Considering that he's performed exceptionally for many years, has proven leadership capabilities and is highly intelligent, why haven't they given him a higher rank?

  • 50
    Because Colonel America doesn't sound as good as Captain America?
    – Ayrx
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 15:57
  • 15
    He was Colonel America in the Marvel Zombie universe. It...ended badly.
    – Jeff
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 17:13
  • 6
    I suspect that it's the same reason that Captain Crunch has never been promoted. (Except in Futurama, but that's a cartoon.)
    – Wayne
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 0:45
  • 5
    Well, he's not really a Captain to begin with... sooo Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 5:45
  • 6
    So Colonel Sanders outranks Captain America? That's not cool.
    – coburne
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 13:11

4 Answers 4


Because rank follows job

Army rank isn't just a question of experience, heroics or capabilities. It's not like going up a level in a D&D game. After a certain point, an officer's rank implies his job, not only his abilities.

A US Army Captain usually commands units the size of Companies or smaller, meaning at most a group of 80-250 soldiers. This is in keeping with Captain America's usual scale - he usually leads platoons, actually, but in the First Avenger movie we saw him lead a larger group to rescue hostages.

Generally speaking, the work he does is not that of a Major, Colonel or General. He's a field agent and tactical warrior, not a strategist or high-level commander.

Because you have to be in service to be promoted

Of course, all this ignores the fact that as far as I know he isn't, as of the main Marvel timeline, an active member of the US Army. He works with S.H.I.E.L.D, and keeps his existing rank, but since he's not an active commissioned officer, he won't continue moving up the ranks.

  • 17
    The Rank Folows Job is incredibly accurate. U.S. Enlisted here, so I kinda have first hand knowledge.
    – Ender
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 6:03
  • 8
    As a great (and, I think, little-known) example, there are no permanent US 3- and 4-star generals. 2-star generals are temporarily promoted the extra star or two based on what rank is assigned to the position they're holding, and revert back to two stars once they leave the position.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 13:53
  • 5
    @Bobson - worth pointing out that the same applies to the war time only 5 star general since it can't be given out if the position isn't actively needed. Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 14:21
  • 4
    @Bobson Wikipedia claims: “Historically, officers leaving three-star positions were allowed to revert to their permanent two-star ranks to mark time in lesser jobs until statutory retirement, but now such officers are expected to retire immediately to avoid obstructing the promotion flow.” So they either need to quickly find a new post of equal or higher stature, or retire. I didn't know this previously – thanks for pointing it out! Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 1:22
  • I recently saw an argument on another website claiming the opposite - that as an MIA officer he would have been promoted automatically after the appropriate amount of time in each grade, and his back pay would have been in accordance with that.
    – Random832
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 13:41

He hasn't been promoted because he isn't active military personnel. It's that simple. He is considered "retired" from the US Army.

  • He had a rank when he was in the Army and when he "died" that was the rank he wore.

  • When he was found and revived, the world he lived in included many beings of superhuman stature and his previous ranking became a "sobriquet" denoting his previous service and a "recognizable brand".

  • He is a consultant with SHIELD providing "special operation services".

  • If he were to rejoin the Army in an active military capacity, he would then be eligible for promotions allowing him to increase in rank and I suspect considering his abilities and strengths as a leader would quickly find himself promoted.

  • In the canon Marvel Universe, Captain America is considered to be the finest tactical leader the Avengers have ever had and during times of combat, almost everyone INCLUDING Thor will defer to the Captain's judgment.

  • And as far as any marketing guru will tell you, you don't change a winning brand.

  • 18
    Was he retired because he was way older than 60years of age? :P
    – Stark07
    Commented Jun 1, 2014 at 1:41

"Captain" in his case is generally not seen as a 'rank' in the strict sense but is his Nom de guerre, his 'war name'. Though he has the authority of a combat field commander, he was originally assigned the CODE NAME 'Captain America' as a result of the Super-Soldier Program and because it was a catchy name for the anti-Nazi propaganda campaign at the time, not because he attended West Point and was promoted through the ranks to the rank of Captain.

(Note: He didn't even go through Army basic training bootcamp)

Some backstory;

Steve Rodgers went from being a scrawny civilian, allowed to enlist, was administered the Super-Soldier Serum (which was obviously a success), put through an intensive 3 month physical and tactical training program, was then 'appointed' the CODE NAME 'Captain America'. All of this happened in the span of a little over 3 months. His Nom de guerre is so well known that it would never be changed to 'Lt. Col. America' no matter how many people he commanded.

  • 3
    It really depends on what continuity you mean - he DID go through boot during Captain America: The First Avenger. I believe he's also gone through some version of OCS in the 616 continuity.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 18:46
  • 1
    @Jeff -In the movie 'Captain America: The First Avenger', that wasn't bootcamp, it was a selection process to determine who would be selected and only lasted a few days. Dr. Erskine already wanted Rodgers but Colonel Phillips was skeptical until Rodgers showed his courage and self sacrifice by diving on what he thought was a live grenade. I'm not familiar with other re-writes or 'retconned' continuities.
    – Morgan
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 19:23
  • 1
    It was, indeed, a selection process. But it was also boot camp. They were doing PT, learning military discipline and protocol, etc. Besides, Cap shows quite a bit of familiarity with infantry protocol, tactics, and weaponry later in the movie, which he could easiest have learned in boot.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 13:14
  • 1
    You could argue that he got a battlefield promotion based on the duties that he was expected to perform. The way I understand it, (never having the honor of serving in the military) promotions in war time have much different rules than promotions during peace.
    – AndyD273
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:24
  • @Jeff -I went through Marine Corps bootcamp... what they were doing wasn't bootcamp.
    – Morgan
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 16:40

Made an account just to answer, but I answer mostly because I can't comment

Most likely because the "Captain" part is not really a "rank", but a moniker. Kind of like "Captain Obvious". Nobody has ever demoted Captain Obvious, no?

By the way, you don't need to be serving an "army" to be assigned a "rank". Colonel Sanders was a businessman, for example, and his rank is higher than America

  • 6
    Col. Sanders' rank might not have been military, but it wasn't just a moniker, either. The Kentucky Colonels is an official organization, part of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 9:33
  • 1
    LOL Colonel America. Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 18:10
  • 1
    I never said Colonel Sander's rank is just a moniker. Sanders never served Kentucky militarily, but still gained a rank. Others pointed out the Captain doesn't gain a rank because he's not serving, I pointed out a case where it's not really needed. There's a reason I put them in "quotes"
    – Raestloz
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 1:40
  • You know, if Captain Obvious was demoted, he wouldn't be Captain Obvious anymore... Commented May 9, 2017 at 20:16
  • @VBartilucci That's... obvious. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 7:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.