Ranks of the Imperial Japanese Navy

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The following graphs present the rank insignia of the Imperial Japanese Navy from its establishment in 1868 to its defeat during World War II in 1945. These designs were used from 1931 onwards.

Commissioned officer ranks[edit]

Cap badges:

All commissioned officer rank names were the same as their army counterparts. The navy would prefix the common rank names with "Kaigun" (海軍), while the army would prefix them with "Rikugun" (陸軍), meaning "Navy" and "Army", respectively. There was a minor difference in pronunciation of character 大 for Navy Lieutenant and Navy Captain. The navy pronounced it as "Dai", while the army pronounced it as "Tai". See the table below for details:[1]

All-forces ranks English translation IJN insignia (sleeve) IJN insignia (collar & shoulder boards)
Lord high admiral of the Japanese Empire
Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-10-sleeve.svg OF-10 - Kaigun Daigensui.gif
Grand Admiral
(Admiral of the fleet)
Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-9-sleeve.svg元帥徽章.svg
(Same insignia as admiral; with enamelled breast badge)
Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-9-collar.svg
Admiral Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-9-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-9-collar.svg
Vice-admiral Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-8-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-8-collar.svg
Rear-admiral Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-7-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-7-collar.svg
Captain Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-5-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-5-collar.svg
Commander Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-4-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-4-collar.svg
Lieutenant-commander Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-3-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-3-collar.svg
Lieutenant Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-2-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-2-collar.svg
(Lieutenant junior grade)
Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-1b-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-1b-collar.svg
Ensign Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-1a-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-1a-collar.svg

Cadet and warrant officer ranks[edit]

All-forces ranks English translation IJN insignia (sleeve) IJN insignia (collar & shoulder boards)
Midshipman OR-9 Kaigun Jun'i (cuff).png Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-(D)-collar.svg
Cadet Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-D-sleeve.svg Imperial Japan-Navy-OF-(D)-collar.svg
Warrant Officer OR-9 Kaigun Jun'i (cuff).png Imperial Japan-Navy-WO-collar.svg

Enlisted rates[edit]

For seamen and petty officers, which were selected from enlisted men or conscripts and given one year of training in the Navy PO Academy, the names were different from the army names but were equal in rank. Different service branches within the navy had their specialization augment the common rank name. For example, Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service had "Flight" (飛行) incorporated into the common rank name, such as Flight Petty Officer First Class (一等飛行兵曹) or Flight Seaman Second Class (二等飛行兵).[2] For practical use, these rank names were often shortened to 一飛曹 or 二飛, respectively. The enlisted rank insignia and names were updated on 1 November 1942.[2] See the table below for details:[1]

All-forces ranks IJN insignia (upper sleeve) after 1 November 1942
Before 1 November 1942 After 1 November 1942
Rank English translation Rank English translation
Petty officers 下士官 (Kashikan)
Petty officer first class 上等兵曹
Chief petty officer Rank insignia of jōtōheisō of the Imperial Japanese Navy.svg
Petty officer second class 一等兵曹
Petty officer first class Rank insignia of ittōheisō of the Imperial Japanese Navy.svg
Petty officer third class 二等兵曹
Petty officer second class Rank insignia of nitōheisō of the Imperial Japanese Navy.svg
Enlisted/Seamen 水兵 (Suihei)
Seaman first class 水兵長
Leading seaman Rank insignia of suiheichō of the Imperial Japanese Navy.svg
Seaman second class 上等水兵
(senior seaman)
Able seaman Rank insignia of jōtōsuihei of the Imperial Japanese Navy.svg
Seaman third class 一等水兵
(seaman first class)
Ordinary seaman Rank insignia of ittōsuihei of the Imperial Japanese Navy.svg
(seaman fourth class)
(seaman second class)
Seaman recruit Rank insignia of nitōsuihei of the Imperial Japanese Navy.svg

Service branch colors[edit]

The branch of the Navy in which non-executive personnel served was indicated by a color code. For officers, including midshipmen, it was the color of cloth placed as background to the cuff stripes, on both sides of the gold lace on the shoulder boards, and as longitudinal piping on the collar patches. Midshipmen and cadets wore a colored anchor on the cap, which cadets wore on the shoulder boards as well.[1] The branch of enlisted men was denoted by the color of the Chrysanthemum flower on their rank patch; line personnel using the default gold.

Color Branch
Violet Engineering
Brown Ship and engine construction
Purple-brown Ordnance construction
Red Medical
Pale green Legal
White Paymaster
Black Survey officers
Light blue Aviation (Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service) and Hydrography
Green Chief carpenters (warrant officer)
Grey-blue Band master (warrant officer)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rosignoli, Guido (1980). Naval and Marine Badges and Insignia of World War 2. Blandford Colour Series. Link House, West Street, Poole, Dorset, BH15 1LL: Blandford Press Ltd. pp. 152–153.CS1 maint: location (link)
  2. ^ a b Lundstrom, John B. (2005b). First Team and the Guadalcanal Campaign: Naval Fighter Combat from August to November 1942 (New ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-472-8.