General of the Air Force

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General of the Air Force
US-O11 insignia.svg
Five-star General of the Air Force insignia.
Allegiance  United States
Service branch  United States Air Force
Abbreviation GAF
Rank Five-star
NATO rank OF-10
Non-NATO rank O-11
Formation December 21, 1944
Next higher rank General of the Armies
Next lower rank General
Equivalent ranks

The General of the Air Force (abbreviated as GAF[1]) is a five-star general officer rank and is the highest possible rank in the United States Air Force. General of the Air Force ranks immediately above a general and is equivalent to General of the Army in the United States Army and Fleet Admiral in the United States Navy; there is no established equivalent five-star rank in the other four uniformed services (Marine Corps, Coast Guard, PHSCC, and NOAA Corps).


General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold

The insignia for General of the Army and General of the Air Force were originally the same. The insignia for General of the Air Force was slightly modified in the 1950s for wear on the new blue Air Force dress uniform. The insignia of General of the Air Force, however, has never been worn by an officer of the present day (1947–present) Air Force on active duty. Public Law 333 of the 79th Congress changed the five-star rank to a permanent grade, and established that officers placed on the retirement list while in that grade would receive full pay and allowances (under Public Law 282 first establishing this grade, retirement had been at 75 per centum).

The only person to hold the rank of General of the Air Force has been Henry H. Arnold. Arnold was a General of the Army (promoted 21 December 1944 under Public Law 282 of the 78th Congress) and was placed on the retired list on 30 June 1946 while the United States Army Air Forces were a component of the U.S. Army. On 7 May 1949, under Public Law 58 of the 81st Congress, his rank was re-designated General of the Air Force, and Arnold was photographed in an Air Force uniform wearing the insignia of that rank. During the Cold War, with the rise of the Strategic Air Command, it was proposed but never enacted that General of the Air Force be granted to General Curtis LeMay, with the rank continued for use and granted to such senior generals such as the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).[citation needed]

The five-star ranks were retired in 1981 on the death of General Omar Bradley.[2] While it is often claimed that U.S. officers who held five-star rank, such as Bradley, never retired,[3] in actuality the law provided that those holding the rank while on the retired list were entitled to full pay and benefits of the pay grade.[4]

Equivalent ranks

The Air Force's rank of General of the Air Force is equivalent to the U.S. Army's rank of General of the Army and the U.S. Navy's rank of Fleet Admiral.

The United States' rank of General of the Air Force is equivalent to the air force rank of marshal of the air force in other countries.[citation needed]

See also


  1. Professional Development Guide, Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241 dated 1 July 2009, Randolph AFB, TX
  2. E. Kelly Taylor (2009). America's Army and the Language of Grunts: Understanding the Army Lingo Legacy. AuthorHouse. p. 283. ISBN 978-1-4389-6249-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Spencer C. Tucker (2011). The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO. pp. 1685. ISBN 978-1-85109-961-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Public Law 333, 79th Congress". Naval Historical Center. 11 April 2007. Retrieved 22 October 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> The retirement provisions of Public Law 333, 79th Congress were also applied to the World War II Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Commandant of the Coast Guard, both of whom held four-star rank.