Navy Traditions and Customs

Why is the Colonel Called "Kernal"?
The Origin of the Ranks and Rank Insignia Now Used by the United States Armed Forces


Why is Colonel pronounced "kernal"? Why does a Lieutenant General outrank a Major General? Why is Navy Captain a higher rank than Army-Air Force-Marine Captain? Why do Sergeants wear chevrons? Was John J. Pershing a six-star General?

As I searched for answers to these and other such questions I found little easily available information on the origins and histories of the military ranks and rank insignia. I wrote this booklet to help correct that situation.

Many people helped me find this sometimes obscure information, among them Captain James Tily, USN (Retired), Detmar Finke, Colonel Richard Allen, Stanley Kalkus, John Slonaker, J. David Browne, Mary Haynes, Bob Aquilina, Opal Landen, Marjorie Whittington, Michael McAfee, A.W. Haarman, D.J. Crawford, Earl Jastram, Lynwood Carranco, Bonnie Olson, Truman Grandy, Dr. S.J. Lewis, Vern Morten, Emily Slocum, Carroll Pursell, Janet Griffith, Pat Carter and Olga Oliver.

McClellan Aviation Museum