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United States Army enlisted rank insignia of World War II

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Title: United States Army enlisted rank insignia of World War II  
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Subject: Saving Private Ryan, Sadao Munemori, United States Army enlisted rank insignia, Comparative officer ranks of World War II, List of comparative military ranks
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United States Army enlisted rank insignia of World War II

The U.S. Army enlisted rank insignia that was used during World War II differs from the current system. The color scheme used for the insignia's chevron design was defined as either silver grey on dark blue, olive drab on dark blue, or khaki on dark blue (as seen in the charts below). This scheme of rank insignia was established by War Department Circular No. 303 on 5 August 1920 and would see two significant changes in 1942. The usage of this style of insignia was ended by Department of the Army Circular No. 202, dated 7 July 1948, which provided for significant changes in both rank and insignia.

"Insignia of the Army of the United States", Office of War Information.

Pay grades

In 1920, the pay grade system was modified as to be numbered in reverse order. During World War II, "1st Grade" signified the highest enlisted grade (Master Sergeant) and downward from there with "7th Grade" indicating the lowest (Private). In 1948, the pay grades were reversed back to the original system with "1st Grade" being the lowest enlisted grade. Starting in 1951, an "E" —which stands for "Enlisted"— was used to represent a pay grade.


Grade 1 Grade 2 Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 Grade 7
No Insignia
Master Sergeant First Sergeant Technical Sergeant Staff Sergeant Sergeant Corporal Private First Class / Specialist Private
M/Sgt. 1st Sgt. T/Sgt. S/Sgt. Sgt. Cpl. Pfc. Pvt.


The rank of Private Specialist, usually just called a Specialist, had the command responsibilities and official insignia of a Private First Class, but also conveyed higher pay depending on the specialty and skill. While the official insignia was just a single chevron, it was not uncommon for local commanders to authorize local use of specialist insignia which consisted of one chevron and one to six rockers depending on the pay grade of the specialist (one rocker at Grade 6, six rockers at Grade 1). To indicate their specialty, a trade badge was sometimes inset between the chevron and the first rocker. These were often identical to the abandoned trade badges used before the reforms of 1920.[1]

Technical Sergeant

Technical Sergeant was renamed Sergeant First Class in 1948. However, it still survives as an Air Force rank.

A Technical sergeant was often designated a platoon sergeant, acting as second-in-command.


1st Grade 2nd Grade 3rd Grade 4th Grade 5th Grade 6th Grade 7th Grade
No Insignia
Master Sergeant First Sergeant Technical Sergeant Staff Sergeant Technician Third Grade Sergeant Technician Fourth Grade Corporal Technician Fifth Grade Private First Class Private
M/Sgt. 1st Sgt. T/Sgt. S/Sgt. T/3. Sgt. T/4. Cpl. T/5. Pfc. Pvt.


On January 8, 1942, under War Department Circular No. 5, the ranks of Technician Third Grade (T/3), Technician Fourth Grade (T/4), and Technician Fifth Grade (T/5) were created and replaced the existing specialist ranks. Initially, these ranks used the same insignia as the Staff Sergeant, Sergeant, and Corporal, but on September 4, 1942, Change 1 to AR 600-35 added a "T" for "Technician" to the standard chevron design that corresponded with that grade.[2] Despite that, as with the Specialists that they replaced, unofficial insignia using a specialty symbol instead of the T were used in some units.

A technician was generally not addressed as such, but rather as the equivalent line (NCO) rank in its pay grade (T/5 as Corporal; T/4 as Sergeant; T/3 as Sergeant or Staff Sergeant). Officially, a technician did not have the authority to give commands or issue orders but could under combat conditions be placed second in command of a squad by a Sergeant. Unofficially, most units treated them as though they were of the equivalent rank of the same pay grade.

The Technician ranks were removed from the rank system in 1948. The concept was brought back with Specialist ranks in 1955.

First Sergeant

On September 22, 1942, in Change 3, AR 600-35, the rank of First Sergeant (1st Sgt.) was increased from 2nd Grade to 1st Grade in pay. The insignia was changed to add a third rocker to match the other 1st Grade rank, Master Sergeant.[2]


As seen in the comparative chart below, the U.S. Army ranks during World War II were not abbreviated the same as they currently are today having all letters capitalized. Rather, only the first letter was capitalized, followed by the rest of the abbreviated word in the lower case, and a period to indicate it as being an abbreviation. In some cases, two or more letters were capitalized with a slash mark after the first letter to indicate there were more than one word in the full title of the rank. See the comparative chart below.

Comparative chart

Some ranks are not included in the chart for a proper comparison.
Full title Current
World War II
Private PVT/PV2 Pvt.
Private First Class PFC Pfc.
Corporal CPL Cpl.
Sergeant SGT Sgt.
Staff Sergeant SSG S/Sgt.
First Sergeant 1SG 1st Sgt.
Master Sergeant MSG M/Sgt.

See also


  1. ^ Second World War Era
  2. ^ a b History of Enlisted Ranks


  • Lieutenant Colonel Robert Alexander McDonald biography
  • Rank, Enlisted, U.S. Army entry from the Saving Private Ryan online encyclopedia
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