Who Are the Five-Star Generals in U.S. History?

Five U.S. Army generals have held the rank of five-star general, beginning in 1944: George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry Arnold and Omar Bradley. Arnold also became the U.S. Air Force’s only five-star general when his title was redesignated as “general of the Air Force” in 1949.

The U.S. Navy bestows a five-star rank, called fleet admiral. William Leahy, Ernest King, Chester Nimitz and William Halsey, Jr. were five-star admirals. Five-star army generals are given the title “general of the Army.” The Army gave this title to generals prior to 1944, but the uniform did not include five stars. Previous holders of the general of the Army rank included Ulysses Grant, William Sherman and Philip Sheridan.

Only two men have held the title “general of the Armies of the United States.” They are George Washington and John Pershing. Only Pershing held the title during his lifetime, and in accordance with the Army regulations of the time, he wore only four stars. In 1976, President Gerald Ford posthumously awarded the title to George Washington and declared that he would rank first among all Army officers. Admiral George Dewey was given the special “admiral of the Navy” distinction in 1903. As of 2015, he remains the only person ever awarded this title, and it is recognized as senior to the five-star Fleet Admiral rank.