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Frontline General
A general who spends more time on the frontline than in the war room.
Tropeworthy? Description Needs Help Needs Examples
(permanent link) added: 2012-10-15 06:27:45 sponsor: MarqFJA edited by: spacemarine50 (last reply: 2013-07-06 11:09:13)

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"There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!"
-- General Barnard Bee at the First Battle of Manassas during The American Civil War

A general officer -- though not necessarily a Four-Star Badass -- who spends more time leading his men at the frontline battlefields like a junior/field officer does than sitting in the war room and working on theater-level strategic plans.

Depending on the setting or the branch of the military, this can be easily justified; a fleet of ships, or even a single larger ship such as a modern Supercarrier, will often be commanded by a Rear Admiral or higher. Pre-Radio Age armies would also be often directly commanded by generals on the field, too, to the point where it was almost common for generals to be killed in battle. In a modern land army, however, such a thing would be very unusual, and typically would only happen if the country gets invaded by complete surprise, and/or the enemy gets very deep very fast.

Contrast Armchair Military (a.k.a. "Chairborne Ranger" in US Marine Corps lingo). See Outranking Your Job when this is taken too far. May overlap with Royals Who Actually Do Something in fantasy or historical settings. But doing this increases the chance of a Keystone Army by a lot. A Decapitated Army may result if the general dies.



  • Prevalent in Star Wars:
    • The Jedi in all Clone Wars-related media, such as Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and the animated series Clone Wars and The Clone Wars. They are all automatically generals, and prefer to command from the frontlines. Probably because they don't fear enemy blaster fire. Pong Krell form The Clone Wars is an exception, preferring to stay in the back. But he has a good reason to do that. He's killing as many clones as possible and using Hollywood Tactics before he officially betrays the Republic.
    • On the flip side, General Grievous was often on the front line during the Clone Wars.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back the Empire's General Maximilian Veers not only prepares his troops for the Hoth surface attack, he's aboard the lead AT-AT that fires the shots which destroy the Alliance's power generators. He paid a price though: in the novelization Hobbie Klivian (Rogue Two) crashed his damaged snowspeeder into Veers' cockpit a couple minutes later. Veers survived but both his legs had to be amputated. His Rebel counterpart Carlist Rieekan was more cautious, commanding from an Echo Base bunker rather than the front lines.
    • By the time of the Battle of Endor both Lando Calrissian and Han Solo were Generals. These men blew up the second Death Star and personally led the ground assault on its shield generator respectively. Admiral Ackbar also commanded from the front, leading to his legendary line "It's a trap!"
  • Patton. The title general is portrayed this way several times. During the battle with the 10th Panzer he's on the front lines giving tactical orders. During the invasion of Sicily he's shown scouting out a ford across a river while under enemy artillery fire. On several other occasions he's depicted driving around in battle areas.
  • In Gettysburg, Lee warns General Longstreet against his habit of going too far forward, as he's already lost a number of his generals (particularly Stonewall) to this trope and he feels he cannot spare Longstreet.

  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • After Wedge Antilles is promoted to general in Isard's Revenge, he still leads Rogue Squadron in the field for at least the remainder of the book. In later conflicts (among them Kueller's uprising and the Yuuzhan Vong War) he continues to put himself directly in harm's way, though not necessarily from a starfighter cockpit.
    • The prequels weren't the first time the Jedi were Frontline Generals. During the Sith Wars of 4,000 and 1,000 BBY (seen in the Tales of the Jedi comics, Knights of the Old Republic, and the Darth Bane series among others), the Jedi frequently led the Republic military against Sith forces.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, virtually anyone equivalent to a general (Eomer, Theoden, and eventually Aragorn) is only too glad to be right in the thick of it with their men.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones the noblemen and knights commanding armies often take to the field with their men, of particular note are Robb Stark and Tywin Lannister, even Tyrion rides into battle the few times he is trusted with men at arms.
  • Played with in The Wheel of Time, where it's repeatedly stated that this is a bad idea, because the general makes of himself a target and if he's killed, his command is going to collapse. However, by dint of bad luck Mat keeps finding himself in the midst of the enemy force, especially if he was trying to lead his army in a retreat at the time (though, thanks to good luck, he then turns those debacles into crushing victories), and other generals have had times when they stay in or near the front lines because of a need to keep communication lines short or just because they just need every man they have.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • General Hammond was more inclined to lead from the rear, but he wasn't above going into the field on occasion, most notably in "Into the Fire" where he rode second seat in a modified Death Glider to provide air support to the rescue of his troops.
    • After O'Neill replaced Hammond for season 8, he likewise mostly stayed in the boardroom until his ATA gene was required to fly a puddle jumper in "It's Good to Be King". He took out a Goa'uld mothership with it.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
  • An actual game mechanic in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000: the minimum to play is two units of troops and a general / HQ unit. Depending on their stats, you either keep them the hell away from attack (see Tau Ethereals) or are horrifying death machines to be rushed into melee as soon as possible (orks, some Chaos leaders). In the fluff, however, the less insane armies keep their high command well out of harm's way.
    • Taken even further in Dawn of War: the Imperial Guard's general is their only melee unit until they get to the later tech tiers.
  • In Stratego, the Field Marshal and the General are the two most powerful pieces on the board, and are often placed on the front lines for this reason. (Of course, it's dangerous for them to get too aggressive because of the risk of hitting a bomb.)

  • The various incarnations of the G.I. Joe franchise have Hawk, a general who spends much of his time leading the G.I. Joe forces out in field.

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • Whoever is made monarch at the end of Dragon Age: Origins (Anora, Alistair, or the Warden) will personally lead the armies against the Darkspawn in the endgame.
  • An Escort Mission in the flight sim Sabre Ace Conflict Over Korea has you protecting General MacArthur as he flies up to the front lines for a personal inspection.
  • Halo: Sangheili Generals are often seen battling with their men, kinda justified by their formidability in battle and extra-strength energy shields. Human generals are more practical, however, and remain safely in bases or command warships instead.
  • Metroid: Other M: Adam Malkovich is a General, and leads a group of five men in a special-ops mission. Sometimes he is away in a command room, other times he is personally fighting with them.
  • In Radiant Historia, Field Marshall Viola spends nearly the entire game on the front lines. Although she's highly formidable in combat, many characters point out the absurdity of having such a high ranking officer in the thick of battle; she's only there because the de facto leader of the country, General Hugo, fears her popularity and wants to get rid of her.
  • Words Worth: While Sharon and Ceasar are the Tribe of Shadow's top generals, it's Sharon who is acknowledged as their fiercest combatant, and spends much of the series in the thick of battle. Which is how she gains the attention of King Fabris, who also exemplifies the trope.
  • The "general" support unit in Rise of Nations is best kept slightly back from the front as he can't actually fight, but he does need to be nearby to provide the bonuses to your troops.
  • StarCraft likes this.
    • General Edmund Duke in StarCraft I isn't just a frontline general, but fully capable of soloing the mission you get to use him in (assuming you prioritize targets correctly and are willing to patch him up frequently). Unfortunately his tendency to lead from the front eventually gets him killed in Brood War, and he's for the most part a General Failure due to his unfortunate tendency to be on the opposite side from the player character.
    • Protoss Executors and Dark Templar Prelates also do this, as evidenced by Tassadar and Zeratul, both of whom appear as powerful hero units on the front lines of several levels apiece.
    • General Horace Warfield in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty takes the field with his Marines and fully qualifies for Four-Star Badass, killing an entire zerg force by himself at one point and losing an arm in the process.
  • The Avatar in Fire Emblem Awakening can be this, depending on how much you use him/her.

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • This was actually fairly common until recently and is at least as old as the Roman Empire. However in armies where there were actual generals (command and control specialists) as opposed to warleaders (badasses who point swords and say charge), the custom was to ride on a horse back and forth along the line allowing the commander to personally intervene in a crises. This was dangerous work in itself, often more dangerous then being a private. But it wasn't the same as personally using weapons.
  • Lieutenant General Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson of the Confederate States of America received his famous moniker at the First Battle of Manassas when Brigadier General Barnard Bee, trying to rally his unit, saw Jackson sitting erect atop his horse in the midst of a barrage of Union gunfire and said the page quote. There's some debate behind the exact meaning of the statement[[labelnote:*]]Most view it as a rallying cry; others think Bee was angry at Jackson for not moving to support him.[[/labelnote]], however, given that Bee was ironically killed a few minutes later.
  • General Erwin Rommel in World War II, who frequently got up front to see what was going on and was nearly captured on three different occasions: on the last time he tried to reach a war front, an Allied aircraft strafed and trashed his car, seriously wounding him. In more recent years: the Western intervention in Yugoslavia in the early 1990's saw a race between NATO and Russian troops to control a strategic airbase. The Russians got there within minutes of the British, who were ordered by the American general officer commanding to capture the airbase, whatever it took. Fortunately the British officer leading from the front was General Jackson, a man with the clout to take the radio, point out to the Yank that odd numbered world wars tend to begin in Yugoslavia, the next world war would be number three, an odd number, and he wasn't going to go down in history as the man who started World War Three for anybody. It is possible a lower-ranking officer might have been intimidated into doing something stupid.

Indexes: Characters as Device, Military and Warfare Tropes, Older Than Feudalism (from Real Life)

Quotes.Frontline General

General Maximilian Veers: Distance to power generators?
Walker officer: One seven decimal two eight.
Veers: Target, maximum fire power.
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