Military References in Star Trek

Originally created by FleetCaptain et al. for Memory Alpha

Rank Structure on the EnterpriseEvolution of Rank InsigniaMilitary References in Episodes and Films Star Trek Personalities with Military Service


This article is not updated any longer. More on some topics can be found in United States military at Memory Alpha.
Military references in Star Trek have existed since the original concept and creation of the franchise in the 1960s. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, was himself a former bomber pilot in World War II as well as a former policeman. Through these experiences, when Roddenberry formed the idea for Star Trek he did so with various military and military-like concepts incorporated into its design.


Rank Structure on the Enterprise

According to Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, Roddenberry's original idea for the organization of the USS Enterprise was that the ship would be based on a merchant marine type organization with a Captain and various mates overseeing a large crew. In the pilot episode "The Cage", the only ranks spoken of were Captain, Lieutenant, Chief and Crewman. All officers wore a single rank stripe and, according to Roddenberry, everyone aboard the Enterprise was a qualified astronaut making rank titles a formality since all crewmembers basically had the same type of training.

When the second pilot was being developed (TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before"), Roddenberry shifted focus from a merchant marine vessel to a military ship very clearly modeled after the United States Navy. The ranks of Lieutenant Commander and Commander were both spoken of and Captain James T. Kirk wore a "two stripe" insignia to differentiate him from the rest of the crew. When Star Trek: The Original Series came into full production, Ensign and Lieutenant Junior Grade were both either seen or discussed and the concept of staff versus line officers was introduced, most predominately in "Court Martial" where an officer of the Judge Advocate General Corps is seen and Starfleet is referred to as "the service".


Evolution of Rank Insignia

The Enterprise breast insignia with command division device
The Enterprise breast insignia with Command division device.

Captain insignia, similar to USN LCDR stripes [1]

Captain insignia (23rd century), similar to USN LCDR stripes

Captain pips, similar to USN sleeve stripes.
Captain pips (24th century), similar to USN sleeve stripes.

When "The Cage" was first produced, personnel aboard the USS Enterprise wore a heavy velor fabric shirt with a breast insignia, within which was a type of specialty crest. The crest placed within the breast insignia indicated the type of position a person held aboard a starship with the senior officers (Captain and First Officer) wearing an arrowhead device. Other personnel wore different insignia depending on their specific job description.

"The Cage" and TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before" also showed different shades of brown shirts, depending on if a character was in a command position or if they were in a ship's service role, as well as blue shirts for those attached to medical or scientific duties. The idea of different colored shirts to denote what department of the ship someone served in became much more pronounced in TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver" when the classic "red, blue, gold" shirt pattern emerged.

The colored shirt theme, combined with the breast insignia device, was the standard means of identifying the area of the ship a character worked in as well as what branch of Starfleet they served in. This concept seems to be based on the practice of line and staff naval officer insignia, which is worn above the sleeve stripe rank on standard U.S. Navy uniforms (Staff Corps / LDO and Warrant).

While the original rank insignia from "The Cage" consisted of a one stripe system for all officers, by the time frame of TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver", a much more militaristic rank insignia had developed which was very clearly based on the sleeve stripe insignia of the United States Navy. According to costume notes, the very first concept for Starfleet insignia was to be the same as the United States Navy, but Roddenberry altered this slightly so that the characters in Star Trek would not appear "so military". Thus, the Starfleet insignia design featured less sleeve stripes than the actual U.S. Navy, the reason being that the Starfleet design had no insignia for an ensign and a thin half stripe for a lieutenant junior grade. In the real U.S. Navy, an ensign begins with one full stripe (the same as a Starfleet lieutenant) leading up to four stripes for captain. Thus, when comparing Starfleet to the United States Navy, a captain's rank insignia would equal the insignia worn by a lieutenant commander.

In TOS: "The Menagerie, Part I", Starfleet flag officer insignia is seen for the first time with the insignia for a Starfleet Commodore almost identical to that of a U.S. Navy one star admiral. During the entire run of Star Trek: The Original Series, only once was an officer above the rank of commodore seen, this being Admiral Fitzpatrick in TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles". Fitzpatrick's insignia had often been equated to that of a Vice Admiral, although he was only addressed as "Admiral".

The Starfleet uniforms introduced in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" featured a much more complex system of shoulder insignia, colored undershirts to denote branch specialty, as well as sleeve insignia system designed to show years of service in Starfleet. According to Robert Fletcher, who designed the uniforms seen in "Star Trek II", the outfits were based on a "Horatio Hornblower" look to convey the feeling that Starfleet was a military organization. These uniforms would be featured in several films ranging from "Star Trek II" to "Star Trek Generations" as well as several flashback episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The Starfleet uniforms seen in The Next Generation, and the subsequent productions of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager returned to the colored shirt method of identifying branch specialty as well as utilizing a series of rank pips were based on the insignia of the U.S. Navy. Under the new "pip system", an ensign insignia was shown as one pip (similar to the United States Navy insignia of a single stripe) and a captain showed four pips. Lieutenant commander and lieutenant junior grade used a "hollow pip" which was based on the half stripe used for these ranks in the U.S. military.


Military References in Episodes and Films

Several Star Trek episodes and films have had characters using military terms or coming into contact with U.S. military personnel. Such productions include:

The Original Series

Star Trek films

The Next Generation

Deep Space Nine



Star Trek (2009)


Star Trek Personalities with Military Service

In addition to military references in Star Trek productions, a fairly large number of Star Trek personalities have actually served in the United States armed forces. The largest number are Original Series actors, producers, and writers, with service in the Second World War. A fair number have service in the Korean War time frame and background actor Newell Tarrant is the only Star Trek actor known to have served in the Vietnam War.

Likewise, many Star Trek personas with service in World War II have either damaged military records or no military records at all due to a major fire in 1973 which destroyed 18 million military files at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

None of the actors who have portrayed Starfleet captains in the major series (Shatner, Stewart, Brooks, Mulgrew, or Bakula) have ever served in the military. William Shatner, however, did appear as an Army captain opposite Spencer Tracy (who served in the US Navy during World War I) in the film "Judgment at Nuremberg" shortly before Shatner's appearance in Star Trek.

While never having served in the military, Michael Dorn has spent many years involved with the Civil Air Patrol and is a skilled and accomplished pilot. James Doohan and David Hurst are the only known Star Trek actors to have served in an armed force other than the United States military. Doohan served in the Canadian Army and Air Force and Hurst served in the British Army's Irish Fusiliers; both actors were veterans of the Second World War.

Individual Star Trek role Branch of service Years of service Service number Final rank
Whit Bissell Lurry US Army 1943 - 1945 39 708 296 Sergeant
Elisha Cook Samuel Cogley US Army 1942 - 1943 39 531 145 Private First Class
Gene L. Coon Original Series Producer US Marine Corps 1942 - 1946
1950 - 1951
442994 Sergeant
Harlan Ellison Script Writer (TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever") US Army 1957 - 1959 51 403 352 Private First Class
Morgan Farley Hacom / Yang Scholar US Army 1942 - 1945 530425 Second Lieutenant
Paul Fix Mark Piper US Navy 1918 - 1919 150 83 54 Hospital Apprentice First Class
Fred Freiberger Original Series Producer US Army Air Corps
US Air Force Reserve
1941 - 1946
1946 - 1957
First Lieutenant
Frank Gorshin Bele US Army 1953 - 1955 52 314 745 Not recorded
James Gregory Tristan Adams US Navy 1942 - 1945 647 86 69 Petty Officer 1st Class
Richard Herd Owen Paris / L'Kor US Army 1953 51 214 821 Private
Jeffrey Hunter Christopher Pike US Navy 1945 - 1946 960 39 80 Seaman 1st Class
Roy Jenson Cloud William US Navy 1944 - 1946 566 72 38 Seaman 1st Class
Robert Justman Original Series Producer US Navy 1944 - 1946 881 57 18 Petty Officer 3rd Class
Brian Keith Mullibok US Marine Corps 1942 - 1945 385253 Corporal
DeForest Kelley Leonard McCoy US Army Air Corps 1943 - 1946 39 563 856 Private First Class
Mark Lenard Sarek / Romulan commander / Klingon captain US Army 1943 - 1946 36 858 836 Technical Sergeant
Richard Matheson Script Writer (TOS: "The Enemy Within") US Army 1944 - 1945 12 229 310 Private
Lawrence Montaigne Decius / Stonn US Marine Corps 1947 - 1950 1060247 Private First Class
Joseph Naradzay Marine sergeant US Marine Corps 1964 - 1990 2030237 Sergeant Major
Leonard Nimoy Spock US Army Reserve 1953 - 1955 11 229 770 Sergeant
Nehemiah Persoff Palor Toff US Army 1942 - 1946 32 698 169 Technician 5th Grade
Gene Roddenberry Series Creator US Army Air Corps 1942 - 1945 662606 Captain
David Sharpe Security Guard (TOS: "Day of the Dove") / Stunt Double (TOS: "Requiem for Methuselah") US Army Air Corps 1943 - 1945 522005 First Lieutenant
Ron Soble Wyatt Earp US Army 1946 - 1948
1951 - 1953
16 231 533
02 103 964
First Lieutenant
Warren Stevens Rojan Naval Academy / Army Air Corps 1937 - 1940 (Navy) 139 89 54 Midshipman
Newell Tarrant Rogerson US Navy 1966 - 1986 Researching Commander
Harry Townes Reger US Army 1942 - 1946 32 792 652 Corporal
William Windom Matthew Decker US Army 1943 - 1946 33 455 116 Technician 5th Grade
Ian Wolfe Septimus / Atoz US Army 1917 - 1919 2371377 Sergeant
Donald W. Zautcke Marine lieutenant US Marine Corps 1981 - 1985 None First Lieutenant
Anthony Zerbe Matthew Dougherty Air Force Reserve / Air National Guard 1958 - 1964 28248934 Airman 3rd Class

The military records of Keith Andes, John Hoyt, Matt Jefferies, George Clayton Johnson, and Byron Morrow were completely destroyed in the 1973 National Archives Fire, making service verification impossible. Frank Gorshin's military rank was also damaged to the point that his final rank at discharge is unknown.

Hal Baylor, Hal Lynch, and Steve Sandor are listed in several publications as having military service; however to date neither the Department of Veterans Affairs or the National Personnel Records Center has been able to locate records for these three actors.


United States military @ Memory Alpha





This article was created by FleetCaptain et al. at Memory Alpha. The text has been republished in accordance with Memory Alpha's policies. Thanks to Joćo Paulo Cursino and to Adam Rieder for corrections.

The TOS and the TNG rank insignia were created by M.K. Bartel and are used with permission.

Special note FleetCaptain would like to honor Frank W. Buckles (Service#: 15577), who was the last living World War I veteran in the United States.


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