December 12, 2003

*Ask Jen

Jim writes, "How many generals are there in the Army? Can you delineate the answer by number of stars? (How many 1 stars, how many 2 stars, etc)"

Each site I was able to find that looked like it would have this information was secured. If any readers know the answer, please pass it on.

I can tell you there have been four five-star generals in the Army: General George C. Marshall, General Douglas MacArthur, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and General Omar N. Bradley.

I'll let Jim ask another question since I couldn't answer the last one...he also wants to know, "What's the story behind the 'bad penny'. You know, the one that's always showing up?"

The phrase "A bad penny always turns up" means that a no-good person can be counted on to come back again and again. The expression was originally English and the unit of currency was the shilling. Sir Walter Scott wrote, "Bring back Darsie? Little doubt of that. The bad shilling is sure enough to come back again."

Do you have a question for me? You can e-mail it. If I know the answer, I'll answer it. If I don't, I might make something up.

Posted by Jennifer at December 12, 2003 07:52 AM


General Henry H. Arnold also held the rank when part of the U.S. Army Air Force.

The five star rank is referred to as "General of the Army" or "General of the Armies", this title existed previously, though they weren't issued the five stars. The men who held this title were Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Phillip Sheridan and John J. Pershing.

I've heard that the five star rank became necessary during WW2 because of the British grade of Field Marshal and the difficulties that might have resulted from someone wearing four stars (Eisenhower) trying to issue orders to someone with five (Montgomery).

This site is where I found most of my information.

Posted by: Bill McCabe at December 12, 2003 02:16 PM

Jen: just e-mailed you a couple of links and info that may help with the answer.


Posted by: david at December 12, 2003 02:20 PM

Thanks, David!

Bill, you are exactly right. That is why the 5-star designation was created. Thanks for passing on the link for everyone. :-)

Posted by: Jennifer at December 12, 2003 08:01 PM