Field Marshal

Field marshal is a military officer rank. Today it is the highest rank in the armies in which it is used, one step above a general or colonel-general. Historically, however, several armies used field marshal as a divisional command rank, notably Spain and Mexico (Spanish: mariscal de campo). In France, Portugal and Brazil (French: maréchal de camp, Portuguese marechal de campo) it was formerly a brigade command rank.

The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses (from old German Marh-scalc = "horse-servant") from the time of the early Frankish kings.

Some nations use the title of marshal instead, while some have used field marshal general. The Air Force equivalent in the Commonwealth is marshal of the air force (not to be confused with air marshal). The corresponding naval ranks are normally fleet admiral, grand admiral or admiral of the fleet.

Upon their promotions, field marshals were traditionally awarded a decorative baton, which they carried as a symbol of their high rank. They were often studded with jewels and inlaid with precious metals.

During Imperial rule in China, successful generals were given the title of field marshal (Yuan Shuai) or grand field marshal (da yuan shuai). One of the most famous of these generals was Yue Fei from the Song Dynasty.

Until the end of World War II, Japan also bestowed the honorary title of field marshal (gensui) on successful generals and admirals; they would, however, retain their ranks of general and admiral.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington was a field marshal in twelve armies. His twelve field marshal batons are on display in Apsley House.

In the French army of the Ancien Régime, the normal brigade command rank was field marshal (maréchal de camp). In 1793, during the French Revolution, the rank of field marshal was replaced by the rank of brigade general. The rank insignia of field marshal was two stars (one star being used for a senior colonel rank). The French field marshal rank was below lieutenant-general, which in 1793 became divisional-general. In the title maréchal de camp and the English "field marshal", there is an etymological confusion in the French camp between the English words "camp" and "field". The French rank of field marshal should not be confused with the rank of Marshal of France, which was the highest rank of the Ancien Régime and is in effect the highest French rank today (although in theory it is not an actual rank but a "state dignity").

The United States has never used the rank of field marshal in part because George Washington only held the rank of general: some considered it "inappropriate" to have a higher rank. Instead, two variations on "general" are used: general of the army or "5 star general" and, once general of the armies of the United States (the latter rank was invented for John Pershing in 1919 in recognition of his performance as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force). The American General MacArthur was a field marshal in the army of the Philippines, whereas he held different ranks in the United States Army. On December 16, 1944, General Marshall became the first American general to be promoted to 5 star rank, the newly created general of the army. He was the second American to be promoted to a 5 star rank, as William Leahy was promoted to fleet admiral the previous day. A Washington columnist suggested (with tongue in cheek) that Marshall disliked the plan because five stars was the rank of field marshal and the Chief of Staff could then be addressed as “Marshal Marshall.”

Field marshal ranks

Other meanings

See also

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