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Common Ranks
Following is a list of Common Ranks in some of the world's prominent existing and historical military forces: USA (Yanks with Tanks), UK (Brits with Battleships), USSR/Russia (Reds with Rockets and Russians with Rusting Rockets, respectively), Imperial Japan, and the Third Reich (Nazis with Gnarly Weapons). The Imperial Japan military (Katanas of the Rising Sun) is included instead of JSDF (Kaiju Defense Force) because the imperial ranks are far more common in Anime than JSDF ones, so that's what you are probably looking for, anyway. See also certain Useful Notes pages for historical armies to find uncommon ranks that were used in them, such as Russians with Rifles.

See also Common Military Units. For when someone is promoted on show, see Rank Up.

For the sake of easier comparison, the NATO rank scale is used, so several disclaimers should be made:
  • Note that US and UK are the only members of NATO on the list. Moreover, NATO was formed in 1949, whereas Imperial Japanese and the Third Reich's armies were disbanded in 1945 (though the modern Bundeswehr did inherit all Wehrmacht's ranks up to OF-9, save for those of the disbanded Waffen-SS). Additionally, the Schutzstaffel rank ladder was shuffled multiple times before 1934, and this list refers to its final version.
  • Both Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union also had the rank of Generalissimus, which is largely off the NATO scale and was awarded just six times in history. Russian Federation has inherited its complete rank ladder from the Soviet Union (except the Marshal of the Soviet Union, which was obviously renamed).
  • Also note that the ranks for Reds with Rockets as listed here were estabilished in 1940s (non-general officer ranks were in late 1930s). Before that, the Red Army used position names (e.g. brigade commander, regiment commander) instead of ranks. Rudiments of this system existed during WWII in ranks such as "regiment commissar" or "division military lawyer".
  • Ranks above OF-9 (four star general) have never been awarded in peacetime in the USA.
  • The list also doesn't contain the Commander-in-Chief of the entire national military. The CIC may not hold any military rank at all (e.g. a democratically elected president) but still be on top of the entire chain of military command.
  • Due to reductions in numbers of squadrons, in the UK a Squadron is usually commanded by a Wing Commander today.
  • Warships of destroyer size or smaller tend to be commanded by officers of OF-4 rank (i.e. Commanders), but The Captain (aka The Skipper) is always The Captain while aboard ship, regardless of their actual rank. (Likewise, if any member of the Army/Marine Corps/etc. is on board who's actually holding the rank of Captain, he is addressed as "Major" to avoid confusion.) Those of cruiser size or greater have OF-5s in charge, so you have a Captain for a Ticonderoga-class cruiser and a Commander for an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

Officer ranks

Officers play the commanding role in the military. If enlisted ranks are its hands, the officers are its brains. Usually, an officer has formal education in warfare in addition to the usual training, so that he can assume the responsibility for others and uphold the officer honor. In fiction (and often in Real Life), they are usually also way more badass than their non-commissioned and enlisted subordinates.

The "n star" designation refers to the American custom of placing stars on the generals' shoulder boards. Note that other military forces who also use stars to denote ranks (e.g. USSR) may not necessarily have exactly the same numbers of them.

  • Supreme (six star general) (off the NATO scale but still within range)
    • US: General of the Armies, Admiral of the Navy, none
      • Only three individuals have ever held this rank in the entire history of the United States Armed Forces, though none of them were technically six-star commanders while alive. George Washington (who died as a lieutenant general) was posthumously promoted to this rank, as he must by law be the most senior officer on the rolls of the United States Army. John J. Pershing was promoted to the rank of General of the Armies (at the time equivalent to a five-star rank) as a one-time affair so that he would not be outranked by the field marshals then commanding the other major Allied armies on the Western Front; he is traditionally seen as senior to the current five-star rank, but this has never been officially confirmed (in part because this would mean promoting Washington to a new seven-star rank). George Dewey was promoted to Admiral of the Navy (also held as equivalent to a five-star rank at the time) during the Spanish-American War. Unlike Pershing's case, however, the Department of the Navy explicitly made the newly-created Fleet Admiral rank junior to Dewey's.
      • The United States did consider creating an explicit 6-star rank for both the Army and the Navy during World War II in anticipation of the invasion of Japan, to be held by Douglas MacArthur and Chester Nimitz respectively. Like the rest of the invasion plans, these were discarded after the atomic bombs fell and Japan surrendered.
    • USSR: Marshal of the Soviet Union (Marshal Sovetskogo Soyuza), Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union (Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza), Chief Marshal of Aviation (Glavny Marshal Aviatsii); note that these ranks technically have only ONE large star.
      • The six-star admiral rank has been only held by three individuals during the Cold War, partly because of one of them, Sergey Gorshkov, spent 27 years (1958-1985) in the post. The rest of the time, the Marshal commanded all Soviet armed forces including the Navy. This rank was not passed down to the modern Russian military.
      • The six-star general in some branches of the Soviet military, such as artillery and tank forces, was called "Chief Marshal of [insert branch here]". Discontinued in 1984, fully removed from the rank sructure in 1993.
    • Russia: Marshal of the Russian Federation (Marshal Rossiyskoy Federatsii)
    • Italy: The rank of Marshal of Italian Empire (superior to a regular old marshal of Italy) was created in 1938, just for the king and the Duce.
    • IJ: Grand Marshal (Dai-Gensui), reserved exclusively for the Emperors of Japan
    • Third Reich: Imperial Marshal of the Greater German Reich (Reichsmarschall des Großdeutschen Reiches), created solely for Hermann Göring to differentiate him from the other generals promoted to Field Marshal after the conquest of France and to firmly establish him as Hitler's successor.
  • OF-10 (five star general)
    • US: General of the Army, Fleet Admiral, General of the Air Force
      • Only one man has attained the rank of General of the Air Force, Henry "Hap" Arnold. One of the first military pilots in history, trained by the Wright Brothers, and afraid of heights.note 
    • UK: Field Marshal, Admiral of the Fleet, Marshal of the Royal Air Force
    • USSR: General of the Army (General armii), Admiral of the Fleet (Admiral flota), Marshal of Aviation (Marshal aviatsii); note that due to the absence of The Brigadier rank in the Soviet Union, General of the Army and Admiral of the Fleet only carry four stars, while being generally equivalent to their five-star Western counterparts.
      • In artillery and some other branches, this rank was called "Marshal of [insert branch here]". Discontinued in 1984, fully removed in 1993.
      • Until late 1930s, the equivalent rank was Army Commander First Rank (Komandarm pervogo ranga).
      • Also, in Russia the police has military-style ranks, so the heads of the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Emergency Situations are both Generals of the Army.
    • IJ: Marshal (Gensui)
    • Third Reich: Reich Leader SS (Reichsführer-SS), General Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall), Grand Admiral (Großadmiral)
  • OF-9 (four star general) a.k.a. Four-Star Badass, cf. General Ripper and General Failure
    • US: General, Admiral
    • UK: General, Admiral, Air Chief Marshal
    • USSR: General-Colonel (General-polkovnik), Admiral
      • Until late 1930s, the equivalent rank was Army Commander Second Rank (Komandarm vtorogo ranga).
    • IJ: General (Rikugun Taishou), Admiral (Kaigun Taishou)
    • Third Reich: Supreme Group Leader (Oberstgruppenführer), General Colonel (Generaloberst), General Admiral (Generaladmiral)
  • OF-8 (three star general)
    • US: Lieutenant General, Vice Admiral
    • UK: Lieutenant General (pronounced Lefftenant note ), Vice Admiral, Air Marshal
    • USSR: General-Lieutenant (General-leytenant), Vice Admiral (Vitse-admiral)
      • Until late 1930s, the equivalent rank was Corps Commander (Komkor).
    • IJ: Lieutenant General (Rikugun Chuujou), Vice Admiral (Kaigun Chuujou)
    • Third Reich: Senior Group Leader (Obergruppenführer), General note , Admiral
  • OF-7 (two star general), cf. Modern Major General
    • US: Major General, Rear Admiral (upper half)
    • UK: Major General, Rear Admiral, Air Vice-Marshal
    • USSR: General-Major (General-mayor), Counter Admiral (Kontr-admiral)
      • Until late 1930s, the equivalent rank was Division Commander (Komdiv).
    • IJ: Major General (Rikugun Shoushou), Rear Admiral (Kaigun Shoushou)
    • Third Reich: Group Leader (Gruppenführer), General Lieutenant (Generalleutnant), Vice Admiral (Vizeadmiral)
  • OF-6 (one star general) a.k.a. The Brigadier
    • US: Brigadier General, Rear Admiral (lower half)
    • UK: Brigadier, Commodore, Air Commodore
    • Imperial Russia: Brigadier, Captain-Commander (Kapitan-komandor); both of these were abolished back in the Tsarist times, so neither USSR nor modern Russia ever used them, except for the late 1930s, when the rank of Brigade Commander (Kombrig) existed. On the other hand, there are talks about reinstating them, due to ongoing reorganization of the command structure.
    • Third Reich: Brigade Leader (Brigadeführer), General Major (Generalmajor), Counter Admiral (Konteradmiral)
  • OF-5 a.k.a. Colonel Badass and The Captain (four-striper)
    • US: Colonel, Captain
    • UK: Colonel, Captain, Group Captain
    • USSR: Colonel (Polkovnik), Captain, 1st Rank (Kapitan pervogo ranga)
      • Contrary to the Western practice, Russian Captains have one wide sleeve stripe, like NATO OF-6'ers.
    • IJ: Colonel (Rikugun Taisa), Captain (Kaigun Taisa); note that it is also customary to refer to the ship's captain as "Kanchou" (on warships) and "Senchou", regardless of the actual rank he holds
    • Third Reich: Regiment Leader (Standartenführer), Colonel (Oberst), Captain (Kapitän zur See)
  • OF-4 a.k.a. Commanding Coolness and The Captain (three-striper)
    • US: Lieutenant Colonel, Commander
    • UK: Lieutenant Colonel, Commander, Wing Commander
    • USSR: Lieutenant Colonel (Podpolkovnik), Captain, 2nd Rank (Kapitan vtorogo ranga)
    • IJ: Lieutenant Colonel (Rikugun Chuusa), Commander (Kaigun Chuusa)
    • Third Reich: Senior Storm Unit Leader (Obersturmbannführer), Lieutenant Colonel (Oberstleutnant), Frigate Captain (Fregattenkapitän)
  • OF-3 a.k.a. Majorly Awesome
    • US: Major, Lieutenant Commander
    • UK: Major, Lieutenant Commander, Squadron Leader
    • USSR: Major (Mayor), Captain, 3rd Rank (Kapitan tret'ego ranga)
    • IJ: Major (Rikugun Shousa), Lieutenant Commander (Kaigun Shousa)
    • Third Reich: Storm Unit Leader (Sturmbannführer), Major, Corvette Captain (Korvettenkapitän)
  • OF-2
    • US: Captain, Lieutenant
    • UK: Captain, Lieutenant, Flight Lieutenant
    • USSR: Captain (Kapitan), Captain Lieutenant (Kapitan-leytenant)
    • IJ: Captain (Rikugun Taii), Lieutenant (Kaigun Taii)
    • Third Reich: Head Storm Leader (Hauptsturmführer), Captain (Hauptmann), Captain Lieutenant (Kapitänleutnant)
  • OF-1 (senior)
    • US: First Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Junior Grade
    • UK: Lieutenant, Sub-Lieutenant, Flying Officer
    • USSR: Senior Lieutenant (Starshiy leytenant)
    • IJ: Lieutenant (Rikugun Chuui), Sub-Lieutenant (Kaigun Chuui)
    • Third Reich: Senior Storm Leader (Obersturmführer), Senior Lieutenant (Oberleutnant), Senior Navy Lieutenant (Oberleutnant zur See)
  • OF-1 (junior) a.k.a. Ensign Newbie
    • US: Second Lieutenant, Ensign
    • UK: Second Lieutenant note , Midshipman, Pilot Officer
    • USSR: Lieutenant (Leytenant)
      • The lowest officer rank the Soviets had was Junior Lieutenant (Mladshiy leytenant), which was reserved for demoting normal lieutenants or bestowing to half-year officer training course graduates during wartime. It is therefore usually lumped with full Lieutenant.
    • IJ: Second Lieutenant (Rikugun Shoui), Ensign (Kaigun Shoui)
    • Third Reich: Junior Storm Leader (Untersturmführer), Lieutenant (Leutnant), Navy Lieutenant (Leutnant zur See)

Warrant officers

The difference between an "actual" officer and a warrant officer is that the former has been commissioned, likely graduated from officer school and was sworn in as such. A warrant officer, by comparison, received a warrant. Their authority is greater than that of NCOs and sometimes can outrank even junior COs. The reason the military, usually pedantic about a clear chain of command, introduced this was technical expertise. WOs tend to be really good at what they do and it is usually technical, like keeping a nuclear reactor running. You don't want any pasty-faced Ensign, fresh from the academy, to order your senior reactor technicians around. You also don't want to make the man an officer as he's not expected to fill a command position and hasn't been trained for the task. That's why you give him a warrant, so he can kindly tell the pasty faced ensign to bugger off, this is grownup stuff.

Note that the definition of a warrant officer varies greatly across different countries: e.g. in the US, they are an extra ranks category, whereas in UK they are part of the non-commissioned ranks. US warrant officers, unlike commissioned officers, are not required to have a college degree.

  • WO-5 through WO-2
    • US: Chief Warrant Officer 5, 4, 3, or 2, respectively
    • USSR: Senior Warrant Officer (Starshiy praporschik), Senior Midshipman (Starshiy michman)
      • Russian military inherited this rank from USSR but abolished it in 2008.
    • Third Reich: Senior Warrant Officer (Oberfähnrich), Senior Midshipman (Oberfähnrich zur See)
  • WO-1
    • US: Warrant Officer 1
    • USSR: Warrant Officer (Praporschik), Midshipman (Michman)
      • Likewise, inherited by Russia but abolished in 2008.
    • IJ: Warrant Officer (Jun-i)
    • Third Reich: Warrant Officer (Fähnrich), Midshipman (Fähnrich zur See)

Other ranks

The Other Ranks ("OR" in NATO codes) include both non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and enlisted ranks (sometimes marked as "E-#"). NCOs, better known as sergeants, do not have formal officer education but can be put in charge of The Squad thanks to their field experience. The enlisted servicemen receive only basic training and hold the least authority, mostly following others' orders. In the countries with conscription, most conscripted men begin as Privates (lowest enlisted rank).

Commissioned officers always outrank Other-Rank / Enlisted men. However, smart officers always pay attention to what the NCO has to say: he probably has way more field experience, whereas the officer's shiny new 2LT bars may indicate little more than a college graduation without ever hearing a shot fired in anger. So, while an OF-1 could give orders to an OR-8, in practice he or she would not do so without a very good reasonnote . For the same reasons, platoons (the smallest units normally commanded by commissioned officers) usually have a special position of "platoon sergeant" for a senior NonCom who acts as the commander's Number Two.

Note: In Britain and some Commonwealth nations "sergeant major" no longer exists as a distinct rank but still exists as a title, with RCM's (Regimental Sergeant Majors) being Warrant Officers First Class who have earned the extra title though long and distinguished service, and who maintain standards in drill and discipline for their unit. In USSR and Russia the sergeant major equivalent (starshina) exists both as a rank and as a position that can be filled by either a sergeant major or a warrant officer. Also note in the UK only commissioned officers and warrant officers are called "Sir". Calling a Sergeant "sir" if you are a private soldier is Serious Business and will earn you the traditional reply "Don't call me Sir: I work for a living."

Although British officer cadets are to be treated as officers by Other Ranks, they are not saluted, but are either referred to by their name in the manner of officers ("Mr Trope”, “Miss Example”) or called "Sir" "ma'am,” etc. However, as they do not hold a commission they must refer to Warrant Officers as "Sir," leading to the line that pretty much everyone to pass though RMA Sandhurst (picture West Point, but nastier) hears on their first day from their Warrant officer drill instructors: "You will call me sir. I will call you Sir. The difference being, one of us means it!"

  • OR-9
    • US: Sergeant Major, Master Chief Petty Officer, Sergeant Major/Master Gunnery Sergent, Chief Master Sergeant
    • UK: Warrant Officer Class 1, Warrant Officer Class 1, Warrant Officer Master Aircrew
    • USSR: Sergeant Major (Starshina), Chief Ship Petty Officer (Glavniy korabel'niy starshina)
    • IJ: Sergeant Major (Souchou)
    • Third Reich: Storm Squad Leader (Sturmscharführer), Staff Sergeant (Stabsfeldwebel), Master Chief Petty Officer (Stabsoberfeldwebel)
  • OR-8
    • US: First/Master Sergeant, Senior Chief Petty Officer, First/Master Sergeant, Senior Master Sergeant
    • UK: Warrant Officer Class 2, Warrant Officer Class 2, none
    • USSR: Senior Sergeant (Starshiy serzhant), Chief Petty Officer (Glavniy starshina)
    • Third Reich: Head Squad Leader (Hauptscharführer), Sergeant Major (Oberfeldwebel), Senior Chief Petty Officer (Oberfeldwebel)
  • OR-7
    • US: Sergeant First Class, Chief Petty Officer, Gunnery Sergeant, Master Sergeant
    • UK: Staff/Colour Sergeant, Chief Petty Officer, Colour Sergeant, Flight Sergeant
    • USSR: Sergeant (Serzhant), Petty Officer, 1st class (Starshina pervoy stat'i)
    • IJ: Sergeant (Gunsou)
    • Third Reich: Senior Squad Leader (Oberscharführer), Sergeant First Class (Feldwebel), Chief Petty Officer (Stabsfeldwebel)
  • OR-6
    • US: Staff Sergeant, Petty Officer First Class, Staff Sergeant, Technical Sergeant
    • UK: Sergeant, Petty Officer, Sergeant, Chief Technician
    • USSR: Junior Sergeant (Mladshiy serzhant), Petty Officer, 2nd class (Starshina vtoroy stat'i)
    • Third Reich: Squad Leader (Scharführer), Sergeant (Unterfeldwebel), Petty Officer, 1st Class (Feldwebel/Bootsmann)
  • OR-5 a.k.a. Sergeant Rock or Drill Sergeant Nasty
    • US: Sergeant, Petty Officer Second Class, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant
    • UK: Sergeant
    • Third Reich: Junior Squad Leader (Unterscharführer), Unteroffizier, Petty Officer, 2st Class (Obermaat)
  • OR-4
    • US: Corporal/Specialist, Petty Officer Third Class, Corporal, Senior Airman
      • There used to be a rank of Sergeant in the US Air Force, with a similar dual arrangement to the Army's Specialist and Corporal, but it was eliminated in The Ninetiesnote 
    • UK: Corporal/Specialist/Bombardier, Leading Rate, Corporal, Corporal, Junior Technician
    • USSR: Gefreiter (Yefreytor), Senior Matrose (Starshiy matros)
    • IJ: Corporal (Gochou)
    • Third Reich: Section Leader (Rottenführer), Corporal (Obergefreiter), Petty Officer, 3st Class (Maat)
  • OR-3
    • US: Private First Class, Seaman, Lance Corporal, Airman First Class
    • UK: Lance-Corporal/Lance-Bombardier, none, Lance Corporal, none
    • IJ: Lance Corporal (Heichou)
    • Third Reich: Storm Trooper (Sturmmann), Acting Corporal (Gefreiter), Leading Seaman (Matrosenhaupgefreiter)
  • OR-2
    • US: Private, Seaman Apprentice, Private First Class, Airman
    • UK: Able Rate, Private First Class, Senior Aircraftman
    • IJ: Private 1st Class (Ittouhei)
    • Third Reich: Senior Trooper (Obermann), Senior Rifleman (Oberschütze), Able Seaman (Matrosenobergefreiter)
  • OR-1 a.k.a. New Meat, Cannon Fodder (sad but often true), or Southern-Fried Private
    • US: Privatenote , Seaman Recruitnote , Private, Airman Basic
    • UK: Private/Trooper (other titles may occur in some regiments), Marine, Leading Aircraftman, Aircraftman
    • USSR: Private (Ryadovoy), Matrose (Matros)
    • IJ: Private 2nd Class (Nitouhei)
    • Third Reich: Trooper (Mann), Rifleman (Schütze), Seaman (Matrosengefreiter)

This list is largely a wiki-friendly adaptation of this external table. Refer to it for the original spelling of foreign rank titles.
Peace Through Superior FirepowerUseful NotesCommon Military Units
Common Military UnitsMilitary and Warfare TropesFantastic Rank System

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