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Flag of a United States Navy fleet admiral

Fleet Admiral flag

US Navy O11 insignia

Fleet Admiral Collar device, Shoulder Board, and Sleeve Stripes

Fleet Admiral (FADM), is a five-star flag officer rank, and it is considered to be 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 conferred once in the history of the Navy (to Admiral George Dewey following the Spanish-American War (1898) in 1903). Fleet Admiral ranks immediately above admiral and is equivalent to General of the Army and General of the Air Force. The Fleet Admiral rank is reserved for wartime use only and the grade is not currently active. In keeping with a tradition dating back to the 18th-century British Navy, a Fleet Admiral is entitled to full Admiral's pay and fringe benefits, including a small staff, for the remainder of his life.

Fleet Admirals of the United StatesEdit

The United States rank of Fleet Admiral was created by an Act of Congress 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, Jr.   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 in 1944 are December 16 (George C. Marshall), 18 (Douglas MacArthur), 20 (Dwight D. Eisenhower), and 21 (Henry H. Arnold), to establish both a clear order of seniority and a near-equivalence between the services.

The insignia for a Fleet Admiral is composed of five silver stars in a pentagonal design with a two-inch rank stripe, below four smaller stripes, worn on the service dress blue uniform of the Admiral.

A close contender to receive the rank of Fleet Admiral was Admiral Raymond A. Spruance. However, U.S. Representative Carl Vinson, a strong supporter of Admiral Halsey, reportedly blocked the final promotion of Spruance to Fleet Admiral on several occasions.[citation needed] However, Congress then responded by passing an unprecedented Act of Congress that stated that Admiral Spruance would receive a full four-star admiral's salary during the rest of his lifetime.

Since 1945, there have been no additional Fleet Admirals appointed for the U.S. Navy. However, the rank of Fleet Admiral still remains listed on official rank insignia precedence charts, and if needed, this rank could be reestablished at the discretion of Congress and the President. Some documents, especially those teaching new sailors the officer's rank structure, have incorrectly stated that the rank officially expired upon the death of Fleet Admiral Nimitz in 1966.

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 this rank in 1903 to commemorate 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, since five-star officers continue to be paid full salary and benefits for life, unless (as Dwight D. Eisenhower did upon his election to the office of President of the United States) he formally resigns his commission. President Eisenhower's commission was reinstated back to 1944 by an Act of Congress signed by President John F. Kennedy immediately following Eisenhower's leaving office in January 1961.[4]

See alsoEdit


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