- This article is about a United States military rank. For other countries that use a similar rank, see Lieutenant General.
In the United States Army, the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force, lieutenant general (abbreviated as Lt Gen in the Air Force, LtGen in the Marine Corps and as LTG in the Army) is a three-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-9. Lieutenant general ranks above major general and below general. Lieutenant general is equivalent to the rank of vice admiral in the other uniformed services.
Statutory limits[edit | edit source]
The United States Code explicitly limits the total number of generals that may be concurrently active to 302 for the Army, 279 for the Air Force, and 80 for the Marine Corps. For the Army and Air Force, no more than 16.3% of the service's active duty general officers may have more than two stars. Some of these slots are reserved by statute. For example, the Army and the Air Force, the Surgeon General  and the Judge Advocate General  for both branches are lieutenant generals. Officers serving in certain intelligence positions are not counted against either limit, including the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency  The President may also add three-star slots to one service if they are offset by removing an equivalent number from other services. Finally, all statutory limits may be waived at the President's discretion during time of war or national emergency.
Appointment and tour length[edit | edit source]
The three-star grade goes hand-in-hand with the position of office to which it is linked, so the rank is temporary. Officers may only achieve three-star grade if they are appointed to positions that require the officer to hold such a rank. Their rank expires with the expiration of their term of office, which is usually set by statute. Lieutenant generals are nominated for appointment by the President from any eligible officers holding the rank of brigadier general or above, who also meet the requirements for the position, under the advice and/or suggestion of their respective department secretary, service secretary, and if applicable the joint chiefs. The nominee must be confirmed via majority vote by the Senate before the appointee can take office and thus assume the rank. The standard tour length for most lieutenant general positions are three years but some are set four or more years by statute.
Note: Extensions of the standard tour length can be approved, within statutory limits, by their respective service secretaries, the Secretary of Defense, the President, and/or Congress but these are rare, as they block other officers from being promoted. Some statutory limits under the U.S. Code can be waived in times of national emergency or war. Three-star ranks may also be given by act of Congress but this is extremely rare.
Retirement[edit | edit source]
Other than voluntary retirement, statute sets a number of mandates for retirement. Lieutenant generals must retire after 38 years of service unless appointed for promotion or reappointed to grade to serve longer. Otherwise all general officers must retire the month after their 64th birthday. However, the Secretary of Defense can defer a three-star officer's retirement until the officer's 66th birthday and the President can defer it until the officer's 68th birthday.
General officers typically retire well in advance of the statutory age and service limits, so as not to impede the upward career mobility of their juniors. Since there is a finite number of three-star slots available to each service, typically one officer must leave office before another can be promoted. Maintaining a three-star rank is a game of musical chairs; once an officer vacates a position bearing that rank, they have 60 days to be appointed or reappointed to a position of equal or higher importance or involuntarily retire. Historically, officers leaving three-star positions were allowed to revert to their permanent two-star ranks to mark time in lesser jobs until statutory retirement, but now such officers are expected to retire immediately to avoid obstructing the promotion flow.
History[edit | edit source]
Modern use[edit | edit source]
An Army or Marine Corps lieutenant general typically commands a corps-sized unit (20,000 to 45,000 soldiers), while an Air Force lieutenant general commands a large Numbered Air Force consisting of several wings. Additionally, lieutenant generals of all services serve as high-level staff officers at various major command headquarters and The Pentagon, often as the heads of their departments.
After the close of the Second World War, generals were normally promoted permanently to brigadier general and major general, with temporary promotions to lieutenant general and general to fill senior positions as needed. In theory, a general vacates their three or four-star rank at termination of their assignment unless placed in an equal ranking billet. Douglas MacArthur, who served as four-star general and Army Chief of Staff, reverted to two stars after his CoS tour ended but chose to stay on active duty in the United States Army.
The practice of using lieutenant general and general grades as a temporary rank continues, with the President and the Department of Defense creating temporary or indefinite three and four-star assignments, with fixed term of office, with the approval of the Senate. Even with the temporary status, such officers are also almost always granted permanent retirement in the last grade they held with the satisfactory completion of at least two or three years in grade.
Famous lieutenant generals[edit | edit source]
Historic[edit | edit source]
Listed in order of receiving the rank:
- George Washington, first officer to be appointed to the grade of lieutenant general. He was later posthumously promoted to General of the Armies of the United States in 1976.
- Winfield Scott, received a brevet promotion to lieutenant general
- Ulysses S. Grant, later promoted to General of the Army of the United States
- William Sherman, later promoted to General of the Army of the United States
- Philip Sheridan, later promoted to General of the Army of the United States
- Nelson A. Miles, later promoted to Commanding General of the United States Army
World War II[edit | edit source]
- Frank Maxwell Andrews, commander of U.S. forces in the European Theater, lost in an air crash
- Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., commander of U.S. Tenth Army, posthumously promoted to general
- Jimmy Doolittle, leader of the Doolittle Raid on Japan in World War II and commander of the U.S. Eighth Air Force, Twelfth Air Force and Fifteenth Air Force, later promoted to general after retirement
- Hugh Aloysius Drum, commander of U.S. First Army
- Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, the most decorated Marine in Marine Corps History (Also, the only Marine ever to receive 5 Navy Crosses)
- Ira C. Eaker, commander of U.S. Eighth Air Force, later posthumously promoted to general in 1986
- Delos Carleton Emmons, commander of the Hawaiian Department
- Lloyd Fredendall, commander of U.S. Second Army
- Leslie Groves, who ran the Manhattan Project
- Millard Harmon, commander of Army Air Forces Pacific, lost during plane flight
- Lesley J. McNair, commander of Army Ground Forces, later posthumously promoted to general
- Richard K. Sutherland, chief of staff to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur
- George S. Patton, commander of U.S. Third Army, later promoted to general
1950s through 1980s; Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War[edit | edit source]
- Robert Sink, former Commander of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Band of Brothers), the XVIII Airborne Corps and the Strategic Army Corps.
- Hal Moore, former commander of the 1st Cavalry Division
- William Eldridge Odom, head of the National Security Agency under president Ronald Reagan, outspoken opponent of the Iraq War and warrantless wiretaping of US citizens.
Post Cold War[edit | edit source]
- Carol A. Mutter, LtGen, USMC (Ret): first woman to be promoted to lieutenant general (1 September 1996)
- Claudia J. Kennedy, LTG, USA (Ret): first woman to be promoted to lieutenant general in the United States Army (17 June 1997)
- Leslie F. Kenne, LtGen, USAF (Ret): first woman to be promoted to lieutenant general in the United States Air Force (1 July 1999).
- Ricardo Sanchez: former commander U.S. V Corps, former commander of US ground forces in Iraq
- Samuel V. Wilson: Ranger Hall of Fame, Delta Force co-founder, former Commander of the 6th Special Forces: former Deputy to Director, Central Intelligence Agency, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, former President of Hampden-Sydney College
- John B. Sylvester: former Deputy Chief of Staff for NATO in Bosnia-Herzegovina
- Janet C. Wolfenbarger: highest-ranking woman in the USAF
See also[edit | edit source]
- List of lieutenant generals in the United States Army before 1960
- List of United States military leaders by rank
- United States Army officer rank insignia
- United States Marine Corps officer rank insignia
- United States Air Force officer rank insignia
References[edit | edit source]
-  10 USC 526. Authorized strength: general and flag officers on active duty.
-  10 USC 525. Distribution of commissioned officers on active duty in general officer and flag officer grades.
-  Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008
-  Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 full text
-  10 USC 3036. Chiefs of branches: appointment; duties.
-  10 USC 528. Officers serving in certain intelligence positions: military status; exclusion from distribution and strength limitations; pay and allowances.
-  10 USC 527. Authority to suspend sections 523, 525, and 526.
-  10 USC 601. Positions of importance and responsibility: generals and lieutenant generals; admirals and vice admirals.
-  10 USC 636. Retirement for years of service: regular officers in grades above brigadier general and rear admiral (lower half).
-  10 USC 1253. Age 64: regular commissioned officers in general and flag officer grades; exception.
-  DoD News Briefing on Thursday, June 6, 1996. Retirement of Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr.
- Patricia Tracey, VADM, USN (Ret), was the first woman to be promoted to three-star rank (Vice Admiral, the Navy rank equivalent to lieutenant general, both being the military grade of O-9), on 13 May 1996.
- Military Women "Firsts"
[edit | edit source]
- The Origin of the Ranks and Rank Insignia Now Used by the United States Armed Forces
- Abandoned proposal for six-star rank in Second World War
- General of the Armies of the United States and General of the Army of the United States
|United States commissioned officer and officer candidate ranks|
|Pay grade / Branch of service||Officer
|Air Force||Cadet / OT / OC||2d Lt||1st Lt||Capt||Maj||Lt Col||Col||Brig Gen||Maj Gen||Lt Gen||Gen||GAF|||
|Army||CDT / OC||2LT||1LT||CPT||MAJ||LTC||COL||BG||MG||LTG||GEN||GA||GAS|
|Marine Corps||Midn / Cand||2ndLt||1stLt||Capt||Maj||LtCol||Col||BGen||MajGen||LtGen||Gen|||||
|Navy||MIDN / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM||FADM||AN|
|Coast Guard||CDT / OC||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RDML||RADM||VADM||ADM|||||
|Public Health Service||[OC]||ENS||LTJG||LT||LCDR||CDR||CAPT||RADM||RADM||VADM||ADM|||||
Unofficial 1945 proposal for General of the Armies insignia; John J. Pershing's GAS insignia: ; George Dewey's AN insignia:
 Rank used for specific officers during World War II and Korea only, not permanent addition to rank structure
 Grade is authorized by the U.S. Code for use but has not been created
 Grade has never been created or authorized
|United States warrant officer ranks|
|Public Health Service|||||||||||
|National Oceanic and
 Grade is authorized for use by U.S. Code but has not been created
 Grade never created or authorized
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