U.S. ARMY AIDE TO GENERAL COLLAR INSIGNIA

The insignia for Aides to General Officers was created in 1902 by Howard Christy Chandler, an artist and illustrator who first gained fame as a combat artist during the Spanish-American and who subsequently crafted numerous military recruiting posters (his “Gee! I wish I were a man” Navy recruiting poster is truly iconic). The basic design feature an eagle facing dexter with wings reversed holding a shield made up of red and white stripes; across the top of the shield is a chief that bears the number of stars corresponding to the rank of the General Officer who the aide is serving under. An aide serving under a Major General, for instance, would wear collar devices with two stars in the chief.

Four stars were first used in the insignia of Army General Officers following the Civil War, when Congress established the rank of “General of the Army” for Union General Ulysses S. Grant and designated it a four-star grade. Following William T. Sherman’s succession as General of the Army, the General of the Army rank—and the use of four stars—temporarily ended due to Congressional legislation, but by political legerdemain the rank and four-star insignia were temporarily revived to confer upon General Philip Sheridan, who served for all of two months before passing away while in office.

The use of four stars and the rank of General as opposed to “General of the Army” was reintroduced during World War I, but only three Army Generals—John J. Pershing, Tasker Bliss, and Peyton March—were appointed to that grade. But while Pershing wore four stars, he outranked his fellow four-star Generals because he had been named “General of the Armies,” a title that had never before been conferred upon any military.

While the four-star General grade technically falls below the five-star rank of General of the Army, no officer has held a five-star rank since the retirement of Omar Bradley in 1953, and general sentiment is that no officer will be appointed to a five-star rank unless an official state of war is ever declared.

By statute, the Army can have no more than seven four-star Generals at any one time.
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