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Mervyn Mitton

Question on US Rank Badges

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This has probably been asked - and answered a 100 times in the past  -  but, how were the current set of rank badges for US military personnel chosen  ?

Because of Britain's worldwide influence most of our ex-Colonies and Dominions follow the British pattern of Crowns , pips and for higher ranks, crossed swords and batons.  Now , it is quite understandable that after the 1773 Declaration that Washington's New Army would not want to use the British style of badges , however, what lead to the Bars , and the different coloured leaves ?   Why an Eagle for a full colonel when silvered Stars were used for Generals ?

There must be extensive discussion papers from the past over this issue  -  but, I have never seen them. I would find it of great interest to know the history and also the dates of acceptance.   Britain has now abandoned the rank of Field Marshall - except for Royalty  -  however a Generals' badge still  has crossed swords and batons , with the addition of a crown or, pip to show the rank level.   However, on rank flags and vehicles the level is shown with the US star(s).           Mervyn

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That I can answer  -  over the years the Rank has varied between being of General rank and at other times - a lower status.  At present a Brigadier in the British Army is of General rank  -  but has three pips in triangular shape with a Crown above.  A Brigade still consists of three Regiments or, Battalions.     Two Brigades is probably the full size of the British Army.........................      Mervyn

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Mervyn, you might find this interesting if you've not already found it.  I'm not sure this article discusses reasons behind the insignia, but details the evolution.

http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Catalog/HeraldryMulti.aspx?CategoryId=9168&grp=0&menu=

I also found this interesting and I think it will answer the question of brigadier general.

http://www.pearlandjrotc.freeservers.com/armyhist.htm

As for why we use bars and leaves instead of pips, etc...I'm not sure!  It seems like they just evolved out of old practices.

"In 1851, it was decided to use only silver eagles for colonels, as a matter of economy. The silver eagle was selected based on the fact that there were more colonels with the silver eagle that those with gold, primarily in the cavalry and artillery, hence it was cheaper to replace the numerically fewer gold ones in the infantry. At that time on the shoulder straps, lieutenant colonels wore an embroidered silver leaf; majors wore a gold embroidered leaf; and captains and first lieutenants wore gold bars. The second lieutenant had no grade insignia, but the presence of an epaulette or shoulder strap identified him as a commissioned officer.[1] For majors, the shoulder strap contained an oak leaf, but like the second lieutenant, the epaulette had no grade insignia. However, the major was still distinguishable from the second lieutenant due to the more elaborate epaulette fringes worn by field grade officers."

Rob

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I've always wondered about the US general ranks. Why is a MAJOR general (2 stars) lower than a LIEUTENANT general (3 stars). Seems they should be reversed doesn't it?  :o

Ed

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The old rank of Sgt Major General was shortened to Major General and as a Lieutenant was senior to a Sgt major the lower rank stayed as it was in seniority.  The change came about sometime around the English Civil War and, as Mervyn pointed out earlier, although the insignia changed America obviously kept the rank name.

John

 

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Hi Ed,

that is historical originated.

In former times the rough structure in a unit (Kompanie) was:

Hauptmann > Lieutenant > Wachtmeister

The Lieutenant was the second in command, the Wachtmeister (Feldwebel) was the man for the disciplin.

On the higher level (Regiment):

Obrist > Obristlieutenant > Obristwachtmeister

On the next level:

General > Generallieutenant > Generalwachtmeister

In different countries in different times, centuries ago, the rank Obristwachtmeister changed in the naming to Major.

And based on that, the naming of the rank Generalwachtmeister changed to Generalmajor. That's all :).

Uwe

Edited by speedytop

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