General Military History
Torrance CA USA
Posts: 5
Joined: 2021
Naval Ranks
2/9/2021 4:18:45 PM

I know this subject will have limited appeal, but it has been on my mind
From 1939 to the end of 1941 if my memory serves me, there were only 5 vice admirals in the Pacific
William F. Halsey was senior in that group.
In Nov 1942, by act of congress he was promoted to full admiral
Now I was just reading on wikpedia the list of "admirals"
But there is a difference as most of the listed Admirals were at one time or another on Temporary promotion
to the grade full Admiral. There were at that time 4 or 5 Billets that required a full Admiral
CNO, Commander Atlantic fleet, Commander Pacific Fleet, Commander Asiatic Fleet.
usually these were one year commands.
Take the case of Husband Kimmel, in 1940 he is listed as rear Admiral, In Jan. 1941 he is listed as
Admiral (full), on removal in mid Dec. 1941 he reverted back to his rank as rear admiral
The appointed of Chester Nimitz to that command promoted him 2 grades, from rear admiral to Admiral...
So really when wikpedia talks about US Navy Admirals, the page is misleading .
I have only found William F. Halsey to have been promoted into the Rank of full Admiral
Now I am not talking about "Fleet" Admiral all four fleet Admirals were promoted by act of congress
until then except of Halsey they were in a temporary command..
Does anyone of any input to this?

R Leonard
Richmond VA USA
Posts: 27
Joined: 2005
Naval Ranks
2/28/2021 8:53:03 PM
In USN service, all ranks above Rear Admiral were/are temporary according to the billet. Promotions come from the executive branch, i.e., the President (Commander in Chief) recommends with flag ranks requiring the consent of the Senate, not the entire Congress.

For example, when Halsey was promoted to Vice Admiral, in his capacity as ComAirBatFor on 13 Jun 1940, his permanent rank was Rear Admiral. When he was promoted to Admiral on 18 Nov 1942, his permanent rank was still Rear Admiral. Same things happened in the US Army and the US Marine Corps and since 1948, the Air Force. The highest permanent rank one can achieve is Major General or Rear Admiral; anything above that is a temporary rank that goes with the assignment.

If you peruse officers’ registers for the USN (no reserves) you quickly see during the war years and after that almost 100% of officers above ENS had both a current rank and a permanent rank, but nobody said, “I’m a temporary whatever.” Here, for example, my father. He was a permanent LTJG as of 3 June 1941. He was promoted to LT on 15 June 1942, but his permanent rank was still LTJG. There was no “temporary” classification about it, he was a LT, plain and simple. On 1 March 1944, he was promoted to LCDR; his permanent rank was still LTJG; one notes though in this 1944 register (and indeed those going forward for the next 14 years), that the current date of rank is in a column headed “Temporary Date of Rank” even for the admirals. An aside, we can see in the 1944 register that the permanent dates of rank as Rear Admirals for Stark, King, Nimitz, Ingersoll, Halsey, and Spruance were 1 Jan 1937, 1 Nov 1933, 23 June 1938, 1 May 1938, 1 March 1938, and 1 October 1940, respectively; their ‘temporary” dates of current rank as Admirals were 1 August 1939, 1 February 1941, 31 December 1941, 18 November 1942, and 4 February 1944, respectively. Back to my father, on 5 November 1945 came a promotion to CDR, still permanent rank of LTJG. When he was promoted to CAPT on 1 July 1956, his permanent rank was CDR and when promoted to RAdm on 1 August 1965 there is no mention of any temporary or even permanent rank (for him or anyone else). In truth, one sees any mention of temporary or permanent ranks go away starting with the 1958 register. One presumes they were over the hump of the wartime promotions. The expiration of the tombstone promotion clauses in Title 34 may have had something to do with that; after 1 October 1959 there were no more tombstone promotions.

Also note that when one was promoted one was paid at the rate for that rank. Again, using Short and Kimmel. While assigned to their positions in the Hawaiian Department (Short at lieutenant general) or as CinCPac (Kimmel at admiral) their pay was commensurate with the rank associated with the position, O-9 for Short and O-10 for Kimmel. That pay dropped to that of a major general/rear admiral/O-8 automatically when they were relieved of duty in their position which held a higher rank.

It is the same today. If an O-8 is assigned to a position which calls for an O-9, his orders usually include the promotion that goes with it and upon arriving on the scene is entitled to pin on another star. The services are usually loath to move someone backwards, unless there is a really good reason, but it historically did happen, if you again look to the USN registers you can find a few individuals moving from the VAdm list to the RAdm list and then back again, it was all a matter of what position the occupied. In the normal course of events, once in the higher slot, say moving from RAdm to VAdm, one presumes that he is now in a situation where it is up, or at some later point, out. When that out happens, the individual usually receives a nice letter from a more senior officer letter advising that his relief is scheduled for some specified future date, another assignment is not anticipated, and offering assistance through the retirement process. This is a clear message that it is time to retire.

The big exception to all of this was the wartime commodores, which was truly a temporary rank, all who were not promoted to rear admiral as their next step from their commodore rank/billet reverted to captain at some point; fleet air wing commanders, for example, by 1944 were, for the most part, at least commodores, but if one moved from FAW command as a commodore to, say, command of a carrier, one immediately reverted to captain; others reverted to captain after the end of the war, usually at arrival at their next assignment unless that next assignment called for a rear admiral in which case they would also receive the promotion to O-8. You only have to look at Arleigh Burke to see someone go from commodore back to captain, though, obviously, his rank as commodore had nothing to do with fleet air wings. Leslie Gehres is a good example of a FAW type commodore (FAW-4) who reverted to captain when he went to USS Franklin. But remember, no one referred to himself, standing around in civilian clothes, in the terms, “I am a temporary commodore,” if someone were to ask his rank, no, the response would be, “I am a commodore.”

The Admiral positions in 1939 were CinCAsFlt, CNO, CinCUSFlt, and ComBatFor. With the elimination of the CinCUSFlt position in February 1941, the Admiral positions were CinCAsFlt, CinCLantFlt, CNO, and CinCPacFlt. This is how things remained until November 1942 when Halsey got his fourth star with his assignment as the theater commander, ComSoPac at the end of October. He retained his fourth star when he moved to Com3dFlt and Raymond Spruance received his fourth star as Com5thFlt. So Admirals went from four to five and then six by July 1944. A year later, of course, there were three Fleet Admirals, William Leahy, Ernest King, and Chester Nimitz (15, 17, and 19 December 1944 dates of rank respectively, but, and of course, their permanent ranks were Rear Admiral, all three). And the Admiral list had expanded from six to ten; they were:
Harold Raynsford Stark DOR 8/1/1939 - CoNavForEur
Royal Eason Ingersoll DOR 7/1/1942 - CinCLant
William Frederick Halsey Jr DOR 11/18/1942 – Com3dFlt
Raymond Ames Spruance DOR 2/4/1944 – Com5thFlt
Jonas Howard Ingram DOR 11/15/1944 - ComSoLantFor
Frederick Joseph Horne DOR 12/15/1944 – VCNO (Horne was one of those who went from RAdm to VAdm, back to RAdm, and then back to VAdm before he retired.)
Richard Stanislaus Edwards DOR 4/3/1945 – ComWestSeaFront (later VCNO)
Henry Kent Hewitt DOR 4/3/1945 - ComNavWestTF
Thomas Cassin Kinkaid DOR 4/3/1945 – Com7thFlt
Richmond Kelly Turner DOR 5/24/1945 – ComPhibForPac

But all of these gents’ permanent rank was RAdm. There are all kinds of stand on your head to figure it out rules found in the then applicable Title 34 of the US Code governing the Navy. Significant bottom lines on ranks at retirement (note, retirement, not simply discharged from service) were that
1. An officer decorated for performance in combat action, upon retirement may apply for, and receive with the consent of the Senate a retirement promotion to the next higher rank. Thus, a now Captain who had been awarded a Navy Cross for his performance in combat aboard USS Ridiculous in 1942, when he was a Commander, who sees that he’s never going to see Rear Admiral on active duty before his 30 years are up could apply for the retirement promotion and then retire as a Rear Admiral. He only receives 75% of his captain’s as his retirement pay, but he now gets to park in the flag spaces at the Navy Exchange and when he dies, “Rear Admiral” on his head stone, thus the term “tombstone promotion.” And, it cascaded downwards . . . Commanders with combat decorations could get retirement promotions to Captain and Lieutenant Commanders as Commanders; there were very few Lieutenants who fell into the category of being able to retire with 20 years’ service with combat decorations and thus able to apply for retirement as a Lieutenant Commander.
2. So, as in 1, above, a Rear Admiral could apply for a retirement promotion to Vice Admiral, presuming he met the combat awards criteria, but that was as high as it went. Vice Admirals could not get a retirement promotion to Admiral, nor Admirals to Fleet Admiral.
3. Title 34 also allowed for the retirement of officers at the highest rank held during the war even if, and it probably was, a temporary rank. Thus, one might see someone retiring with the retirement pay and allowances of a Rear Admiral when their actual permanent rank was Commander. The Army had a similar rule that extended retirement rank, pay, and allowances to the highest rank held (I believe in the then applicable Title 50 of the US Code), but the Army did not allow for retirement promotions for any reason whatsoever such as those spelled out in Tile 34. But, those highest rank held retirement provisions in both Title 34 and Title 50, the catch being that one had to have held that highest rank for at least 12 full months, meant retirement with retirement pay and allowances of that rank whereas the ‘tombstone promotion’ meant the retirement pay and allowances were of the rank held prior to the retirement promotion. And in the naval service (USN & USMC) you could not do both, it was a one or the other deal. A pretty good deal for someone who could retire with retirement pay and allowances of Brigadier General in 1946 as opposed to a permanent rank of Lieutenant Colonel dating back to 1941. (And yes, I could easily point to somebody).

So you get some interesting conversations. I once had a fellow who was touting the words of a retired officer and proclaiming that the individual could not be wrong because he was a retired Rear Admiral. I pointed out that that the individual concerned received the Navy Cross, most deservedly by the way, early in the war but after 25 years of service and holding the rank of Captain, he decided to retire, went through the process and on the day that he retired he received his retirement promotion to Rear Admiral. So, his being a Rear Admiral had little or no weight.

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