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Chest of Medals

Just look at Rear Admiral Woodward RN, right prior to taking his task force to retake the Falkland Islands. Who is the real professional warrior - the Brit with one ribbon or the North Korean gangsters?
Cdr Salamander, here.

A military (or police) officer wears on his person an improbably large number of medals and other decorations for their age/rank/duration of service. Forms this trope can take include...

  1. An officer that has so many medals nailed to his uniform that one would expect him to be a ranking general-grade officer, but he turns out to be only a field- or junior-grade officer. And yes, he earned them all the hard way. In other words, someone who is Colonel Badass / Majorly Awesome / The Captain that refuses to be promoted off the field, and has the medals as proof of his numerous badass achievements.
  2. An actual general who has more medals than a normal general could ever earn in a lifetime note . Might be because he's a Four-Star Badass who engaged in numerous campaigns, surviving each of which would be considered a miracle in and of itself.
  3. A Miles Gloriosus who habitually takes undeserved credit or enjoys nepotism can superficially come across as a either of the above. (Frequently, alas, a Glory Hound.)
  4. A Phony Veteran who collects "chest candy" that he never earned and just wants to look impressive.
  5. It's not that the bloke hasn't earned all those medals or that they are fake. It's just that on closer inspection they are for the military equivalent of being Milk Monitor or for ordering other people to do heroic things. Often found on The Generalissimo.

It's not uncommon for examples of 1 and 2 to decline to actually wear all of their ribbons and mdeals if their particular military allows that to be done (in some cases, they might not be allowed to wear certain ones on their uniform, either out of modesty or because putting on so many medals every day is a pain in the ass.

See also Bling of War.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Sengoku in One Piece. It stands out as such since he's one of the few high-ranking Marines who actually wears a uniform and his merits. Justified though, since he's the Fleet Admiral, and surviving for as long as he did in the Marines isn't for sissies.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one early Knights of the Dinner Table story, Brian comes up with the idea of creating medals for gaming achievements. Bob and Dave run with the idea:
    B.A.: It looks like a convention for Third World dictators in here.

    Films 
  • In Seven Days in May (though it's worth mentioning that the amount of real estate on Col. Casey's chest isn't ludicrous, and is probably a reasonable amount for someone of his rank):
    Sen. Prentice: You make me think that fruit salad on your chest is for neutrality, evasiveness, and fence-straddling.
    Col. "Jiggs" Casey: On the contrary, Senator, they're standard awards for cocktail courage and dinner-table heroism. I thought you'd invented them.
  • Clint Eastwood's character, Gunnery Sergeant Highway, in Heartbreak Ridge is an example of this.
  • Minister of War Herring in The Great Dictator, after he ran out of space on his chest, they started pinning new medals on his back.
  • Once scene in Patton has the camera linger on a bunch of his medals and awards, though as noted below in Real Life he probably had way more medals than that.
  • A variant shows up in Animalympics with swimming champ Mark Spritz, a veteran athlete who wears a vast number of gold medals around his neck.

    Literature 
  • In Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (the sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) the American Military Officer known only as The Chief of the Army.
    The Chief of the Army was wearing so many medal-ribbons they covered the entire front of his tunic on both sides and spread down on to his trousers as well.
  • In Komarr The local Chief of ImpSec figured out that Lord Auditor Vorkosigan wasn't just a courier during his military career.
    "In the accessible part of your records, you have medals at five times the density of the next most decorated courier in ImpSec history."
    • In Memory, Miles actually dons all of his medals for the first time.
      "Dear God, Miles! I've never before seen you come the Vor Lord with intent."
      • In the Memory example, Miles had two major medals... from both governments that were involved in previous war. He usually wears one or the other, but at one event he wore both at once among lot of other medals. People were shocked as he's really fragile midget due to development problems by poison while his mother was pregnant with him. He even has a Cetagandan Order Of Merit, for service to his planet's (Barrayar's) former enemy, an award which a Cetegandan would literally kill for, and which seems a bit weird considering Miles's ancestors quite notably defeated Cetaganda bloodily.
      • Miles's first stop with all of the decorations is an audience with the Emperor... at which he picks up another decoration, the chain and seal of an Imperial Auditor, which he needs for his next stop.
  • The Supreme Custodian in Septimus Heap is depicted as this.
  • In The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, when Dauntless first encounters the "Shield of Sol"note , the Shield High-Commodore-with-special-sauce's solid wall of medals is Geary's confirmation that he's dealing with a peacetime amateur navy. Desjani promptly nicknames the commodore Mister Medals, and Geary snarks that he probably has medals for wearing his other medals correctly.
  • In Darksaber, the Imperial warlords Daala gathered together and assassinated all had lots of self-awarded medals. One actually had some medals that could be assembled into a knife (much good that did him).

    Live Action TV 
  • The Benny Hill Show: in a sketch about a wheelchair race we see one of the participants pre-race talking with someone, shot from below. He's got a chest full of medals. He crosses his legs, at which time we see he's even got medals on the soles of his shoes.
  • The British DJ/comedian Kenny Everett used to have a character on his TV show who was a fire-breathing American General Ripper, frequently crashing into the sketch through a wall. He had massive shoulder pads on his uniform to allow him to show off the ludicrous number of medals he wore.
  • Star Trek: when Captain Kirk is being courtmartialed, as part of his identification process the computer starts reading out a very long list of impressive-sounding medals he's won. The opposing side wants to cut it short because it's taking too long to list his achievements.
  • This is repeated in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Measure of a Man, as part of Picard's goal to show Data is a person. Somewhat interesting, both characters don't have that many awards (Kirk 7, Data 4), the problem comes from the fact that the machine reading them out does so SLOWLY.
    • For your information, images of Kirk and Data's awards (among others) can be found here.
  • 'Allo 'Allo! has Captain Bertorelli (a type 3) who has three rows of large, showy, medals (and loads of gold braid):
    Bertorelli: The first row are for service in Abyssinia. The second row are for service in North Africa.
    General Von Klinkerhoven: And the bottom row?
    Bertorelli: They are for servicing Fiats!
  • NCIS: Gibbs has been awarded numerous medals and citations, however since he doesn't particularly care for them Tony has to keep track of them; he even gave away his Silver Star in one episode.
  • In The Andy Griffith Show, "A Medal for Opie", Opie has an Imagine Spot about winning a foot race, when receiving his award he already has numerous medals pinned to his shirt, so Andy turns him around and pins it on his back.
  • In JAG this trope is somewhat subverted as the main characters actually have far fewer ribbons (in terms of quantity not quality) than Navy and Marine Corps personnel in real-life similar positions do have.
    • Although few judge advocates has ever earned the Navy Cross (like Chegwidden), a Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses (like Rabb), or the Bronze Star (like Turner).

    Music 
  • According to the old variety song, My Great Big Brother Sylvest had "A row of 40 medals on his chest." The lyric of the song is a series of ever taller tales about Sylvest's badassery.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Bill Mauldin mocked the US Army for its plethora of badges awarded for relatively minor accomplishments, particularly compared with the British. One panel shows an MP surrounded by curious combat troops, explaining, "Da red one wit' white stripes is fer very good conduct, an' th' real purty one wid all the colors is fer bein' in this here Theater of Operations." In another, a British soldier comments, "They get that red'n'white one for stayin' out of trouble for a bloody year."

    Theatre 
  • The French Ambassador in Of Thee I Sing:
    (Enter the French Ambassador. You never saw so many medals.)
    French Soldiers: Ze French Ambassador!
    Wintergreen: I still can't see him!

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect: One of the characters claims that Anderson "could melt all his medals and make a life-sized statue of himself".
    • The presentation and names ("Council Legion of Merit", "Service Star") of the games' achievements suggest that they are actual awards presented to Shepard over the course of the game, which would mean a quite hefty medal case for them, too.
  • Two of the bosses in Bionic Commando Rearmed are generals with so many medals that they actually stop bullets, rendering them immune to attacks from the front. You have to either shoot them in the back or throw grenades behind them.
  • General Krukov in Red Alert 3 has a modest Soviet Officer uniform with one of two medals when we first see him in the prime universe (or for what the term Prime Universe means anymore). By the time he has adjusted to the Alternate Universe where the Soviets are winning the war, he's got tons, on both sides of his chest no less. It's implied that he awarded most of these to himself.
  • Super Time Force's Commander Repeatski has a whole chest of medals, awarded to him for saving the world.

     Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Gen. Patton was an interesting aversion in that he had a huge quantity of medals from his service with Gen. Pershing's expedition to Mexico, and his service in WWI and WWII (the top ranking officers got a lot of bling from various countries afterwards), but he hated putting all of them on at once. There's supposedly only one picture, taken in his own backyard at the insistence of his wife, showing Patton with all his medals.
  • Audie Murphy, who earned every decoration for valor that America could grant plus several French and Belgian decorations, and was often described as America's most decorated soldier of that war. He was uncomfortable with the fame this brought him, but did believe that the Army was entitled to use him for promotional and recruiting purposes, so unlike Patton there's a fair number of pictures of him wearing his Chest of Medals.
  • NYC police officers have a huge number of various medals attached a bar that holds their badge on their chest. It's kind of ridiculous that you have trouble finding the badge among the giant square on their chest. The most recognisable one is also one of the simplest; a gold 'WTC' on a black blackground, indicating a 9/11 first responder.
  • Pretty much the standard in the Soviet military and political structure; if you wanted to be recognized within the high command or local Party chapter, then having more medals on your chest than a Christmas Tree has ornaments was essential. Only became more common with the USSR's expanded influence after World War II, as best shown by the North Korea shot above. For an ideology that deplores personal glory in the wake of collective effort, the commies sure loved their medals.
    • This was exacerbated by the Soviet uniform regulations that insisted that you must wear all your decorations at once, this making the "less is more" approach practically impossible you're allowed to wear only ribbons, but still only all at once. Also, Communist ideology, at least in its Soviet version, had absolutely nothing against personal glory, it was against putting oneself above the community, though a lot of people did get away even with this with clever manipulation.
    • Compare the Russian general in this modern example, with his whole deck of ribbons on an otherwise very subdued uniform, with his Chinese counterpart who actually doesn't wear any decorations at all.
  • The typical Liberator-Father Of The Nation-Great Leader of a Banana Republic does this.
  • Marshal Georgy Zhukov, said to be the most decorated officer in all Russian history, who earned all his medals due to Four-Star Badass-worthy accomplishments not only against the Wehrmacht in the Great Patriotic War, but also against Japanese forces during the 1930s invasion of Mongolia. note  Did we mention that he did all of this with a Soviet military that was more or less at its weakest in its entire 70 years of history, the ranks of its experienced officers (many of whom were WW1 veterans) having been so devastated by Stalin's Great Purges in the '30s? And mostly against Stalin's (who envied him, but could not risk touching him) personal desire?..
    • Well, except for the last Hero medal. Which he received for turning sixty, Brezhnev-style. People weren't as impressed by that last one, to say the least.
      • Technically, that was Brezhnev who received them Zhukov style - his first award came a decade later
  • Idi Amin wore dozens of medals on his chest; it would seem as though he awarded those to himself.
  • In the 1970s and 1980s, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was the punchline of countless Soviet jokes ridiculing his love for medals, due to him being perhaps the most notorious Type 3 in the Soviet Union. He even awarded himself with the Order of Victory that should only be given to great WWII military leadersnote , despite his own modest WWII record. Like Georgy Zhukov, he had four Hero of the Soviet Union stars and a star of the Hero of Socialist Labour, as well as dozens upon dozens of other decorations that he, to put it mildly, didn't entirely deserve and wore very prominently. After he died, the rules were changed so you couldn't get awards for things like birthdays, and his Order of Victory was specially posthumously revoked from him. In spite of all this, he's still well-regarded today. Some of the jokes include:
    What would happen if a crocodile ate Brezhnev? The poor thing would be crapping medals for two weeks straight.
    Yesterday, Moscow was devastated by an earthquake caused by Brezhnev's jacket with all his medals falling off a chair.
    Brezhnev, after receiving his umpteenth medal: Dear comrades! Enemies of the state speculate that I have a soft spot for decorations. This is an outrageous lie! Last week, I declined the highest honour of Mauritania: a golden ring through the nose.
    • Another one, riffing on his health problems, as well:
      "Did you hear that Brezhnev just got out of the hospital?" "Really? Heart trouble again?" "No, chest expansion. He's run out of room for medals."
  • In The Feast of the Goat, Trujillo the Goat, dictator of the Dominican Republic, had so many medals on his chest that he was nicknamed "Bottlecaps".
  • The aptly named Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller (USMC), probably the most decorated Marine ever. Received the Navy Cross five times, and all of his service ribbons takes up seven rows on his uniform.
    • If you think that's a lot, Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten's full set of service ribbons take up 13 rows.
  • North Korean generals (as pictured above) are rather infamous for handing out medals to themselves, even when the closest they are to leading actual battles is watching films and maybe staring at a prisoner being bayoneted. The lower ranked soldiers, on the other hand, tend to earn their medals the traditional way as the KPA, despite what many would believe, has participated actively in a number of outside wars throughout its existence, from the Arab-Israeli Wars to different conflicts in Africa and the larger Middle East. Being a communist nation, both points are more or less standard practice.
  • In a non-military example, Eagle Scout James Calderwood has earned every merit badge offered by the Boy Scouts of America. To display all 122 badges, he had to sew his own triple-wide sash.
  • Subverted by Adolf Hitler, who only wore the Iron Cross and Wound Badge he received in World War One.


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