funeral planners considered affixing a six-star insignia to his uniform, but instead buried him with the four stars he wore in life. The 1919 law that promoted Pershing gave the General of the Armies the same annual pay of $13,500 that was set in 1870 for General William T. Sherman, plus $8,000 in allowances.

All other generals fell under the Joint Service Pay Readjustment Act of 1922, which set the pay for a major general at $8,000. Including food and housing, the annual compensation for a general of the Army in December 1944 was $14,951, versus $21,500 for the General of the Armies.

The General of the Armies retired with full pay and allowances, another benefit created for Sherman and inherited by Pershing, who continued to receive $21,500 for the rest of his life. Even in retirement, he drew a higher annual compensation than any other official in the federal government except the President of the United States.

Other generals retired at three-quarters pay and no allowances. When Army chief of staff Charles P. Summer all retired in 1931, his annual compensation fell to only $6,000, three quarters of a major general's pay.

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Starting in 1933, the General of the Armies was allowed to design his own uniform, as were current and former Army chiefs of staff. Pershing used this authority to create the unique uniform he wore to the 1937 coronation of George VI and Elizabeth, styled after the full dress uniform that had been introduced by the Army in 1902 but discontinued in 1917.

Whereas the 1902 uniform portrayed the rank of a general officer by embroidering silver stars on each sleeve, Pershing's 1937 uniform sleeves bore four gold stars. When Army chief of staff Main Craig designed his own custom uniform in 1938, he returned to the usual silver stars.

On March 2, 1899, Congress created the grade of Admiral of the Navy to honor George Dewey for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay. Only Dewey ever held this grade, which is often treated as the United States Navy equivalent of General of the Armies, although the two grades never overlapped since Dewey died on January 16, 1917, two years before Pershing's appointment.

Admiral of the Navy and General of the Armies were permanent grades awarded as personal accolades for past service, unlike the latter ex officio ranks of admiral and general. Both grades carried the same annual pay of $13,500 for life, and the proposal to create more Admirals of the Navy in 1944 continued to tie their compensation to the General of the Armies.

After Dewey was mistakenly nominated to be an admiral in the Navy instead of Admiral of the Navy in 1899 and had to be renominated in 1903, the Navy carefully distinguished between Dewey's grade and the rank of admiral that was held by the three fleet commanders from 1915, and the chief of naval operations from 1916. Although the 1944 proposal to create six-star grades was dropped, Army and Navy regulations in 1951 still authorized only 17 guns to salute a five-star officer, and 19 guns for an Admiral of the Navy or General of the Armies.

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U.S. Army Center of Military History. McClellan Air Force Base, California: Office of History, Sacramento Air Logistics Center.

519 to Provide For the Appointment of George Washington to the Grade of General of the Armies of the United States, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, Ninety-Fourth Congress, Second Session, August 3, 1976. 2078) ^ “Highest Paid Official, After Hoover, Is Pershing”.

Defender of the Public Interest: The General Accounting Office, 1921-1966. Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office.

^ Supplement to the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Covering the Second Term of Woodrow Wilson, March 4, 1917, to March 4, 1921. House Reports (Public), 66th Congress, 1st Session.

House Reports (Public), 66th Congress, 1st Session. “News of Army and Navy: Precedence of Gen. Pershing Over Chief of Staff Approved by Officers”.

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(Source: www.chicagotribune.com)

House Reports (Miscellaneous), 76th Congress, 1st Session. “Marshall's Status Examined Before Giving Higher Title”.

“Stimson For Higher Rank To Honor Our Top Generals”. “The final clause was aimed at so much of the Act of 12 May 1917 (40 Stat.

46) as had provided that the chief of staff 'shall take rank and precedence over all other officers of the Army.'” Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Army (1950).

Military Laws of the United States (Army), 1949 (Ninth ed.). “Paragraph 3 of AR 600-15, from 21 January 1945 until 14 August 1951, listed the three “highest grades of rank” as follows: a.

CS1 main: date format (link) Wiener (November 1945), pp. “Pershing, Bliss, and March all went back to the earlier insignia of four stars.

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Pershing and Bliss both wore the arms of the U. S. in gold on their collars....AR 600-35, October 14, 1921, prescribed one, two, three, and four stars for the several grades of general officers, but continued the provision permitting the General of the Armies and generals to wear such collar insignia as they might prescribe....” “Five-seaters May Not Carry 5-Star Insignia”. Pershing made only one change to designate his super-title.

In place of the “U. S.” customarily worn on an officer's collar, he wears a miniature of the Great Seal of the United States. ^ “Pershing to Attend Coronation in Snappy Attire of Own Design”.

Army regulations had been modified in 1933 to read “ll articles of uniform for wear by the General of the Armies, the Chief of Staff, and a former Chief of Staff are such as each may prescribe for himself” (see AR 600-40, dated 22 June 1931 and change no. “House Panel to Promote Washington ".

“Pershing Will Provides Trust Fund Of $150,000 For Sister”. ^ “U. S. Military Rank: Special Army Titles Proposed for Pershing and March”.

Hearings Before the Committee on Naval Affairs of the House of Representatives on Sundry Legislation Affecting the Naval Establishment, 1944. Master of Sea Power: A Biography of Fleet Admiral Ernest J.

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