By act of Congress approved 14 December 1944, the grade of Fleet Admiral, United States Navy, was established for certain officers on the active list of the Navy. Four officers were nominated by the president for that grade. With the advice and consent of the Congress, they were appointed by him and served in that grade until they died. During the years preceding World War II the Navy's highest rank was four-star Admiral. The rapid build-up of U.S. military forces precipitated the congressional legislation establishing the five-star rank for Navy and Army officers. Included in the legislation was a "sunset clause" that terminated six months after the formal cessation of hostilities the presidential authority to appoint officers to the five-star rank.
It is interesting to note that each of the naval officers promoted to the five-star rank followed different career tracks. Only eight years of seniority separated them. They served as younger officers when the Navy was making its expansion in aviation and submarine development. One of these officers began his career as a destroyer officer, and transitioned to the aviation branch with only one short tour of duty ashore in Washington. One was a submariner whose assignments included duty in Europe studying diesel propulsion, duty on board capital ships and an assignment ashore as Chief of Naval Personnel. One had almost all his sea duty in large commands, with the exception of one tour, with all assigned shore duty in Washington, including tours as the chief of two bureaus. Only one had a seagoing career that encompassed all three communities, surface, submarine and aviation branches; as part of his shore duty he was the head of the Postgraduate School and the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics.
Three served as Chiefs of Naval Operations.
The Navy's Fleet Admirals were:
(This information is extracted from the Naval Historical Foundation's booklet Fleet Admirals, U.S. Navy.)