Please excuse earlier post as it was not entirely accurate. I knew Congress declared no one should ever outrank George Washington, but got the particulars wrong. Please read info below from to coroborative sources. As it refers to General Pershing and Washington.
In 1919 Congress honored Pershing for his wartime service by permitting the President to promote him to General of the Armies of the United States, which he held until he retired in 1924. He chose his own insignia, which was four star. Nobody else has received that rank during his lifetime. In 1976 Congress authorized the President to posthumously appoint George Washington General of the Armies of the United States and specified that he would rank first among all officers of the Army, past or present.
Congress did not allow the promotion of any more full Generals from 1918 to 1929, when the Major General chosen to be Chief of Staff also became a temporary General so he could have a rank equal to the Chief of Naval Operations. Promotions for others to General did not come until World War II, with the exception of a permanent promotion to General, for World War I Generals Bliss and March in June 1930. The Army still has several Generals, the Marines have had at least one General since 11945 and the Air Force, which started with three in 1947, also has several.
During World War Ii our Army got so big that even full Generals were not enough, so in 1944 Congress created the new rank of General of the Army and specified five stars as its insignia. Congress did not revive the General of the Army rank held by Grant, Sherman and Sheridan. The World War II Generals of the Army were in a separate category from the Civil War Generals of the Army. In December 1944 the President appointed George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Henry H. Arnold Generals of the Army. In 1949 Arnold’s title became General of the Air Force. Omar N. Bradley got his fifth star in 1950.
As to the question of Pershing being a six-star general, there can be no answer unless Congress creates the General of the Armies rank again and specifies the insignia. Pershing does rank ahead of the Five-star Generals. He comes right after Washington, but he chose his own insignia and he never wore more than four stars.
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General of the Armies of the United States George Washington
George Washington was born in Westmoreland Country, Virginia, on 22 February 1732. He was educated at home by his father and his older brother. When he was 17, he was appointed as county surveyor for Culpepper; by age 20 he was a district adjudant general in the Virginia militia. In 1754, he was appointed as a lieutenant colonel and led an unsuccessful campaign against the French at Fort Duquesne. He then served as an aide to General Edward Braddock on the ill-fated Monongahela campaign. Later in 1755, he became the commander of the entire Virginia militia.
In 1758, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses; the next year, he married Martha Dandridge Custis. Virginia sent him as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses of 1774 and 1775, respectively. On 15 June 1775, Congress elected him as general and commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, a position he held until 23 December 1783.
Washington led the Continental Army at Boston (March 1776), Trenton (December 1776), Princeton (January 1777), Brandywine (September 1777), Germantown (October 1777), Monmouth (June 1778), and Yorktown (October 1781). He resigned as commander-in-chief in December of 1783 and returned to his plantation at Mount Vernon.
By 1787, the Articles of Confederation had become inadequate to rule the independent nation. Washington served as the president of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and then as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Briefly, he was recalled to active service as the senior officer of the Army, from 13 July 1798 until his death on 14 December 1799, but he never took the field. Washington was posthumously appointed to the six-star grade of General of the Armies of the United States by Congress on 19 January 1976.
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