Colonel general is variously a three or four-star rank in the army,
equivalent to that of a full general in the US Army.
North Korea and
Russia are two countries that have used the rank extensively
throughout their histories. The rank is also closely associated with
Generaloberst has formerly been a rank above full
General and below Generalfeldmarschall.
2 People's Republic of China
10 North Korea
14 United Kingdom
15 United States
17 See also
20 External links
Colonel general (Generaloberst) was the second-highest rank in the
Austro-Hungarian Army, introduced following the German model in 1915.
The rank was not used after
World War I
World War I in the
Austrian Army of the
People's Republic of China
See also: Jiang (rank)
People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army had a rank of
Da Jiang (Chinese: 大将;
literally: "grand general") from 1955 to 1965.
Da Jiang corresponded
to the Soviet rank of colonel general. The rank system of the People's
Army was abolished in 1965 and restored in 1988. The 1988
system introduced a rank of Yi Ji Shang Jiang (Chinese: 一级上将;
literally: "first class senior general"). No one had held such rank
and it was abolished in 1994.
The rank of colonel general (generálplukovník) was created in the
Czechoslovak army in 1950; it was dropped after the 1993 dissolution
of the state.
Army uses a rank that translates as "colonel general". It
is equal to the rank of 4-star or "full" general.
Colonel general is,
however, junior to the rank of field marshal and is an honorary
distinction usually held only by defense ministers.
In the French Army, under the Ancien régime, the officer in nominal
command of all the regiments of a particular branch of service (i. e.
infantry, cavalry, dragoons, Swiss troops, etc.) was known as the
colonel general. This was not a rank, but an office of the Crown.
The Republic of Georgia adopted Soviet designations after its
independence in 1991 so that the rank of colonel-general
general-polkovniki) exists, yet it is only used as highest possible
rank in the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The equivalent German four-star ranks (OF-9) of the
Wehrmacht were as
This is not to be confused with Generaloberst, the three-star rank
(OF-8) of the
National People's Army
National People's Army until 1990. However, the
Bundeswehr (first in West
Germany and since 1990 in a unified Germany)
does not use the rank.
Rank insignia Generaloberst
German Imperial Army
German Imperial Army (OF-9) until 1918
Wehrmacht, Heer (OF-9) until 1945
... collar patch
National People's Army
National People's Army (OF-8) until 1990
In Hungary, the rank of colonel general (vezérezredes) was introduced
to the Imperial and Royal
Army (the common ground force of the Dual
Monarchy) in 1915. The rank replaced the ranks of gyalogsági
tábornok (general of infantry), lovassági tábornok (general of
cavalry), and táborszernagy (general of artillery) in the early
The rank title vezérezredes is still in use for the highest ranking
(four-star) general officers of the Magyar Honvédség (Hungarian
Defence Forces) and foreign four-star general officers' rank titles
are usually translated as vezérezredes in Hungarian including
Commonwealth air forces' Air Chief Marshals.
The equivalent rank for
Colonel general in Iraq is called "Ferik
Awwal", in Arabic "فريق أول", which is considered the highest
rank in Iraqi
General rank insignia
The North Korean rank of sangjang translates as "colonel general".
Sangjang is senior to that of jungjang (usually translated as
"lieutenant general") and junior to that of daejang (usually
translated as "general").
This rank is typically held by the commanding officer of units along
Korean DMZ and the North Korean security zone at Panmunjon. It is
also the rank held by the KPA Pyongyang Defense Command's commanding
comparable to NATO OF-8
The rank of colonel general (Russian:
генерал-полковник, general-polkovnik) did not exist in
Imperial Russia and was first established in the Red
Army on 7 May 1940, as a replacement for previously existing
командарм второго ранга (kommandarm vtorovo
ranga, "army commander of the second rank"). During World War II,
about 199 officers were promoted to colonel general. Before 1943,
Soviet colonel generals wore four stars on their collar patches
(petlitsy). Since 1943, they have worn three stars on their shoulder
straps, so Charles Pettibone compares the rank to the US lieutenant
The rank still exists in the contemporary Russian
Army and Air
Force. Unlike the German
Generaloberst (which it most
probably calqued), the Soviet and Russian colonel general rank is
neither an exceptional nor a rare one, as it is a normal step in the
"ladder" between a two-star lieutenant general and a four-star army
Other than that, the Soviet and Russian rank systems sometimes cause
confusion in regard to equivalence of ranks, because the normal
Western title for brigadier or brigadier general ceased to exist for
Army in 1798. The combrig rank that corresponded to
one-star general only existed in the Soviet Union during 1935–1940.
Positions typically reserved for these ranks, such as brigade
commanders, have always been occupied by colonels (polkovnik) or, very
rarely, major generals (see History of Russian military ranks).
The rank has usually been given to district, front and army
commanders, and also to deputy ministers of defense, deputy heads of
the general staff and so on.
In some post-Soviet CIS armies (for example in Belarus), there are no
generals of the army or marshals, and so colonel general is the
highest rank, usually held by the minister of the defense.
The corresponding naval rank is admiral, which is also denoted by
Colonel general (generalöverste) has also been a senior military rank
in Sweden, used principally before the 19th century.
Syrian Arab Army
Syrian Arab Army uses the rank of colonel general (
"Imad-awwalعماد أول) only for the senior-most rank of the army
beneath that of field marshal. Usually, only defence ministers have
held this rank – only six officers have held this rank till now –
Hafez al-Assad, Mustafa Tlass, Hikmat al-Shihabi, Ali Habib Mahmud,
Dawoud Rajiha and Fahd Jassem al-Freij.
The title of colonel general was used before and during the English
Civil War in both Royalist and Parliamentarian armies. In these cases,
it often appears to have meant a senior colonel as opposed to a senior
In the United States, as commander of an army, the equivalent rank was
general (four-star general, grade O-10).
In Vietnam, the rank of colonel general is known as thượng tướng
(literally "upper general"), equivalent to a three-star general and
admiral. Thượng tướng is senior to trung tướng (usually
translated as "lieutenant general") and junior to đại tướng
(usually translated as "general"). It is used in the army and the air
force. It is the equivalent to đô đốc (admiral) in the Navy.
List of colonel generals
List of German colonel generals
^ a b Charles D. Pettibone (2009). Organization and Order of Battle of
Militaries in World War II : Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Trafford On Demand Pub. p. 905. ISBN 1-4269-2251-5.
Germany and Austria are based, in part, on the
German-language article: "generaloberst"
Biographies of German army generalobersten
Biographies of Luftwaffe generalobersten
Biographies of Austro-Hungarian generalobe