Four stars arrayed in a point-to-center configuration serve as the shoulder rank insignia for Generals (Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps) and Admirals (Navy and Coast Guard). Although five-star ranks still technically exist (and the President has the power to appoint officers to five-star rank at any time), four stars are the de facto highest peacetime military rank in the United States Armed Forces.

In the Marine Corps and Air Force, Generals wear this pin-on metal insignia on both dress uniforms and outerwear garments, while four-star officers in the remaining three branches of the Armed Forces wear it exclusively on outerwear and casual garments. Army Generals wear it on the Black All-Weather Coat and Black Windbreaker, while Admirals in the Navy wear it on the Blue Jacket, Black Jacket, Blue All-Weather Coat, and the Khaki Jacket. Coast Guard Admirals wear the insignia on the epaulets of Trench Coats and Windbreakers.

The number of four-star officers in the various branches of the Armed Forces of the United States is determined by Federal statute, with the caps largely determined by the size of the military branch. (There are several factors that affect these maximums, such as assignment to joint duty positions.) Given this fact, it should probably come as no surprise that the Marine Corps, the smallest of the four military branches organized under the Department of Defense, has had only sixty-nine officers promoted to four-star rank despite the fact that it was founded in 1775 just a few months after the Army and a little over a month after the Navy was established.

What does seem a bit startling is that even though it was not established until 1947, the United States Air Force has had a total of 215 four-star Generals, just fifty-seven fewer than the Navy and a mere 17 less than the Army. (The Air Force’s first four Generals—Henry “Hap” Arnold, Joseph McNarney, George Kenney, and Carl Spaatz—were promoted to that rank while serving in the United States Army Air Force, the direct predecessor of today’s United States Air Force.)

As Fiscal Year 2017 drew to a close, there were a total of eleven Air Force Generals compared six in the United States Army and six Admirals in the United States Navy. Although the U.S. Code caps the number of four-star Air Force Generals at nine (two more than the Army’s statutory maximum and three more than the Navy’s), several Air Force Generals were serving in Joint commands and therefore did not count toward the limitation.

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As a certified manufacturer of uniforms and insignia, The Salute Uniforms considers it a privilege to provide the members of our nation’s military services with superior-quality apparel and accoutrements. We guarantee that every product we offer is made in the USA and meets or surpasses Mil-Spec standards. Browse our online catalog and discover how our tradition of excellence and commitment to innovation makes us your best source for military uniforms, insignias, medals, and accessories.


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