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Fleet Admiral Collar device, Shoulder Board, and Sleeve Stripes

Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy (FADM), or more commonly referred to as Fleet Admiral, is a five-star flag officer rank and is presently considered the highest possible rank in the United States Navy. A special grade of Admiral of the Navy, which ranks above Fleet Admiral, does exist but has only been confirmed once in the history of the Navy. Fleet Admiral ranks immediately above admiral and is equivalent to General of the Army and General of the Air Force; there is no established equivalent five-star rank in the other four uniformed services. The Fleet Admiral rank is reserved for war-time use only and the grade is not currently active in the 21st century military.

Fleet Admirals of the United States

The United States rank of Fleet Admiral was created on a temporary basis under Pub.L. 78-482 on December 14, 1944 [1] and made permanent by Pub.L. 79-333 on March 23, 1946, [2] and was held during and after World War II by the following officers:

      •   William D. Leahy   December 15, 1944,
      •   Ernest J. King   December 17, 1944,
      •   Chester W. Nimitz   December 19, 1944,
      •   William F. Halsey   December 21, 1945.[3]
Note the careful timing of the first three appointments. The dates of rank for the corresponding Generals of the Army promoted at the same time are 16, 18, 20, and 21 December 1944, to establish both a clear order of seniority and a near-equivalence between the services.

The insignia for Fleet Admiral comprises five stars in a pentagon design with a two-inch rank stripe, below four smaller stripes, on the service dress blue uniform.

A close contender for the rank of Fleet Admiral was Raymond A. Spruance; however, U.S. Representative Carl Vinson, a strong supporter of William F. Halsey, was reported to have on several occasions blocked the final promotion of Spruance to Fleet Admiral. Congress eventually responded by passing an unprecedented act which specified that Spruance would remain on an admiral's pay once retired, until death.

Since 1945, there have been no additional Fleet Admirals appointed in the United States Navy. However, the rank still remains listed on official U.S. rank insignia precedence charts and could be reestablished at the discretion of the United States Congress. Some Navy documents, especially those teaching new sailors the rank structure, have stated that the rank officially expired upon the death of Fleet Admiral Nimitz in 1966. Its reenactment would require another act of Congress.

U.S. Naval tradition holds that the rank Admiral of the Navy is considered senior to that of Fleet Admiral. The only person ever to hold the rank of Admiral of the Navy was George Dewey. Dewey was awarded the rank after his service in the Spanish-American War.

All five star officers are, technically, unable to retire from active duty. This is more of a convention of honor than a practical matter, as five star officers continue to be paid full salary for life, unless (as Dwight D. Eisenhower did upon his election to the Presidency) they formally resign their commission. President Eisenhower's commission was retroactively reinstated back to 1944 by a federal law signed by President John F. Kennedy after President Eisenhower left office.[4]


See also



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