|Admiral of the Navy|
Insignia for Admiral of the Navy (1899–1917)
|Service branch||United States Navy|
|NATO rank code||OF-10|
|Non-NATO rank||Five-star rank|
|Formation||March 24, 1903|
(retroactive to March 2, 1899)
|Abolished||January 16, 1917|
|Next higher rank||General of the Armies (U.S. Army)|
|Next lower rank||Admiral|
|Equivalent ranks||Fleet admiral and|
Admiral of the fleet
Admiral of the Navy was the highest possible rank in the United States Navy, prior to the creation of fleet admiral in 1944. The rank is considered to be at least equivalent to that of a five-star admiral, with Admiral George Dewey being the only officer to be appointed to the rank.
Post-Spanish American War
The rank has only been awarded once, to George Dewey, in recognition of his victory at Manila Bay in 1898. On March 2, 1899, Congress approved the creation of the grade of Admiral of the Navy. On March 3, President McKinley transmitted to the Senate his nomination of Dewey for the new grade, which was approved the same day. But McKinley's nomination had used the term "Admiral in the Navy," while the act creating the new grade had used "Admiral of the Navy." On March 14, 1903, this discrepancy was addressed when President Roosevelt nominated and the Senate approved Dewey to the grade of "Admiral of the Navy," retroactive to March 2, 1899. The Navy Register of 1904 listed Dewey for the first time as "Admiral of the Navy" instead of "Admiral."
Though this clarified the grade's unique title, the precedence of the new rank was still considered "four star", equivalent to general in the army, in the US Navy Regulations of 1909. In the U.S. Navy Regulations of 1913, the precedence of Admiral of the Navy had been set at the "five star" level, equivalent to a British field marshal or admiral of the fleet. More four-star officers were appointed after an act authorizing the temporary grade of admiral for three fleet commanders-in-chief was passed in 1915.
In terms of insignia, Dewey appears in a photograph soon after his promotion wearing the sleeve stripes last worn by Admiral David Dixon Porter, which are the same as present-day admirals (one two-inch band with three half-inch stripes above). When a new edition of US Navy Uniform Regulations was issued in May 1899, the sleeve insignia for admiral was specified as "two strips of 2-inch gold lace, with one 1-inch strip between, set one-quarter of an inch apart." In the 1905 Uniform Regulations, a similar description was used but with the title "Admiral of the Navy." The collar and shoulder insignia were four silver stars, with gold foul anchors under the two outermost stars.
World War II
In 1944, with the establishment of the rank of fleet admiral, the Department of the Navy specified in a Bureau of Navigation memo that "the rank of Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy shall be considered the senior most rank of the United States Navy". As Dewey had been deceased for nearly thirty years, no comparison between his rank and that of fleet admiral was made until 1945. At that time, during the preparations for Operation Downfall, the proposed invasion of Japan, the possibility was raised of promoting one of the serving United States Fleet Admirals to "six-star rank" should the Army take a similar measure by promoting Douglas MacArthur to the rank of General of the Armies.
As Congress was trying to create the rank of fleet admiral in 1944, the Navy wanted to re-establish and elevate Admiral of the Navy be equivalent to General of the Armies, but they could not legally do so without a congressional act. The Navy's chief of naval personnel, Vice Admiral Randall Jacobs, testified before the Committee on Naval Affairs of the House of Representatives, recommending that the rank of Admiral of the Navy should be made equivalent to General of the Armies, but a previous bill submitted for its re-establishment on February 25, 1944, failed to be passed into law. Congress passed Pub.L. 78-482 on December 14, 1944, creating the rank of fleet admiral, without re-establishing the rank of Admiral of the Navy. As such, the rank continued to cease to exist. By 1955, the Navy concluded that the rank was honorary. And while they held to the belief that it was equivalent to General of the Armies, the Navy amended its regulations to establish fleet admiral as its highest achievable rank, adhering to the standard set by the law.
Text of Act
The act to create the grade of Admiral of the Navy read as follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is hereby authorized to appoint, by selection and promotion, an Admiral of the Navy, who shall not be placed upon the retired list except upon his own application; and whenever such office shall be vacated by death or otherwise the office shall cease to exist.
- "Biography: George Dewey (26 December 1837 - 16 January 1917)". Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
- U.S. Department of the Navy, Regulations for the Government of the Navy of the United States, Government Printing Office, 1913. Article 1126, "Rank, Command, and Duty" Chapter 11, page 97.
- Daniels, Josephus (Secretary of the Navy) (17 January 1917). "Secretary of the Navy Announces the Death of Admiral Dewey: General Order No. 258". Naval History and Heritage Command. US Navy Office of Information. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
- Pub.L. 55–378, 30 Stat. 995, enacted March 2, 1899 (An Act Creating the office of Admiral of the Navy)
- U.S. Congress, Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate, Volume 31 pt.2 1897-1899.
- U.S. Congress, Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate, Volume 34 1902-1903.
- U.S. Department of the Navy, Register of the Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps, 1900 et seq.
- U.S. Department of the Navy, Regulations for the Government of the Navy of the United States, Government Printing Office, 1909. Page 39.
- "An Act Making appropriations for the naval service for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and sixteen, and for other purposes.". 63rd Congress Chapter 83, Act of 3 March 1915 (PDF).
- U.S. Department of the Navy, Regulations Governing the Uniform of Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers and Enlisted Men of the Navy of the United States, Government Printing Office, 1899.
- U.S. Department of the Navy, Regulations Governing the Uniform of Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers and Enlisted Men of the Navy of the United States, Government Printing Office, 1905.
- "Hearings Before the Committee on Naval Affairs of the House of Representatives on Sundry Legislation Affecting the Naval Establishment, 1943–1944, Seventy-eighth Congress, First–Second Session. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. 1944. pp. 1339, 2357–2362". Google Books. July 20, 1944. Retrieved November 1, 2020.
- "An Act to establish the grade of Fleet Admiral for the United States Navy; to establish the grade of General of the Army, and for other purposes". 14 December 1944. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-09-21.
- ""How Many Stars Does 'Admiral of the Navy' Rate?". All Hands. January 1955. p. 23". Google Books. Retrieved November 1, 2020.
- CHAP 378, "An act creating the office of Admiral of the Navy", United States Congress
- "An Act Creating the office of Admiral of the Navy" (PDF). Library of Congress. Retrieved October 29, 2020.