Insignia of Rank
Last updated:
Tuesday, August 10, 2004 7:59 AM
Officer rank insignia have been fairly standard since the post Civil War era with the exception of the single gold bar for 2nd Lieutenant, which was not autorized until 1917. Enlisted insignia, however, have been constantly changed until the current insignias were adopted beginning in the late 1940s.

1905-1919. The designs and titles varied by branch and there were 45 different insignia descriptions in specification 760, dated 31 May 1905, with different colors for different branches. General Order No. 169 dated 14 August 1907 created a wide variety of insignia. Specific pay grades were not yet in use by the Army and their pay rate was based on title. The pay scale approved in 1908 ranged from (monthly) $13 for a private in the engineers to $75 for a Master Signal Electrician. The system identified the job assignment of the individual, e.g., cooks, mechanics, etc. By the end of World War I, there were 128 different insignia designs in the supply system. The insignia shown are Vietnam era and later- at some time I may be able to find WWI and WWII insignia to post.


Private E-1
No insignia. Personnel in Basic and Advanced Training. Promotion to Private E-2 was automatic after completion of Advanced Training

Private E-2
No insignia prior to May 68, then the former PFC single chevron ("skeeter wings") was authorized

(E-3) Private First Class

Pre 1968

Post 1968
(E-4)Corporal and Specialist 4th Class
Corporals were primarily in the infantry as Fire Team leaders and the rank is a "command" position. The engineers had very few of them, but some were assigned to water points.
Specialists (called informally "Spec" or "Speedy" followed by pay grade made up the bulk of the enlisted men.


Specialist 4

(E-5) Sergeant or Specialist 5th Class

"Buck" Sergeants were squad or fire team leades or in some other command positions

Spec 5's were common. The rank was discontinued in 1985

Specialist insignias are the same size as SP4 (excluding the rockers and chevrons) but available images were reduced in size - they really look rotten when scaled up


Specialist 5

(E-6) Staff Sergeant or Specialist 6th Class
Staff Sergeants (SSG) served as squad leaders.

Spec 6's were rare. The rank was discontinued in 1985

Staff Sergeant

Specialist 6

(E-7) Sergenat First Class or Specialist 7th Class
Usually a platoon Sergeant or in Staff Positions

Spec 7's were almost unheard of - I saw only one in my 7 years in the Army. The grade was discontinued in 1975


Specialist 7

(E-8) First Sergeant, Master Sergeant, or Specialist 8th Class
First Sergeants were the Senior Enlisted Man at Company level.

Master Sergeants were in staff or other top level positions.

Spec 8's ?. The grade was discontinued in 1965

First Sergeant

Master Sergeant

Specialist 8

(E-9) Sergeant Major, Command Sergeant Major and Specialist 9th Class
Sergeant Majors (or is it Sergeants Major?) were at Battalion and higher levels, including staff positions. In 1968 those in command positions (ie, top EM at Battalion, Brigade, Division, etc., levels became Command Sergeants Major). In 1979, Sergeant Major of the Army was established, with two stars initially, then two stars with the Coat of Arms of the US between them. If you meet him, grovel unless you are a four star General (they only have to bow!)

Spec 9: ??. The grade was discontinued in 1965.

Sergeant Major

Command Sergeant Major

Specialist 9
Sergeant Major of the Army
(WO1) Warrant Officer 1

(WO2) Chief Warrant Officer 2

(WO3) Chief Warrant Officer 3

(WO4) Chief Warrant Officer 4

Currently, there are also WO5 and WO6 ranks also authorized and in use by all services. Warrent Officers have all the rights and privelages of a commissioned officer, but cannot hold command positions except as pilots. They are usually specialists in support functions such as maintenence, finance, etc.
O-1 Second Lieutenant
Usually a Platoon Leader or in a staff position. Depending on circumstances could be an XO (second in command of a company). The rank was established in 1800, replacing subalterns (Coronets and ensigns), but the single bar was not used untill 1917 - prior to that they had no rank insignia other than an officers uniform.

O-2 First Lieutenant
Platoon Leader, XO, or Staff.

O-3 Captain
Company Commander or staff position

O-4 Major
Usually a Battalion XO, or staff positions, in rare circumstances a company commander

O-5 Lieutenant Colonel
Battalion Commander, staff positions, rarely: a Brigade Commander

O-6 Colonel
Brigade Commander, Staff Positions

O-7 Brigadier General
Brigade Commander, Division XO, Staff positions

O-8 Major General
Division Commander, Staff positions

O-9 Lieutenant General
Corps Commander, Staff positions

O-10 General
Army Commander, Area Commander, Staff positions. The highest military rank during peacetime.

O-11 General of the Armies
This rank is only authorized during times of declared war; George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Hap Arnold (Later of the USAF), and Omar Bradley are the only US Army Officers to wear 5 Stars. Lehey, King, Nimitz, and Halsey were Navy 5-Stars.

While Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Pershing held the title they did not wear the 5 Star Circle and eagle, but the four stars of a General.

George Washington was "Commander of the Armies of the United States", but held the rank of Lieutenant General (three stars).

Rank Insignia




Engineer Insignia and Traditions