Special Sub-Topic: General Stars
|George Washington wore four stars as "General and Commander-In-Chief of the Army of the United Colonies."|
False. The Continental Congress of July 16, 1775, commissioned Washington with a rank and title, and gave him four major generals (two-star grades) to assist him. The appointment does not specify the grade of general he was to be, but the next highest rank was lieutenant general (three-star grade). In 1780, Washington himself issued his Executive Order to the Continental Army that "The Commander-In-Chief shall wear epaulettes (shoulder boards) with three silver stars and no feather on the cockade (hat)." There are several portraits and paintings of Washington done during the Revolutionary War which show him wearing three stars on his epaulettes. He resigned his commission in 1783. Congress acknowledged his former grade by the Act of May 28, 1798, which provided for Washington to become "Commander of the Army" (title-position-office) and "being commissioned as lieutenant-general" (rank and grade). President Adams then appointed him as "Lieutenant-General and Commander in Chief of the Armies". A joint resolution of Congress in 1976 refers to him as "Lieutenant General George Washington". With the death of Washington, his rank became vacant until it was revived for U. S. Grant in March of 1864. Previously, Major General Winfield Scott was awarded the purely honorary rank of Brevet Lieutenant General in 1855.
|Ulysses S. Grant wore four stars as "General of the Army of the United States."|
True. The Congessional Act of July 25, 1866, gave Lieutenant General Grant the title of "General of the Army of the United States," and he became the first full General in rank and grade. He was followed in this rank and title by William T. Sherman in 1869. When Philip H. Sheridan died in 1883, this rank and title became vacant until 1917.
|John J. Pershing was authorized to wear five stars as "General of the Armies of the United States."|
False. Pershing became a temporary General (four-star rank) on October 6, 1917, as Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces. As a WWI hero to the American public, Pershing was appointed to the office of "General of the Armies of the United States" by the Special Congressional Act of September 3, 1919. This Act refers to the appointment as an office and title. It says nothing about a change in rank and grade. What it did do was to make Pershing a permanent full General of four-star grade, the first since Sheridan. In this case, an office means a grade. This was a revival of the Act of Congress of March 3, 1799, by which it was intended to promote George Washington as "General of the Armies of the United States" to the first four-star rank. However, Washington died before accepting the promotion and that grade was never filled. Military law has always required that a commissioned officer accept a promotion before it becomes legal and official, or the offer becomes null and void. This rank, being unfilled, expired by law in 1802. Obviously, Congress wished to give Pershing the honor denied Washington. Using logic, why would Pershing be promoted to a five-star rank when there had been no other permanent, four-star generals between 1893 and 1944? Pershing did not have the right to wear more than four stars by virtue of strict army regulations. Furthermore, when the actual five-star rank and grade was created in 1944, Pershing, although living in retirement at the time, was not promoted to it.
|George C. Marshall was the first general ever authorized to wear five stars.|
True. For the first time, Congress actually established a five-star rank known as General of the Army, a temporary grade, designated by Public Law 482, 78th Congress, on December 14, 1944. Marshall was promoted first, followed by Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Henry H. Arnold. Omar N. Bradley the the last to be promoted in 1950. Since he died in 1981, there has been no other. There has never been a six-star general in the U.S. Army. The ultimate legal authority of the U.S. Army is the Judge Advocate General.
|George Washington became the first general authorized a six-star rank in 1976.|
False. This is the most controversial issue of all. Yet it should not be if a prudent and reasonable person examines historical facts and military precedents in the proper light. The conclusion becomes clear that, offically and legally, George Washington was, is, and alway will be a Lieutenant General in rank and grade. History cannot be revised to suit politicians and dreamers. Joint Resolution of Congress,Public Law 94-479, dated October 11, 1976, appointed George Washington to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States.
It further states that "it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington." That statement alone acknowledges Washington's real and permanent rank. This action does not authorize a six-star, five-star, or even four-star insignia of rank. A posthumous promotion, by its very nature, makes an increase in actual military rank illegal, null and void, and contrary to military law. A person who had been dead for 176 years cannot accept a new rank. Even more ludicrous is that the promotion was backdated to be effective July 4, 1776. If this was an honest, patriotic attempt to honor the Father of Our Country as "First in war; first in peace; and first in the hearts of his countrymen," during the U.S. Bicentennial, then the Act is purely symbiotic. It has the same practical effect as giving the deceased a medal, a title, or honorary brevet rank. It could also be the purpose of a political, partisan, interest group to draw attention to itself. Since Congress tried and failed to promote him to four-star rank while he was alive, it certainly cannot promote him after death. It can only give him the honor of placing him first on the list of all-time generals and ranking him first in the hearts of the politicians. The terms "General of the Armies of the United States" and "General of the Army of the United States" are historically synonomous, and have applied to officers of four-star rank. General of the Army is an actual, five-star rank and grade. If Congress wanted a new six-star rank created, it should have come up with with a title and rank never used before such as "Supreme General of All the Armies of the United States" or "Field Marshall General of the United States Army." Historical revisionists have had a field day with this Joint Resolution, just as they have with the falsehoods that Washington cut down the cherry tree with his little hatchet, and that he had wooden teeth, and that the Holocaust never occured. Fantasy is one thing and truth is another.
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