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Why don't Americans have field marshals?


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#1 of 93 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted June 11 2003 - 07:57 AM

This is an odd historical question. In most countries, the most senior and special generals hold the rank of field marshal, e.g. Montgomery and Alexander in the UK and Zukov in the USSR. Here we promote 4 stars to 5 stars on rare occasion (Eisenhower). Is our 5 star rank equivalent to a field marshal? Why don't we adopt the term?
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#2 of 93 OFFLINE   Jason Merrick

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Posted June 11 2003 - 08:02 AM

The United States only promotes Generals to 5-star rank during times of war. Not sure why they didn't choose the term Field Marshall, but yes it is the equivalent. The term used is "General of the Army".

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EDIT: Found this page with more info.

The terms "General of the Armies of the United States" and "General of the Army of the United States" are commissioned officer grades of the Army of the United States.

Prior to 14 December 1944 there were, since the formation of the United States, but four Generals of the Army or of the Armies of the United States (both phrases being held to mean the same thing): Generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Pershing. The temporary grade of "General of the Army" or "Fleet Admiral" (Five-Star insignia), was provided for by Public Law 482, 78th Congress, on 14 December 1944 and the following named officers served on active duty during World War II in that temporary grade until 23 March 1946 when it was made permanent under the provisions of Public Law 333, 79th Congress:

-General of the Army George C. Marshall, appointed 16 Dec 44. Deceased Oct 59.
-General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, appointed 18 Dec 44. Deceased Apr 64.
-General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, appointed 20 Dec 44. Deceased Mar 69.
-General of the Army Henry H. Arnold, appointed 21 Dec 44. Deceased Jan 50.
(General Arnold redesignated General of the Air Force pursuant to PL58, 81st Congress, dated 7 May 49.)
-Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, appointed 15 Dec 44. Deceased Jul 59.
-Fleet Admiral Earnest J. King, appointed eff 17 Dec 44. Deceased Jun 56.
-Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, appointed eff 19 Dec 44. Deceased Feb 66.
Officers appointed after World War II:
-Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey, confirmed by the Senate 4 Dec 45 and took oath of office on 11 Dec 45. Deceased Aug 59.
-General of the Army Omar N. Bradley, appointed 22 Sep 50. Deceased Apr 81.
(General Bradley appointed pursuant to PL 957, on 18 Sep 1950.)

#3 of 93 OFFLINE   Julian Reville

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Posted June 11 2003 - 09:29 AM

And, that funny looking hat MacArthur wore all during the war and afterwards was actually a Phillipines Field Marshall's hat, as he held the post of Commander of the Phillipine Armed Forces, prior to the war.

My theory is that after dealing with Montgomery, we wanted to stay as far away from Field Marshalls as possible.

Just kidding, you Anglophiles. Posted Image

#4 of 93 OFFLINE   Chris Lockwood

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Posted June 11 2003 - 01:07 PM

Gee, I thought Field Marshalls was a department store. Posted Image

#5 of 93 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted June 11 2003 - 06:18 PM

Quote:
My theory is that after dealing with Montgomery, we wanted to stay as far away from Field Marshalls as possible.

Trust me, a lot of senior Brit politicians and armed forces leaders felt the same. Posted Image

The reason is simply differences in terminology. Although the U.S. armed forces started off using the same terminology and gradings as the Brit army, after 1776, the two groups adopted different evolutionary courses. Simple as that.

Plus, the Brits won't let the Americans use the term 'Field Marshal' until you guys learn to pronounce 'lieutenant' properly. Posted Image

#6 of 93 OFFLINE   Paul McElligott

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Posted June 11 2003 - 07:17 PM

Quote:
Plus, the Brits won't let the Americans use the term 'Field Marshal' until you guys learn to pronounce 'lieutenant' properly.
You need to pronounce "aluminum" correctly first.
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#7 of 93 OFFLINE   Dennis Nicholls

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Posted June 11 2003 - 08:57 PM

How do the French pronounce "lieutenant"? That word always looks French to me. One would think their pronunciation would be dispositive.
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#8 of 93 OFFLINE   Yee-Ming

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Posted June 11 2003 - 09:12 PM

Quote:
You need to pronounce "aluminum" correctly first

Actually, Americans first need to learn to SPELL "aluminium" correctly first, before learning how to pronounce it. Posted Image

Having said that, I've always thought the Brit way of pronouncing "lieutenant" was incredibly weird. Since it derives from the term "tenant-in-lieu", and the word "lieu" in English is pronounced "lew", where'd the "lef" sound come from? Unless the French actually pronounce "lieu" as "lef"?

#9 of 93 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted June 12 2003 - 07:35 AM

Quote:
where'd the "lef" sound come from?

It's a corruption of 'lief' which basically means 'lower in rank'. English spelling when eventually standardised, the 'experts' tended to use French spelling rules for words that were thought to be originally French (or French out of Norman) origin, regardless of how badly they matched contemporary pronunciation. I presume that the Americans chose a more 'Frenchified' pronunciation of 'lieutenant' because at the time they were chums with the French (Posted Image ). [Unless my French is totally to pot, I think the French pronounce the word 'lee-ur-tennon'].

The old canard about 'aluminium' is rather more complex. In fact, both the UK and the US versions have solid claims for authenticity. The full tale would take more time to relate than I have time for now, but essentially, the guy who discovered it (British, of course) dithered about what to call it. Americans picked up on one possible name, Brits another.

#10 of 93 OFFLINE   Holadem

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Posted June 12 2003 - 07:52 AM

Quote:
where'd the "lef" sound come from?

Because in english, what you see is almost never what you get! How the hell did this language become this universal? Posted Image

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#11 of 93 OFFLINE   BrianB

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Posted June 12 2003 - 08:02 AM

Quote:
You need to pronounce "aluminium" correctly first.

We do...
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#12 of 93 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted June 12 2003 - 08:26 AM

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English spelling when eventually standardised, the 'experts' tended to use French spelling rules for words that were thought to be originally French (or French out of Norman) origin, regardless of how badly they matched contemporary pronunciation.
Very nice Andrew—now tell us how you would pronounce Mr. Beauchamp’s name. Posted Image
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#13 of 93 OFFLINE   JayV

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Posted June 12 2003 - 09:56 AM

Quote:
It's a corruption of 'lief' which basically means 'lower in rank'.


I don't mean to be disagreeable, but the accepted etymology for lieutenant is that the lieu in lieutenant is indeed "lieu" -- from Middle English by way of Old French by way of Latin.

It means, roughly, to hold in the place of [the captain].

-j

#14 of 93 OFFLINE   Rob Gillespie

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Posted June 12 2003 - 10:18 AM

Quote:
You need to pronounce "aluminum" correctly first.

And you lot need to pronounce HERB properly. There's an 'h', so it's not frickin' URB - ok? OK? Posted Image
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#15 of 93 OFFLINE   Glenn Overholt

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Posted June 12 2003 - 10:24 AM

Ok guys, then why don't we call captains 'tenants'?

Glenn

#16 of 93 OFFLINE   Kirk Gunn

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Posted June 12 2003 - 10:42 AM

How the hell did this language become this universal?


LOL - my daughter wonders the same thing after each spelling test ! And how come so many aliens speak it ?

#17 of 93 OFFLINE   Jay Taylor

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Posted June 12 2003 - 10:51 AM

Let's not forget the posthumus promotion of George Washington to six star "General of the Armies of Congress"

George Washington

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#18 of 93 OFFLINE   Yee-Ming

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Posted June 12 2003 - 02:31 PM

Quote:
Very nice Andrew—now tell us how you would pronounce Mr. Beauchamp’s name.

Better yet, how about Mr Cholmondelay? Posted Image

As for aluminium, since most metallic elements end in "-ium", I would've thought that was the "correct" spelling? Can't think of any other metallic elements ending in "-um" without the "i".

BTW, minor peeve, "karaoke" is pronounced "kah-rah-oh-kay", not "carry-oh-key". It's Japanese, please don't Americanise the pronounciation... Posted Image

#19 of 93 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted June 12 2003 - 03:28 PM

And then, of course, there's colonel, which is pronounced KER-nal in all English-speaking armies. That's a particularly whacky one because the (then) novel rank was just gaining acceptance on the Continent when the English learned of it through two sources: written reports from Italy, and oral reports from recent visitors to France. Somehow the word entered the English tongue with the French pronunciation and the Italian spelling and it has stayed that way ever since. Posted Image

As for Marshalls (and later, Field Marshalls): Prior to the American Civil War no Army every operated in the United States that needed a rank as high as Marshall. George Washington was a Lt. General - the first and only one this country ever saw until the rank was revived for U.S. Grant when he assumed command of the Union Armies in the east.

We made it through the War of 1812, the Mexican War and various intermittent rebellions without ever commissioning anybody more than a Brigadier or - in a pinch - a Major General. (A Major General is outranked by a Lt. General, by the way. That's because all "general" officer ranks were ad-hoc designations based on the old company ranks, used when several companies banded together under a single command. The overall commander was Captain-General, his top aide Lt. General, the next in command the Sergeant-Major-General. When the regimental system was introduced and both organization and rank structure became more formalized and permanent, the "Sergeant" was dropped from Major-General.)

Between that time and the opening of the Civil War, when truly huge American armies would emerge for the first time, the world's second modern republic had been replaced by the tyrrany of Napoleon, and the French Army - with its Marshalls - turned loose on Europe. I suspect that the more-republican-than-thou Americans of the time found Napoleon and everything associated with him pretty distasteful, and therefore never warmed up to the rank of Marshall, much less Field Marshall. (Of course, McClellan probably would have loved the idea - he fancied himself another Napoleon - but someone as level-headed as Grant - who habitually wore a private's unadorned uniform blouse - would have laughed at the notion.)

Regards,

Joe

#20 of 93 OFFLINE   Brad Porter

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Posted June 12 2003 - 03:57 PM

Quote:
Having said that, I've always thought the Brit way of pronouncing "lieutenant" was incredibly weird. Since it derives from the term "tenant-in-lieu", and the word "lieu" in English is pronounced "lew", where'd the "lef" sound come from? Unless the French actually pronounce "lieu" as "lef"?

There might be some concern about confusing it with the word "loo". Would you like to have the rank of shittertenant? Posted Image

Brad
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