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Field Marshal is a military officer rank. Today, it is the highest rank in the armies in which it is used, one step above a general or colonel-general.

Usage and hierarchical position

The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses (from old German Marh-scalc = "horse-servant") from the time of the early Frankish kings.

Some nations use the title of marshal instead, while some have used field marshal general. The Air Force equivalent in the Commonwealth and many Middle Eastern air forces is marshal of the air force (not to be confused with air marshal). The corresponding naval ranks are normally fleet admiral, grand admiral or admiral of the fleet.

Traditionally, upon their promotion, field marshals are awarded a decorative baton as a symbol of their rank. The baton is often studded with jewels and inlaid with precious metals.

Historically, however, several armies used field marshal as a divisional command rank, notably Spainmarker and Mexicomarker (Spanish: mariscal de campo). In Francemarker, Portugalmarker and Brazilmarker (French: maréchal de camp, Portuguese marechal de campo) it was formerly a brigade command rank.

Regional examples


During Imperial rule in Chinamarker, successful generals were given the title of field marshal (元帥 Yuan Shuai) or grand field marshal (大元帥 da yuan shuai). One of the most famous of these generals was Yue Fei from the Song Dynasty.


Until the end of World War II, Japanmarker also bestowed the honorary title of field marshal (元帥 gensui) on successful generals and admirals; they would however retain their ranks of general and admiral.

British Army

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was a field marshal in twelve armies. His twelve field marshal batons are on display in Apsley Housemarker.

Indian Army

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was the 8th chief of staff of the Indian Army in 1969 and under his command, Indian forces concluded a victorious campaign during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Sam Manekshaw was the first of only two Indian military officers to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal in the Indian Army the other being Field Marshal K M Cariappa.

French army

In the French army of the Ancien Régime, the normal brigade command rank was field marshal (maréchal de camp). In 1793, during the French Revolution, the rank of field marshal was replaced by the rank of brigade general. The rank insignia of field marshal was two stars (one star being used for a senior colonel rank). The French field marshal rank was below lieutenant-general, which in 1793 became divisional-general. In the title maréchal de camp and the English "field marshal", there is an etymological confusion in the French camp between the English words "camp" and "field". The French rank of field marshal should not be confused with the rank of Marshal of France, which was the highest rank of the Ancien Régime and is in effect the highest French rank today (although in theory it is not an actual rank but a "state dignity").

United States

The United Statesmarker has never used the rank of field marshal. Instead, two variations on "general" are used: general of the army (a 5 star rank) and general of the armies of the United States. The latter has only been used twice: it was invented for General John Pershing in 1919 in recognition of his performance as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, and later posthumously bestowed upon George Washington. The American General MacArthur was a field marshal in the army of the Philippines, whereas he held different ranks in the United States Army. On December 16, 1944, George Marshall became the first Americanmarker general to be promoted to 5-star rank, the newly created General of the Army. He was the second American to be promoted to a 5-star rank, as William Leahy was promoted to Fleet Admiral the previous day. A Washington columnist suggested (with tongue in cheek) that Marshall disliked the plan because five stars was the rank of field marshal and the Chief of Staff could then be addressed as “Marshal Marshall.”

Turkish army

In the Turkish Armed Forces, the corrseponding rank is Mareşal. The rank of Mareşal can trace its origins to the Ottoman Empire and to the military of Persiamarker, where it was called "مشير" (müşir) and bestowed upon senior commanders upon order of the ruling Sultan. The rank of Mareşal can only be bestowed by the National Assemblymarker, and only given to a General who leads an army, navy and/or air force successfully in three battles or at various front lines at the same time, gaining a victory over the enemy. Only two persons have been bestowed the rank Mareşal to date: Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkeymarker, and his chief of staff Fevzi Çakmak, both for their successes in the Turkish War of Independence.

Field marshal ranks

Other meanings

References and notes

See also

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