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A general order, in military and paramilitary organizations, is a published directive, originated by a commander and binding upon all personnel under his or her command. Its purpose is to enforce a policy or procedure unique to the unit's situation that is not otherwise addressed in applicable service regulations, military law, or public law.
A general order has the force of law; it is an offense punishable by court martial or lesser military court to disobey one. What makes it a general order (as opposed to a direct order) is that the actor is not explicitly named, nor precisely what (or who) is to be acted upon.
A general order of indefinite duration may be referred to as a standing order. Standing orders are necessarily general and vague since the exact circumstances for execution occur in the future, under unknown conditions. For example, in most military agencies, there is a standing order for enlisted men to salute officers. The officers are required by the same law to return the salute to the enlisted person, but the name of each enlisted man, the name of each officer, and the exact time for the salute are not mentioned in the order.
List of notable general orders
In the United States
- General Orders for Sentries - often referred to as the 11 General Orders.
- General Order No. 1
- General Douglas MacArthur's first order to the forces of the Empire of Japan following the Japanese surrender in World War II.
- Order applicable to United States military personnel in the CENTCOM Area of Operations following the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan forbidding various activities such as alcohol consumption, sexual relations, religious promotion, etc.
- General Order No. 9 (or Lee's Farewell Address) - Confederate General Robert E. Lee's announcement of his surrender that ended the American Civil War
- General Order No. 11 (1862) - an American Civil War order expelling Jews (for suspected black market activities thought to be primarily run by them) from areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky (revoked weeks later)
- General Order No. 11 (1863) - an American Civil War order expelling the residents of four Missouri counties which were then to be burned.
- General Order No. 100
- A set of general orders, including the Prime Directive, has been established in Paramount Pictures' source documentation to govern the Starfleet organization in the Star Trek fictional universe.
- General Order № 24 Destruction of all life on a planet, issued by Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek episode #23 A Taste of Armageddon. He issued the order on stardate 3192.1 to be executed "in two hours," targeting Eminiar VII. Kirk was being held captive on the planet at the time he gave the order. The only recorded instance of this order actually being carried out was the first issue of the non-canon Gold Key Star Trek series: "The Planet of No Return."
- General Order № 47 issued to all EarthForce personnel requiring them to answer distress calls and assist any vessel not currently involved in hostilities against Earth in the Babylon 5 fictional universe.
- Order 66 Execution of all Jedi on sight, issued by Chancellor Palpatine to the Grand Army of the Republic in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Palpatine issued the order galaxy-wide immediately after evading arrest by the Jedi order and successfully turning Anakin Skywalker to the dark side of the Force.
- In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Lt. Saavik quoted two general orders, General Order 12, in which a ship was to raise its alert level if proper communication had not been established with another vessel in its vicinity, even if it was another Starfleet vessel, and the second, General Order 15, stated that no flag officer was to enter a potentially hazardous area without armed escort.