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From: (John Schilling)
Newsgroups: sci.military.moderated
Subject: Re: Major General
Date: 5 Feb 2001 17:26:42 -0800 (Mindblow Vender) writes:

>A beer to the first one with the correct answer:why is the
>(U.S.Army)rank of Major General LOWER than that of Lieutenant General?

Because "Major" in all of its incarnations is derived, however indirectly,
from "Sergeant Major".  And at least on paper, Lieutenants outrank Sergeants.

In the beginning were three sizes of military formation and correspondingly
three officer ranks - Captains in command of companies, Colonels in command
of regiments, and Generals in command of divisions.  To aid them in their
duties, each of these were supported by deputy commissioned officers to
handle the details and senior NCOs to translate orders into actions.  The
traditional term for a military deputy is "Lieutenant", the traditional
term for a senior NCO is "Sergeant", and the the top of the sergeant heap
is "Sergeant Major".

Gives a structure something like this:

	   Several Lieutenant Generals
	   Several (Divisional) Sergeants Major

	   Several Lieutenant Colonels
	   Several (Regimental) Sergeants Major

	   Several Lieutenant Captains, shortens to Lieutenant
	   Several assorted Sergeants

When armies got too complicated for a simple three-tiered command
structure, the ranks originally concieved as supporting the Captains,
Colonels, and Generals, started taking on their own intermediate
command roles.  In the cases of the high-level Sergeants Major, this
involved clearly officer-like responsibility and authority, so they
were formally commissioned and the NCO-specific "sergeant" qualifier
was dropped from the nomenclature.

Which more or less gives us the present rank structure.

*John Schilling                    * "Anything worth doing,         *
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