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How Many Generals Are There in the US Military?

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

how many generals are there in the us military

There are many members of different ranks in the military. The most common ones that are known to the public are soldiers and generals. If you are somewhat well-versed in the structure and organization of the military, you will know what a general is and what the position entails.

But do you know how many generals are there in the US military? Today’s article focuses on the number of generals in the US military in general and the number of generals in the US Army in particular. The short answer is 653 generals. However, there is a lot more to explore. Join us in finding out more about this interesting topic of the United States military generals; go on!

Generals in the Military


The U.S military is a highly structured organization. It centers around a lot of strategic planning. So, it is not a surprise that the number of personnel is also carefully set and capped. This is also why there is a strict recruitment procedure and not everyone can become a military member.

For generals, the cap on personnel ranges from 62 to 231. The number varies depending on the military branch (The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps). Specifically, the cap for:

  • US Army generals is 231
  • US Navy generals is 162
  • US Air Force generals is 198
  • US Marine Corps generals is 62

Generals are also called general officers or GEN. They are commissioned officers who are a rank above field officers. There are four levels within the rank of general officers themselves, denoted as “stars”, from one-star to four-star.

  • 1-star: At this level, the general is called a “Brigadier General” in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and a “Lower Half Rear Admiral” in the Navy and Coast Guard.
  • 2-star: At this level, a general is called a “Major General” in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and a “Rear Admiral” in the Navy and Coast Guard.
  • 3-star: This is the second-highest level where a general is called a “Lieutenant General” in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and a “Vice Admiral” in the Navy and Coast Guard.
  • 4-star: This is the highest level. In the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, the title is reserved for a “General” and an “Admiral” in the Navy and Coast Guard.

There are also 5-star generals. However, these are generally used only during wartime. There have been nine 5-star generals in the past, but none as of right now. This rank is only available in the Army as the “General of the Army” and in the Air Force as the “General of the Air Force”. There is no equivalent rank in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

Above 5-star ranks are senior 6-star holders, and there have only ever been three people in this position. It is understood as the equivalent of a grand marshal and generalissimo outside of the United States.

Typically, ranks above three stars are used temporarily or only one at a time. Moreover, for the same rank, there are different titles used at different times.

Each rank of generals will have a distinct insignia, usually worn on the shoulder strap.

Generals Specifics Ranks in the US Army


In this next section, we will look at the specifics of the ranks for generals in the Army!

1. Brigadier General

Brigadier General is the deputy commander second to the Commanding General of a division. A Brigadier General helps the Commanding General oversee the planning and coordination of all missions. Whereas, in an infantry brigade, the Brigadier General is a unit commander with a Colonel as a deputy commander.

2. Major General

Major General is the commander of division-sized units with 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers. A Major General can also be the deputy commander of a Corps, branch chief for the Infantry, Armor, or Quartermaster, or commandants in Army schools. In addition, a Major General can serve as a commanding officer of TACOM and the Army Intelligence & Security Command.

3. Lieutenant General

Lieutenant General is the commander of corps-sized units with 20,000 to 45,000 soldiers. A Lieutenant General can also be a high-level staff officer at the major command headquarters or at the Pentagon as the head of a department.

Fun Fact: The superintendents of the US service academies are also lieutenant generals.

4. General

General is the commander of all operations within a specific geographical area. The General holds the highest military position in the DoD (Department of Defense). Examples include the Chief of Staff, Chairman, and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In the history of the US Army, there have been 248 4-star generals. 234 of these achieved the rank during active duty in the branch, 8 were promoted following retirement, 5 were promoted posthumously, and 1 was appointed in the Continental Army, which is the predecessor of the Army.

Fun Fact: George Washington was the single General appointed in the Continental Army.

The 248 4-star generals also joined the Army from different routes.

  • 157 were commissioned through the USMA (US Military Academy)
  • 50 through the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) at a civilian institution
  • 16 through direct commission, 13 through OCS (Officer Candidate School)
  • 8 through ROTC at a senior military institution
  • 1 through ROTC at a junior military institution
  • 1 through direct commission in the ARNG (Army National Guard)
  • 1 through the aviation cadet initiative, and
  • 1 through battlefield commission

Here is the list of ten 4-star generals (Furthest back in history):

Name Years in Position Route
George Washington 1775 to 1783 Direct
Ulysses S. Grant 1864 to 1869 USMA
William Tecumseh Sherman 1869 – 1883 USMA
Philip Sheridan 1883 – 1888 USMA
Tasker H. Bliss 1917 – 1919 USMA
John J. Pershing 1917 – 1924 USMA
Peyton C. March 1918 – 1921 USMA
Charles Pelot Summerall 1926 – 1930 USMA
Douglas MacArthur 1930 – 1951 USMA
Malin Craig 1935 – 1945 USMA

Here is the list of ten 4-star generals (Most recent):

Name Years in Position Route
Laura J. Richardson 2021 – Present ROTC
Charles A. Flynn 2021 – Present ROTC
Christopher G. Cavoli 2020 – Present ROTC
James H. Dickinson 2020 – Present ROTC
Daniel R. Hokanson 2020 – Present USMA
Edward M. Daly 2020 – Present USMA
Paul J. LaCamera 2019 – Present USMA
Paul E. Funk II 2019 – Present ROTC
Richard D. Clarke 2019 – Present USMA
Michael X. Garrett 2019 – Present ROTC
Austin S. Miller 2018 – Present USMA

You can find the complete list of 4-star generals online. There is also plenty of information on lower-ranking generals, if you are interested.


Now, you know the answer to “How many generals are there in the US military?” Plus, you have elaborated information on the number of Army generals and other military branches. Did you find this informative and interesting? Is there anything else you would like to add or ask?

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