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?A military (or police) officer wears on their person an improbably large number of medals and other decorations for their age/rank/duration of service. Forms this trope can take include...
—Cdr Salamander, here.
- An officer that has so many medals nailed to their uniform that one would expect them to be a ranking general-grade officer, but they turn out to be only a field- or junior-grade officer. And yes, they 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 their numerous badass achievements.
- A general who has more medals than many men earn in their lifetime. This is because they're a Four-Star Badass who engaged in numerous major campaigns, surviving each of which would be considered a miracle in and of itself. In other words, this guy has shiny and decorative proof that he is a Badass Grandpa.
- 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.)
- A Phony Veteran who collects "chest candy" that they never earned and just wants to look impressive.
- It's not that the person 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. These are often found on The Generalissimo, which likely has something to do with real-life examples sometimes being described in American slang with the not-very-politically-correct term "Mexican General."
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Anime and Manga
- The Dastardly & Muttley story "Command Performance" (Hanna-Barbera Fun-In #6, a mash-up of TV episodes "Sappy Birthday" and "Sky-Hi I.Q.") has Muttley getting a ton of medals for his birthday. An efficiency expert notices this and assigns Muttley as the commander of Vulture Squadron.
- 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.
- In Willie And Joe, the titular GIs proudly bringing a garishly-uniformed prisoner to the MPs, thinking they've captured an Italian general, results in the disappointing revelation that he's actually the local police chief.
- In Seven Days in May note :
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.
- Joaquin in The Book of Life has a chest full of medals as an adult and he will gladly tell you about everyone of them. Which help him hide the most important medal of all: The Medal of Everlasting Life.
- The Dictator has a version of Type 3. Field Marshal Herring is shown with tons of medals — almost enough to match his ego.
- While we don't really see them, the Secretary of Defense in The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai claims that he has "enough decorations to snap a Christmas tree."
- 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.
- Vorkosigan Saga:
- 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. In addition to all the medals he got from his own nation (which include multiple rows worth of Purple Heart equivalents), he has the highest possible military honor from Vervain (for saving them from the Cetagandans), Marilac (for saving them from the Cetagandans) — and Cetaganda (for saving them from themselves). People are shocked by the medals because he's a really fragile midget (due to development problems caused by poison while his mother was pregnant with him). Miles is slightly shocked as he's pinning them all into place on his tunic, describing the combined effect as "little short of looney." 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.
- In Komarr the local Chief of ImpSec figured out that Lord Auditor Vorkosigan wasn't just a courier during his military career:
- 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).
- Lightheartedly mentioned a few times in the X-Wing Series, as when Wes Janson receives (yet another) commendation for valor and his squadmates joke that he could build a fort out of them. One of the local perators is wearing the more traditional Generalissimo-style block of decorations in Starfighters of Adumar, although fitting the culture there he probably earned them, too.
- The Kris Longknife series, Kris, after only 6 years in the military, accumulated essentially every top award for valor in combat issued in human space, including that given by her usual mortal enemies of Greenfeld, and from an alien species she'd literally just met a few days previously (and saved from invasion and extinction). One of the aliens, trying to hang a medal around Kris's neck, snarks she's having difficulty finding a place for it.
- In Rally Round the Flag, Boys!, Captain Walker Hoxie's chest is decorated with several rows of ribbons he won for his service in World War II and the Korean War, indicating his one and only calling in life.
- Journey to Chaos:
- Eric's civilian boss on Threa wore one of these to his commerical energy company because he still thinks he's in the military.
- When Tiza complains about the lack of recognition for capturing a criminal mage above her level, Basilard replies that if she wants a chest of medals she should join the Ataidar military. The Dragon's Lair doesn't do that sort of thing; mercenaries are only awarded their wages.
- Halo: The Fall of Reach: After John (the future Master Chief) is wounded in his first combat mission and awarded a Purple Heart, he's shown constantly trying to keep it shiny. 27 years later, when he's a galactic war hero and has been awarded almost every medal in the UNSC Navy, he's shown walking in with a uniform coated with medals and no longer caring how they look.
- The book Bellmaker in the Redwall series has the character Meldrum Fallowthorn the Magnificent, who would be type 4 or 5, but is actually a Type 2 because he is very capable in combat, as he awards himself a medal after defeating an enemy and his chest is full of medals, though at least one of them (which he uses to assist in breaking out when the characters are thrown in prison by the villain) was given to him by someone else.
- L'ami retrouvé: The narrator's father, a Jewish WW1 veteran living in Germany, wakes up to find a Nazi thug hammering anti-Semetic posters on their front door. He changes into his full uniform (including the many medals he won), and plants himself at attention next to the thug. Intimidated, he leaves.
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). Fewer still have the SEAL Trident and Bronze Star with Combat V (Chegwidden again).
- Stargate SG-1 lead character Colonel Jack O'Neill is shown wearing a fairly impressive rack of commendation strips on his regular dress uniform, all of which he's earned over a military career of several decades. Teammate Captain Samantha Carter has a smaller but still respectable collection. note Commanding officer Major General George Hammond has even more.
- Over the franchise's long run, O'Neill eventually gets promoted all the way to Lieutenant General and Carter to Brigadier General. They acquire even more medals over this time, although the dress uniforms are rarely seen.
- Red Dwarf's series 1 finale "Me 2" depicted Rimmer as having earned four medals, which he wears with an exaggerated dress uniform. Surprisingly, each of these medals is a genuine award, though, a lot less surprisingly they're each awarded for every three years that Rimmer has served in the Space Corps.
- 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.
- 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." Another cartoon has a dogface telling his medic, "Naw, just give me an aspirin. I already got a Purple Heart." Said medic is offering him a PH from the stack of them he has on his table.
- Which actually happened to Mauldin when he received a tiny flesh wound, inspiring the cartoon. Mauldin didn't want the medal, but the medic said it would count toward an earlier discharge when the war ended, and gave him a tip on how to mail the medal home. (from The Brass Ring)
- 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!
- 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 Command & Conquer: 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.
- Though not as exaggerated as other examples, General Mikiel from the 2014 Strider game has around half a dozen medals and two large badges proudly displayed in his chest.
- As part of its coverage of the 2000 US Presidential Election (and Charlie Foxtrot aftermath), The Onion ran an article on Bill Clinton declaring himself President for Life and a photo of him wearing this trope.
- The News Parody ChigüireBipolar sometimes mentions president Maduro (who isn't a militaryman) wanting to use this trope, mocking his attempts at looking militaristic. Most notably in Chocolate condecorations melt over Maduro's military costume.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic imageboard Derpibooru gives out little badges for different things such as being an artist, a heavy contributer of high scoring artwork, a donator, and etc. The artist Badumquish has managed to land 19 of themnote just by being an active member of the site who uses it itself as his home gallery (which is apparently not common). As a result his comments tend to stick out like a sore thumb.
- In Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars, the Air Marshal exemplifies this and is basically in it for the medals.
- In one episode of Hanna-Barbera's Breezly and Sneezly, Breezly the polar bear manages to sneak into a fancy dinner held at the Army camp by masquerading as a 10-star general (five stars being the highest possible rank). He successfully pulled this off for a while wearing only the upper half of the uniform.
- In an old Looney Tunes short set in the French Foreign Legion, the fort commandant has so many medals on his chest they jingle loudly as he walks, and the bars holding them are wider than he is.
- On Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, Muttley imagines himself this way in "Sky High I.Q."
- A variant shows up in Animalympics with swimming champ Mark Spritz, a veteran athlete who wears a vast number of Olympic-style gold medals around his neck. Based on a real person, incidentally.
- 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.
- Notably averted by the British military.note It gives out medals for campaigns and exceptional acts during battle, so most British servicemembers only wear one or two campaign medals/ribbons on their uniforms and even those with several years of service will only have one row compared to the chestful of medals their American counterparts can accrue even in a short career. Any British servicemember who has a chest full of medals is certain to have had a truly eventful career and be a certified badass.
- NYPD 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.
- 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, which a lot of people did get away even with through clever manipulation. It was also a result of the fact that most Soviet orders had no classes (it being a classless society and all that), so instead you could be awarded the same order or medal several times.
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 on it 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."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."
- Marshal Georgy Zhukov◊, said to be the most decorated officer in all Russian history, who earned all but one of his medalsnote 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?.
- 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:
- The typical Liberator-Father Of The Nation-Great Leader of a Banana Republic does this.
- Idi Amin wore dozens of medals◊ on his chest; it would seem as though he awarded those to himself.
- 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.
- Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten◊ wore 13 rows of service ribbons that rose so high that his dolphin badge was practically on his shoulder. When wearing his decorations as medals◊, the bar actually extended off his chest enough to get in the way of his left arm. Plus, he wore the badges of four chivalric orders, the Garter sash, and a number of medals around his neck.
- 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.
- In another non-military example, the most decorated Olympian of all time, Micheal Phelps, occasionally poses with many medals across his chest.◊ Usually only those medals won at a single Games, however; if he ever tried to pose with all 28 from his career, he wouldn't have enough body to hold them (and cutting it to only golds wouldn't help much, since 23 of those 28 are gold). Other highly-winning Olympians like Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles also wear multiple medal stacks.
- Subverted by Adolf Hitler, who only wore the Iron Cross and Wound Badge he received in World War I.
Hitler goes to inspect a new warship. Göring, who had turned up early, pokes his head out of a porthole and Hitler says "My God, the man has gone too far! He's draped an entire battleship around his neck!"
- Reichsmarschall Göring embraced this trope, though. Much like Leonid Brezhnev, the Reichsmarschall eventually became the butt of many jokes about this.