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Field Marshal

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A Field Marshal (Marshall) (Ger: Feldmarschall, Sw: Fältmarskalk) is, in some nations, the highest military rank, one step above a full General; and of a comparable rank to the highest ranking General(s) in an army that does not use such the term. The title field marshal is only used by land forces. The air force equivalent (used in some countries) is Marshal of the Air Force, where Air Force is replaced by the name of the service in question, for example, Marshal of the Royal Air Force.

The rank of marshal[?] goes back to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the King's horses. In the 1300s, a distinction began to be drawn between "court marshals" and "military marshals". In 1560, France established the title Marshal of France[?] (Fr. Marechal de France), and by the time of the Thirty Years War, most Continental armies had a field marshal or two. Great Britain was a relative latecomer; the Duke of Argyll[?] became her first field marshal in 1736.

As the highest rank, answerable only to the nation's ruler, appointments have often been made as much for political as for military purposes, and not infrequently as a way to publicly reward a successful general.

The field marshal's special symbol was a baton, famously mentioned by Napoleon: "Every French soldier carries a marshal's baton in his knapsack".

With no medieval tradition to preserve, and a persistent aversion to anything that smacked of aristocracy, the United States never created the rank. However, this became a problem for the Allies in World War II, when Dwight Eisenhower, a mere General, was chosen Supreme Commander in Europe[?], and was thus in a position to give orders to field marshals, who technically outranked him. The solution was to create the rank of General of the Army, wearing five stars, and equivalent to field marshal. (An alternate story holds that George C. Marshall did not want to be called "Marshal Marshall".)

At the beginning of the 21st century, with military forces shrinking worldwide, there remain few field marshals to be seen anywhere. Although traditionally the British monarch is a field marshal, Queen Elizabeth is only a Lord High Admiral, and Prince Charles has indicated an unwillingness to be the only five-star officer of the military.

Famous Marshals

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