WORLD WAR TWO MILITARY RANKS TABLE

Rob Davis

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With a great deal of assistance from friendly readers of soc.history.war.world-war-ii, here is a table of comparable military ranks. Please feel free to comment or fill in any of the gaps, but note that some ranks cannot be expressed against others; I've done my best to align them sensibly.

There is inevitably some rank structure which overlaps into one above or one below, where no direct comparison is possible.

United States Marine Corps ranks are as per the United States Army, with minor variations.

The Geheimstatspolizei (Gestapo) and Sicherheitsdienst (SD) ranks are the same as, or very similar to, those of the Waffen-SS.

·  Other Ranks; Non-Commissioned Officers; Senior Non-Commissioned Officers; Boy Officers; Commissioned Officers; Senior Commissioned Officers; Air/Sea/Field Grade Officers; Commanders


 

Rank Group 1a : Other Ranks (popular title, Private)

Royal Air Force = Aircraftman 2nd Class

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Aircraftwoman 2nd Class

Royal Navy = Ordinary Seaman

Women's Royal Naval Service = Wren

British Army = Private; Sapper; Fusilier, Gunner; Rifleman

United States Army and Army Air Force = Private

United States Navy = Seaman Recruit

Kriegsmarine = Matrosengefrieter

Wehrmacht = Schutze; after Nov. 1942, Grenadier

Waffen-SS = SS-Schutze

Luftwaffe = Flieger, Gefrieter

Red Army Air Force = Krasnoarmeyets

Polish Air Force = Szeregowiec

Finnish Army & Air Force : Sotamies; Kiväärimies, Tykkimies, Pioneeri,
Lentosotamies

Finnish Navy : Matruusi


 

Rank Group 1b : Other Ranks (popular title, Private 1st Class)

Royal Air Force = Aircraftman 1st Class

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Aircraftwoman 1st Class

Royal Navy = Able Seaman

United States Army and Army Air Force = Private 1st Class

United States Navy = Seaman Apprentice

Kriegsmarine = Matrosenobergefrieter

Wehrmacht = Oberschutze

Waffen-SS = SS-Oberschutze

Luftwaffe = Obergefrieter

Red Army Air Force = Yefreyto

Polish Air Force = Starszy Szeregowiec


 

Rank Group 1c : Other Ranks (popular title, Lance-Corporal)

Royal Air Force = Leading Aircraftman

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Leading Aircraftwoman

British Army = Lance-Corporal; Lance-Bombardier

United States Navy = Seaman

Kriegsmarine = Matrosenhauptgefrieter, Matrosenstabsgefrieter, Matrosenoberstabsgefreiter

Wehrmacht = Gefreiter

Luftwaffe = Hauptgefrieter

Polish Air Force = Kapral

Finnish Army & Air Force : Korpraali

Finnish Navy : Ylimatruusi


 

Rank Group 1d : Other Ranks (popular title, Corporal)

Royal Air Force / Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Corporal

Royal Navy = Leading Seaman

Women's Royal Naval Service = Leading WREN

British Army = Corporal; Bombardier

United States Army and Army Air Force = Corporal

United States Navy = Petty Officer 3rd Class

Kriegsmarine = Steurmann, Obermaat, Maat

Wehrmacht = Obergefreiter

Waffen-SS = SS-Sturmmann

Luftwaffe = Unteroffizier

Red Army Air Force = Mladshiy Serzhant (Junior Sergeant)

Polish Air Force = Plutonowy

Finnish Army, Navy & Air Force : Alikersantti


 

The Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe have ranks with no direct equivalent:-

Senior Corporal = Stabsgefreiter

Lance-Sergeant = Unteroffizier, Unterfeldwebel


 

Rank Group 2a : Non-Commissioned Officers (popular title, Sergeant)

Royal Air Force / Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Sergeant

Royal Navy / Women's Royal Naval Service = Petty Officer

British Army = Sergeant

In the British Army during the First World War, this rank was written Serjeant, and appears thus on Commonwealth War Graves headstones and official documentation.

United States Army and Army Air Force = Sergeant

United States Navy = Petty Officer 2nd Class

Kriegsmarine = Stabssteurmann

Wehrmacht = Unterfeldwebel

Waffen-SS = SS-Hauptscharfuhrer

Luftwaffe = Feldwebel

Red Army Air Force = Serzhant

Polish Air Force = Sierzant

Finnish Army, Navy & Air Force : Kersantti


 

Rank Group 2b : Non-Commissioned Officers (popular title, Sergeant-Major)

I appreciate that the rank of Sergeant-Major has a very wide internal hierarchy with both distinct and subtle differences of rank. These alone warrant a page to themselves, so I trust readers will allow me, for the sake of brevity, to place them all in one group.

Royal Air Force / Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Flight Sergeant

British Army = Sergeant-Major, Warrant Officer Class 2

United States Army and Army Air Force = Staff Sergeant; Technical Sergeant is a higher grade

United States Navy = Petty Officer 1st Class

Free French Air Force = Sergent Chef

Kriegsmarine = Obersteurmann

Wehrmacht = Oberfeldwebel, Stabsfeldwebel, Stabswachtsmeister

Waffen-SS = SS-Sturmscharfuhrer

Luftwaffe = Oberfeldwebel

Red Army Air Force = Starshiy Serzhant (Senior Sergeant); Starshina also roughly corresponds to this rank.

Polish Air Force = Starszy Sierzant

Finnish Army, Navy & Air Force : Ylikersantti


 

Rank Group 2c : Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (popular title, Warrant Officer)

Royal Air Force / Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Warrant Officer

This is an unusual rank in the RAF in that holders of Warrant Officer status were addressed as "Sir" or "Ma'am" by Other Ranks, and addressed as "Mr", "Miss" or "Mrs" by Commissioned Officers. Yet they ate with Non-Commissioned Officers in the Sergeants' Mess and bunked with other NCOs.

The Royal Canadian Air Force had two grades of Warrant Officer, W/O1 and W/O2.

Royal Navy = Chief Petty Officer

Women's Royal Naval Service = Chief Wren

British Army = Warrant Officer Class 1

United States Army and Army Air Force = Top Sergeant; Sergeant 1st; 1Sgt

United States Navy = Chief Petty Officer

Free French Air Force = Adjudant

Kriegsmarine = Stabsobersteurmann

Luftwaffe = Oberfeldwebel

Red Army Air Force = Mladshiy Leytenant (Junior Lieutenant) This rank also roughly corresponds with Midshipman.

Polish Air Force = Chorazy

Finnish Army & Air Force : Vääpeli

Finnish Navy : Pursimies

Senior Warrant Officer, Finnish Army & Air Force : Ylivääpeli

Senior Warrant Officer, Finnish Navy : Ylipursimies

Chief Warrant Officer, Finnish Army, Navy & Air Force : Sotilasmestari


 

Rank Group 3a : Boy Officers and Officer Cadets (popular title, Midshipman)

Royal Air Force, British Army & Women's Royal Naval Service = Cadet

Royal Navy = Midshipman

US Navy Officer Cadets = Midshipman

Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Wehrmacht = Fahnrich, Senior Cadet = Oberfahnrich

Waffen-SS = SS-Junker, Senior Cadet = SS-Oberjunker

Finnish Army, Navy & Air Force : Kadetti


 

Rank Group 3b : Commissioned Officers (popular title, 2nd Lieutenant)

Note that in other than the British, Canadian, Australian and Free French armed forces, the rank of Lieutenant (pronounced "Lef-tenant") is pronounced "Loo-tenant".

Royal Air Force = Pilot Officer

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Assistant Section Officer

Royal Navy = Sub-Lieutenant

Women's Royal Naval Service =3rd Officer

British Army = 2nd Lieutenant

United States Army and Army Air Force = 2nd Lieutenant

United States Navy = Ensign

Free French Air Force = Sous-Lieutenant

Kriegsmarine = Leutnant zur See

Wehrmacht = Leutnant

Waffen-SS = SS-Untersturmfuhrer

Luftwaffe = Leutnant

Red Army Air Force = Leytenant

Polish Air Force = Podporucznik

Finnish Army & Air Force : Vänrikki

Finnish Navy : Aliluutnantti


 

Rank Group 3c : Commissioned Officers (popular title, Lieutenant)

Royal Air Force = Flying Officer

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Section Officer

Women's Royal Naval Service = 3rd Officer

British Army = Lieutenant

United States Army and Army Air Force = 1st Lieutenant

United States Navy = Lieutenant JG (Junior Grade)

Free French Air Force = Lieutenant

Wehrmacht = Oberleutnant

Kriegsmarine = Oberleutnant zur See

Waffen-SS = SS-Obersturmfuhrer

Luftwaffe = Oberleutnant

Red Army Air Force = Starshiyi Leytenant (Senior Lieutenant)

Polish Air Force = Porucznik

Finnish Army, Navy & Air Force : Luutnantti

Senior Lieutenant, Finnish Army, Navy & Air Force : Yliluutnantti


 

Rank Group 3d : Commissioned Officers (popular title, Captain)

Note that there is some disparity with the 'popular' description of Captain; for example in the various Navies this is a much higher rank than it would appear to be, by comparison elsewhere.

Royal Air Force = Flight Lieutenant

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Flight Officer

Royal Navy = Lieutenant

Women's Royal Naval Service = 2nd Officer

British Army = Captain

United States Army and Army Air Force = Captain

United States Navy = Lieutenant

Free French Air Force = Capitaine

Kriegsmarine = Kapitänleutnant

Wehrmacht = Hauptmann, Rittmeister

Waffen-SS = SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer

Luftwaffe = Hauptmann

Red Army Air Force = Kapitan

Polish Air Force = Kapitan

Finnish Army, & Air Force : Kapteeni

Finnish Navy : Kapteeniluutnantti


 

Rank Group 3e : Commissioned Officers (popular title, Major)

Royal Air Force = Squadron Leader

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Squadron Officer

Royal Navy = Lieutenant-Commander

Women's Royal Naval Service = 1st Officer

British Army = Major

United States Army and Army Air Force = Major

United States Navy = Lieutenant-Commander

Free French Air Force = Commandant

Kriegsmarine = Korvettenkapitän

Wehrmacht = Major

Waffen-SS = SS-Sturmbannfuhrer

Luftwaffe = Major

Red Army Air Force = Major

Polish Air Force = Major

Finnish Army & Air Force : Majuri

Finnish Navy : Komentajakapteeni


 

Rank Group 4a : Senior Commissioned Officers (popular title, Lieutenant-Colonel)

Royal Air Force = Wing Commander

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Wing Officer

Royal Navy = Commander

Women's Royal Naval Service = Chief Officer

British Army = Lieutenant-Colonel

United States Army and Army Air Force = Lieutenant-Colonel

United States Navy = Commander

Wehrmacht = Oberstleutnant

Kriegsmarine = Fregattenkapitän

Waffen-SS = SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer

Luftwaffe = Oberstleutnant

Red Army Air Force = Podpolkovnik

Polish Air Force = Podpulkownik

Finnish Army & Air Force : Everstiluutnantti

Finnish Navy : Komentaja


 

Rank Group 4b : Senior Commissioned Officers (popular title, Colonel)

Royal Air Force = Group Captain

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Group Officer

Royal Navy = Captain

Women's Royal Naval Service = Superintendant

British Army = Colonel

United States Army and Army Air Force = Colonel

United States Navy = Captain

Kriegsmarine = Kapitan zur See

Wehrmacht = Oberst

Waffen-SS = SS-Standartenfuhrer

Luftwaffe = Oberst

Red Army Air Force = Polkovnik

Polish Air Force = Pulkownik

Finnish Army & Air Force : Eversti

Finnish Navy : Kommodori

Rank Group 4c : Senior Commissioned Officers

The Waffen-SS has the rank of Oberfuhrer which lies between Colonel and Brigadier.


 

Rank Group 5a : Field, Air or Sea Grade Officers (popular title, Brigadier, or "1 Star" in US Forces nomenclature)

Royal Air Force = Air Commodore

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Air Commandant

Royal Navy = Commodore 2nd Class also, Commodore 1st Class

Women's Royal Naval Service = Deputy Director

British Army = Brigadier

United States Army and Army Air Force = Brigadier

United States Navy = Rear-Admiral (Lower Half) also sometimes referred to as Commodore

Kriegsmarine = Konteradmiral

Wehrmacht = GeneralMajor

Waffen-SS = SS-Brigadefuhrer

Luftwaffe = Generalmajor


 

Rank Group 5b : Field, Air or Sea Grade Officers (popular title, Lieutenant-General or "2 Star" in US Forces nomenclature)

Royal Air Force = Air Vice-Marshal

Women's Auxiliary Air Force = Air Chief Commandant

Royal Navy = Rear-Admiral

Women's Royal Naval Service = Director, WRNS

British Army = Major-General

United States Army and Army Air Force = Major General

United States Navy = Rear-Admiral (Upper Half)

Kriegsmarine = Vizeadmiral

Wehrmacht = General-Leutnant

Waffen-SS = SS-Gruppenfuhrer

Luftwaffe = GeneralLeutnant

Red Army Air Force = General Leytenant

Polish Air Force = General Brygady

Finnish Army & Air Force : Kenraalimajuri

Finnish Navy : Kontra-amiraali


 

Rank Group 5c : Field, Air or Sea Grade Officers (popular title, Major-General or "3 Star" in US Forces nomenclature)

Royal Air Force = Air Marshal

Royal Navy = Vice-Admiral

Women's Royal Naval Service = Chief Commandant

British Army = Major-General

United States Army and Army Air Force = Lieutenant-General

United States Navy = Vice-Admiral

Kriegsmarine = Admiral

Wehrmacht = General

Waffen-SS = SS-Obergruppenfuhrer

Luftwaffe = General

Red Army Air Force = Lieutenant-General

Polish Air Force = General Dywizji

Finnish Army & Air Force : Kenraaliluutnantti

Finnish Navy : Vara-amiraali


 

Rank Group 5d : Field, Air or Sea Grade Officers (popular title, General or "4 Star" in US Forces nomenclature)

Royal Air Force = Air Chief Marshal

Royal Navy = Admiral

British Army = General

United States Army and Army Air Force = General

United States Navy = Admiral

Kriegsmarine =Generaladmiral

Wehrmacht = General-Oberst

Waffen-SS = SS-Oberstgruppenfuhrer

Luftwaffe = Generaloberst

Red Army Air Force = General Polkovnik

Polish Air Force = General Broni

Finnish Army & Air Force : Kenraali

Finnish Navy : Amiraali

Rank Group 5e : Senior Field, Air or Sea Grade Officers

Red Army Air Force = Marshal Aviatsiyi (Air Marshal).


 

Rank Group 6 : Commanders (popular title, Field Marshal)

Royal Air Force = Marshal of the Royal Air Force

Royal Navy = Admiral of the Fleet

British Army = Field Marshal

United States Army and Army Air Force = General of the Army

Note the USAAF rank is General of the Army for the WW2 period as the Air Force was actually the Army Air Force at that time.

United States Navy = Fleet Admiral

Kriegsmarine = Grossadmiral

Wehrmacht = Generalfeldmarschall

Luftwaffe = Generalfeldmarschall

Red Army Air Force = Glavnyy Marshal Aviatsiyi (Supreme Air Marshal)

Polish Air Force = General Armiyi (Army General)”

Finnish Armed Forces : Marsalkka

In the US Armed Forces, the ranks of General of the Air Force, General of the Army and Fleet Admiral are referred to by the US as Five Star ranks. Such were created during WW2 to give parity with the British Commonwealth rank of Field Marshal, Marshal of the RAF, and Admiral of the Fleet, and are very rarely awarded.

Rank Group 7 : Supreme Commanders

Luftwaffe = Reichsmarschal

Waffen-SS = Reichsfuhrer-SS

Red Army Air Force = Marshal Sovyetskogo Soyuza (Marshal of the Soviet Union)


There is a less complicated list than this ...

Military Ranks Explained

General / Air Chief Marshal / Admiral
... leaps tall buildings in a single bound
... is more powerful than a locomotive
... is faster than a speeding bullet
... walks on water
... gives policy to God.


Colonel / Group Captain / Captain
... leaps short buildings in a single bound
... is more powerful than a switch engine
... is just as fast as a speeding bullet
... walks on water if the sea is calm
... talks with God.


Lieutenant-Colonel / Wing Commander / Commander
... leaps short buildings with a running start and a favouring wind
... is almost as powerful than a switch engine
... slower than a speeding bullet
... walks on water in an indoor swimming pool
... talks with God if special request is approved.


Major / Squadron Leader / Lieutenant-Commander
... barely clears Nissen Hut
... loses tug'o'war with locomotive
... can fire a speeding bullet
... swims well
... is occasionally addressed by God.


Captain / Flight Lieutenant / Lieutenant
... makes high marks when trying to jump buildings
... is run over by locomotive
... can sometimes handle a gun without inflicting self injury
... dog paddles
... talks to some animals.


1st Lieutenant / Flying Officer / Lieutenant
... runs into buildings
... recognises locomotives (two out of three times)
... is not even issued ammunition
... can stay afloat if properly instructed by Mae West
... talks to walls.


2nd Lieutenant / Pilot Officer / Sub-Lieutenant
... falls over doorstep when trying to enter buildings
... says "Look at the Choo-Choo!"
... wets himself with water pistol
... plays in mud puddles
... mumbles to himself.


Sergeant-Major / Flight Sergeant / Chief Petty Officer
... lifts buildings and walks under them
... kicks locomotives off the track
... catches speeding bullets in his teeth, and eats them
... freezes water with a single glance
... he IS God.