As a staff officer in the Army of the United States when he retired, Colin L. Powell had obtained the rank of General (he was a four-star general). In 1991, there was a movement in the U.S. Senate to award him an historic fifth star. It would have been awarded to General Powell for his military proficiency as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993).

Senator Robert Kasten Jr. (Wisconsin) sought federal legislation to award Powell the honor; it would have made General Powell the first African American to ever be elevated to such rank. This award is one of the rarest honors America bestows on a military leader because of their extraordinary achievements in accomplishing the country's objectives in war and peace.

Only five military leaders (Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, George Marshall, Henry Arnold and Omar Bradley have been honored with a fifth star. It requires authorization from the U.S. Congress to be awarded this honor.

General Powell did not get a fifth star even in the wake of public and Congressional pressure to do so.

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