Field Marshal Tantawi Allegedly in Charge in Egypt—What's a Field Marshall?

Egypt's Defence Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi
Khaled Desouki | AFP | Getty Images
Egypt's Defence Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi

After Hosni Mubarak's resignation, ZeroHedge is reporting that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi is in control of Egypt—though, possibly, on an interim basis.

Tantawi has been a commissioned officer in the Egyptian military since 1956, although he did not ascend to his current rank of Field Marshal until 1991.

What exactly is a field marshal?

The United States military has no rank directly corresponding to Field Marshal—but you can think of it as kind of a general on steroids.

(Douglas MacArthur once briefly held the rank of Field Marshal of the Philippine Army, in the late 1930's, but went on to become a Five Star General during The Second World War).

Field Marshall is generally thought to be the equivalent of a Six Star General: And Six Star General is the highest rank a military officer may theoretically hold in the US Military.

Only two American soldiers have ever ascended to the rarefied heights of a sixth star: General 'Blackjack' Pershing, who was honored with the Six Star rank for his service in World War I—and George Washington himself.

Although General Washington may not have much appreciated the honor—since it wasn't awarded to him until the American Bicentennial in 1976.

In the United States Navy, George Dewey was awarded the rank of Admiral of the Navy—which is the naval equivalent of a Six Star General. Admiral Dewey, who is probably the most famous American naval officer you've never heard of, was a hero of the Spanish-American War.

But when contemplating Field Marshal Tantawi's rank, we must never forget the unusual military conventions of the region: Moammar Kadafi has run Libya for over 40 years -- and only awarded himself the rank of colonel.


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