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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 light Olive Drab (shade OD-3) on dark blue stripes for wear on the Olive Drab "Winter" uniform or medium olive drab (shade OD-2) on dark blue for wear on the khaki "Summer" uniform (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 design.

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


Pay gradesEdit

In 1920, the pay grade system was modified so the enlisted ranks were separated from the officer ranks. Previously there were bands of pay numbered from 1 (General or Admiral) to about 21 (Private or Apprentice Seaman). Military budgets previously paid servicemen by trade rather than their rank, leading to 134 different trades with an array of insignia and no clear authority. Now trades were grouped in seven "grades" of pay by rank. The "7th grade" (G7) indicated the lowest enlisted grade (i.e., private) and the "1st grade" (G1) signified the highest (i.e., master sergeant). Officers were paid in Pay Periods of 1st (2nd Lieutenants and Ensigns) through 8th (Generals and Admirals). Warrant Officers' pay was still set by act of congress but their privileges, benefits, and pensions were equal to that of a Second Lieutenant.

The "E" (Enlisted scale), "W" (Warrant Officer scale), and "O" (Officer scale) grade prefixes were not used until introduced by the Career Compensation Act of 1949. In 1951, the Enlisted pay grades were reversed, with the "1st grade" being the lowest enlisted grade and the "7th grade" being the highest. The Army rank of Sergeant Major was not restored until 1958, with the addition of the "super grades" of E8 (First Sergeant & Master Sergeant) and E9 (Sergeant Major).


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. / Spec. Pvt.


The rank of private specialist, usually just called specialist, had the command responsibilities and official insignia of a private first class, but conveyed slightly higher pay depending on the specialty and skill. While the official insignia was 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 in the 6th grade, six rockers in the 1st grade). 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 sergeantEdit

The rank of 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 8 January 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 staff sergeant, sergeant, and corporal, respectively but on 4 September 1942, Change 1 to Army Regulation 600-35 added a "T" for "technician" underneath the standard chevron design that corresponded with that grade.[2] Despite that, as with the private specialists that they replaced, unofficial insignia using a specialty symbol instead of the T were used in some units.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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

First SergeantEdit

On September 22, 1942, in Change 3 to Army Regulation 600-35, the rank of first sergeant was increased from the 2nd grade to the 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 that there was more than one word in the full title of the rank. See the comparative chart below.

Comparative chartEdit

Some ranks are not included in the chart for a proper comparison.

Full title Current
World War II
Private PV1/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 alsoEdit