The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to John J. Pershing, Brigadier General, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action against hostile fanatical Moros at Mount Bagsak, Jolo, Philippine Islands, on June 15, 1913. Brigadier General Pershing personally assumed command of the assaulting line at the most critical period when only about 15 yards from the last Moro position. His encouragement and splendid example of personal heroism resulted in a general advance and the prompt capture of the hostile stronghold.
No one currently holds this rank, and it has never been used by an active duty Army officer at the same time as General of the Army, so it is not entirely clear how the two ranks would legally compare to each other.
Three star Lieutenant Generals and four star Generals were reauthorized temporarily during World War I.Tasker H. Bliss and John J. Pershing were promoted to General in October 1917, and Peyton C. March was promoted in May 1918. Hunter Liggett and Robert Lee Bullard were promoted to Lieutenant General on October 16, 1918. On September 3, 1919Pub.L. 66-45 granted Pershing the rank of "General of the Armies" in recognition of his performance as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force. After the war, in 1920, the Lieutenant Generals and Generals reverted to their permanent ranks of Major General, except for Pershing. Pershing retired from the United States Army on September 13, 1924, and retained his rank of General of the Armies of the United States until his death in 1948. Pershing wore four gold stars during his tenure as General of the Armies. Four star Generals were reauthorized in 1929, starting with Charles Pelot Summerall, and five star Generals of the Army were created in 1944. Pershing was deemed senior to both of those ranks, but it remains unclear as to if General of the Armies was considered a five or six star rank.
Six Star Rank
General Pershing was offered the option to create his own insignia for the position General of the Armies. He chose to continue to wear the four stars of a General, but in gold, instead of the four silver stars used by a regular general. Army Regulations 600-35, Personnel: The Prescribed Uniform, October 12, 1921, and all subsequent editions during General Pershing's lifetime, made no mention of insignia for General of the Armies but prescribed that generals would wear four stars.
On December 14, 1944, when the rank of General of the Army was established, Army Regulations 600-35 were changed to prescribe that Generals of the Army would wear five silver stars. General Pershing continued to wear only four gold stars, but he remained preeminent among all Army personnel until his death in 1948.
Conjectural Design for General of the Armies
In 1945, the Institute of Heraldry prepared a conjectural insignia which would have incorporated a sixth star into the five-star design of General of the Army. As no proposal to appoint a new General of the Armies was ever firmly developed, the United States Army has never officially approved a six-star general insignia
During World War II the United States Army established the five-star rank of General of the Army. By order of seniority, it was decided that General Pershing (still living when the rank of General of the Army was created in 1944) would be senior to all the newly appointed General of the Army officers. The then Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson was asked whether Pershing was therefore a six-star general. Stimson stated:
It appears the intent of the Army was to make the General of the Armies senior in grade to the General of the Army. I have advised Congress that the War Department concurs in such proposed action.
Official Army regulations do not presently declare General of the Armies as a six star rank; however, some military historians and enthusiasts alike have interpreted General Pershing's seniority to five-star generals to mean that General of the Armies is a six-star rank. However, it could alternatively be said that General of the Armies is a five-star rank, and Pershing's seniority is merely a result of the fact that he achieved his rank earlier than the other five-star generals.
However, it has been speculated that if the United States ever created a six-star rank, it might be called General of the Armies