Imagine The Captain, but instead of a ship at sea or in the stars, s/he has a large contingent of ground troops. Still the most kickass guy around, powerful leader, outranks everyone else in The Squad, you know the type. Chances are, he is gonna be a colonel.
This is probably because "Colonel" is the highest military rank deployable in the field, the highest rank unlikely to be noticed and Authority Equals Asskicking on TV. Theoretically, General Ripper and The Brigadier should have more Power Levels than Colonel Badass but star ranks are for pen-pushers and quill-drivers. That's why the colonel always wins (unless you have a Four-Star Badass lurking around). The fact that an Army, Marine, or Air Force colonel and a Navy captain are technically the same rank may also have something to do with it, or it may just be coincidental.
This man is a professional, Married to the Job, and mission accomplishment is the entire purpose of his existence. He's tends to be fairly young for a colonel, likely because he climbed the ranks rapidly after an outstanding performance in an earlier war or campaign as junior officer. When he's got a full command of hundreds or thousands of troops, chances are he won't do much fighting himself on a day to day basis, because he's too busy managing the battlefield with a level of competence that prevents the enemy from ever gaining the initiative in the first place. If it ever comes down to it, though, his personal weapon will likely be a high caliber handgun - and while it won't be drawn often, it'll rarely miss when it is. Many have tried to kill this man, many of them extremely deadly in their own right, all of them have failed.
He won't break down over losses, but neither will he throw his men's lives away. If a General Ripper is his immediate superior, the two will almost certainly clash in styles, because not only is Colonel Badass a better leader but he's also more sane, more pragmatic, far more imaginative, doesn't give a crap about political concerns and values ability/utility wherever he finds it. In fact, chances are as good as not he rose from nothing himself, especially if the organization he's a part of doesn't usually encourage that sort of thing. He's an unstoppable force and an immovable object. He's loyalty incarnate, the best friend anyone can have; but he's also the embodiment of vengeance, and if you screw him over, your life is forfeit. Even if he dies he lives on as an ideal.
He is commonly an Officer and a Gentleman... or at least, tries to be one, as long as it doesn't hinder his badassness because this man does not suffer fools. His Evil Counterpart is the Colonel Kilgore.
For any Commonwealth Tropers out there this trope also counts for badass Wing commanders and Group captains as well. On the international stage it applies to any badass with an equivalent NATO officer rank code of OF-4 or OF-5.
A universal trope, just like Colonel is a universal rank (Lieutenant Colonels are included, as are full commanders, the naval rank equivalent to Lieutenant Colonels in most western militaries). A subtrope of Authority Equals Asskicking. In terms of Authority Tropes, Majorly Awesome and Commanding Coolness are just a notch lower while The Captain is its equal in naval terms, while the next step up is Four-Star Badass.
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Col. Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist, as seen on the page image above. He BURNS HIS OWN WOUNDS SHUT and by the end of the series, he manages to personally take down two of the seven Homunculi, which is REALLY impressive in that universe. He also plays several of the defining bits of the trope incredibly straight - he's only thirty years old, rose through the ranks incredibly fast (partly due to being a State Alchemist, which automatically starts you off at the rank of Major), he's extremely high-minded and has tremendous ideals for the country, and he will throw himself into danger in a heartbeat rather than risk losing one of his comrades, particularly his five dearest and most loyal subordinates.
Basque Grand. He's A Father to His Men who leads from the front, transmutes entire buildings into weapons while delivering hamtastic lines, accepts Ishval's high clerics surrender and shoots Brigadier Fiessler (an actualGeneral Ripper) when the latter orders the troops to kill the cleric and continue the genocide. Also has one of the most Badass Moustaches known to man.
What makes it more impressive is that he had been firmly entrenched in the minds of the fans as a General Ripper by the 2003 anime's portrayal.
While Major Armstrong is never promoted due to his compassion for the enemy, in the 2003 anime version he eventually gets promoted to Lt. Col.
Also in the 2003 anime, Lt. Col. Frank Archer thinks he's one of these; whether he counts is really up to the viewer. While he is quite cool and collected under fire, he's also a sociopathic Smug Snake and General Ripper.
Great General of Darkness/Ankoku Daishogun from Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger, The Dragon of the Emperor of Darkness and commander of the seven armies of the Mykene Empire. He wields a BFS, sports a Badass Cape and a Badass Beard, and he can kick the butt of nearly any Humongous Mecha invented by Go Nagai. He led the army of Mykene Empire, personally or delegating on his generals, and he was A Father to His Men considered unforgivable default intelligence costed the lives of his troops. He fought Great Mazinger because he knew he could win, slicing it with his blade mercilessly as he laughed its attacks off. And he fought Mazinkaiser quite evenly.
The Dangerously Genre Savvy commander of the Umibozu, a Navy special forces team that goes up against Section Nine at the end of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex's first season, is addressed as Taisa: Colonel, though since he's Navy, his rank proper would be Captain. (In Japan, the same word is used to refer to both Colonel (Army) and Captain (Navy).
Col. Sergei Smirnov from Mobile Suit Gundam 00, a Badass NormalAce Pilot. He is able to, despite having woefully inferior equipment, nearly bag two Gundams in a single battle through sheer cunning and guile the like of which makes CB's own resident strategic genius honestly afraid. The show also contains Colonel Kati Mannequin, who is more The Strategist than a bloodletter, but has gone into battle alongside the troops, directly in harms way, and her strategies have scored her several Moments Of Awesome, the capstone of which was her epic screwjob on the ALAWS in Episode 22.
A captain (from the navy, whose ranks Zeon uses for all branches of military service, which is equivalent to a colonel), Norris Packard of The 08th MS Team definitely counts. He takes on three Gundams, all piloted by the main characters, and three Guntanks, at the same time, alone, in an inferior machine, and wins. And on top of all that he finds time to be a father figure to one of the main characters.
Inferior mech? This is no Zaku boy, No Zaku!
In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing all notable officers in OZ save Noin are colonels, Treize in particular seems Genre Savvy about this, maintaining the rank of colonel even after conquering the Earth twice.
Wing uses an unorthodox rank structure based more around courtly titles than military rank. Treize is actually comparable to a Major General; Lady Une is a Colonel, as is ZechsMerquise after he earns his two-rank promotion for his actions in Operation Nova, OZ's coup d'état to overthrow the Earth Sphere Alliance.
Naturally, most of these guys all have the Colonel Badass-in name Ramba Ral to thank for all of this. Only a lieutenant, he was still awesome and has often been paired with Norris as a dynamic duo of doom.
Col. Todou of Code Geass. He's one of the higher-ranked members of the Japanese Liberation Front, and leader of their most elite squad, the Four Heavenly Swords. Later, he joins the Black Knights and becomes Zero's third-in-command.
Also Todou is (based on ratings made by C.C, so take them with salt) the highest rated Black Knight, and second only to the Ace Pilots of the series in his combat abilities.
This particular differentiation between Major and Lieutenant Colonel is significant in the Rebuild continuity. Unlike the Misato in the original series, who is only ranked as a major and is therefore frequently excluded from the confidential intel available to the highest personnel (Gendo, Ritsuko, and Fuyutsuki), the Rebuild Misato is considerably more informed due to her higher rank. As opposed to how series!Misato searches futilely for answers and only later is revealed the truth about Lilith along with Shinji, the Rebuild makes this change in order to allow Misato herself to try to convince Shinji to pilot the Eva by showing him the top-secret Lilith.
Taki's high rank combined with his general military badassness puts him squarely in this trope.
Captain Smoker from One Piece. He is stationed at some crappy station outside the grand line and considering his logiapower he is ranked to low in the marines. He also cares deeply for Tashgi and his marine subordinates. Furthermore he smokes and uses the smoke power.
It's highly implied that Smoker's been offered promotions before, but turned them down. Either that or the higher ups considered him too much of a loose cannon to risk on the Grand Line. Then Smoker met Luffy and started to chase after him INTO the Grand Line. Post-Time Skip, Smoker is now a Vice-Admiral, the third highest rank of the entire organization, and is still chasing after Luffy, this time in the New World, the second half of the Grand Line and the most dangerous sea in the world.
Colonal Mustard from Clue: he's either a murderer or among a group of people who caught one. Then there is his Badass Beard.
Col. Abernathy, a.k.a. Hawk, in G.I. Joe. After the first couple years of the comic he gets promoted to General and Duke takes over as tactical commander of the team, but he still gets into action on occasion.
Somewhat averted in the Ultimate Marvel universe though, as he's actually a four-star general there (or started out that way, anyhow), which would be much more realistic for the commander-in-chief of a multinational paramilitary espionage organization. Either way, it doesn't make him any less Badass.
He starts as a colonel (that does not look like Samuel L. Jackson) by the end of his first appearance he's promoted as the head of Shield, and he's a 4-star general by his next appearance.
Of course "Colonel" isn't a rank in 616's SHIELD in the first place. His rank is a legacy from his service in the American military before leaving for SHIELD.
Despite being known as "Captain Marvel", Carol Danvers officially has the rank of Major in the United States Air Force.
The most dangerous hitman in Sin City, and the head of the foremost Murder, Inc. organisation, is a man known only as 'The Colonel'.
In the 'Daria' Fan Fic series 'Legion of Lawndale Heroes', there are twoColonel Badass types - Colonel Kyle Armalin, and Colonel Franklin Davers. The latter's an Army Special Forces type, the former a Marine aviator with a LOT of covert paramilitary experience from shooting things all over the world. Just to cement his badass cred, first look at the first initials of his full name - Kyleton Isaiah Armalin... and then, also consider that he was given his middle name in honor of Isaiah Bradley - the FIRST Captain America, and an 'old-school' Bad Ass if EVER there was one.
Colonel Nick Parker may be "retired", but that doesn't stop him from organizing and waging a guerrilla war inside of twenty-four hours of the Nod invasion, which comes complete with hunting down and destroying Avatar warmechs, blowing up a Nod general using his own artillery, and recapturing the White House. There's a reason he's called "Havoc."
Lieutenant Colonel Angus Beckett is this in the Robotech fanfic Scoop. Later, due to the wear and tear flying Valkyries does to his body, he becomes a Desk Jockey, and is still one when he appears as a lieutenant general in Dire Straits
Colonel Miles Motherfucking Quaritch of Avatar. He's obviously the villain, but that doesn't stop him from modding his AMP suit with a gigantic combat knife, or running out into Pandora's toxic atmosphere, guns blazing, without bothering to put a gas mask on. In one instance, it takes him about 11 seconds to react to the fact that he is, in fact, on fire. Quaritch is in fact, so badass he inspires major Rooting for the Empire.
So badass that James Cameron has promised that Quaritch is coming Back from the Dead to reappear in all the sequels.
Col. Hardy from Man of Steel possibly outdoes Quaritch in terms of sheer badassitude, taking on a Kryptonian enemy with a combat knife —and no robot suit— and managing to pull a no-score draw, losing his life but banishing the villain back to the Phantom Zone in the process.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's character John Matrix takes this trope to an utter extreme in the movie Commando. Although his character is a retired Special Forces colonel, Arnie still manages to kick enough ass for several movies.
Col. Andrea Stavros in The Guns of Navarone movie adaptation, the best hand-to-hand fighter in the group.
Col. Benjamin Martin in The Patriot. Single-handedly killed a platoon of Redcoats, including at least three with a tomahawk. Colonel Tavington is an Evil Brit version, kicking the butts of Mel Gibson's rag tag Rebel militia.
You gotta give it up for Tavington when his troops are caught with their pants down by a bunch of angry rebels, his soldiers are getting shot all around him. He just stands there, calmly reloading his pistol (which takes a good 20 seconds) and shooting one rebel after another.
In I Am Legend Will Smith's character is Lieutenant Colonel Robert Neville. A brilliant scientist who also managed to survive being badly outnumbered by cannibalistic hordes. It wasn't because he was a punk...
Johny Rico is a colonel in the third Starship Troopers movie (he was a Lt. by end of the first one).
In the movie Glory, Matthew Broderick plays a Real LifeColonel Badass; in this case Col. Robert Gould Shaw the son of Boston abolitionists who commanded the Union Army's first black troops in the Civil War.
Apocalypse Now features two Colonel Badasses. The first is Colonel Kurtz, who had the credentials to be a general but chose a life in the shit. While fighting in Vietnam, he goes kill-crazy and creates an army of zealots who worship him like a god. The other is Lt.Col. Bill Kilgore, a bulletproof badass who surfs in warzones and enjoys the aroma of napalm like a nice cup of joe. In the Redux edition, however, he's taken down a peg after his surfboard is stolen and he broadcasts messages begging for it back.
Lt. Col. Frank Slade from Scent of a Woman. He does the tango with a beautiful stranger who's waiting on her boyfriend, drives a Ferrari BLIND, and completely and utterly owns snobby schoolmasters. Plus, he's played by Al Pacino, which doubles his badassitude.
— "You want me on that trope. You need me on that trope!"
Thoroughly averted in Doctor Strangelove: Group Captain (RAF for Colonel) Mandrake is a bit of a wimp and fails to properly stand up for himself when around other domineering American officers, while US Army Colonel "Bat" Guano does not even understand his own mission, and is instead obsessed with eliminating "preverts."
James Bond holds the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy.
Lt. Col. Barnsby (played by Harrison Ford) in Force 10 from Navarone.
Completely averted (as to be expected) in the film Spaceballs, in the figure of Colonel Sandurz. Whassa matter, Colonel Sandurz ...CHICKEN?!
Considering that he's Grand Moff Tarkin if Tarkin were stupid rather than evil, this is to be expected.
Col. Sam Trautman, the former trainer and commander of none other than John Rambo. He's more of the Obi Wan in the movies than Colonel Badass, but he gets this status because of his line in the first movie:
Sheriff Will Teasle: Where in God's name did this Rambo come from...
Col. Trautman:God didn't make Rambo. I made him.
(Cut to a shot of the tent's entrance. A silhouette of a bereted and Badass LongCoated individual is standing there.)
He may have been a Psycho for Hire, but Col. Koobus of District 9 was also incredibly badass. He was consistently shown to be a supremely competent leader of his men, never lost his cool in the heat of battle (though he did start to lose it when he was bragging to Wikus about killing him), showed bravery even in the face of overpowering alien weaponry, and when he was surrounded by all sides by Prawns, who were going to tear him apart regardless, he still went down fighting.
Averted in Ip Man, where Japanese Colonel Sato is a Smug Snake who only hits people when they're in no position to fight back. Preferably from safe up high behind a gun.
Commander Anderson, United States Navy SEALs, played by Michael "Kyle Reese" Biehn, in The Rock.
In Top Gun the soft-spoken, gruffly avuncular Commander Mike "Viper" Metcalf and the foul-mouthed, quick-tempered, cigar-chomping Commander Tom "Stinger" Jordan provide contrasting, but equally classic, examples of this trope.
Stryker: I was pilotin' Black Ops missions in the jungles of North Vietnam while you were suckin' on your mama's tit at Woodstock, Kelly. Don't lecture me about war. This already is a war.
Colonel Dax in Paths of Glory. Try not flinching when enemy shells are exploding randomly less than 20 yards away from you. Go on, try. We'll wait.
Lieutenant Colonel Danny Mcknight in Black Hawk Down. He casually walks from a convoy of Humvees to a building, through the open, while Rangers all around him are diving for cover and flinching. He ignores a gunshot wound to his throat that would have opened his carotid artery if it had been a millimeter to the right. After that injury, one of the Rangers tells him he doesn't need to go back out to save the rest of his men. He just smokes his cigar, looks at the guy like he's an idiot, then rides out with the 10th Mountain Division to get the rest of his men.
Colonel Graham from Posse is the evil version. Losing an eye just makes him more determined than ever to hunt down the heroes and retrieve his gold.
Colonel Min Se-hoon, the Inspector Javert character in the Korean film The Suspect. His introductory scene involves him dropping one of his men out of a plane without a parachute in order to save another man's life, then coolly picking up a spare chute, diving after the falling guy, catching him in mid air, slapping him back to life when they hit the ground, then swaggering away smoking a cigarette. He then puts on a leather jacket and shades and spends the rest of the film ripping apart a secret government conspiracy while simultaneously hunting down a North Korean master assassin.
The Discworld's Sam Vimes may be the Commander of the City Watch, and even a Duke, but despite the protests of both his wife and the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, refuses to delegate the street jobs to his subordinates, being happiest when walking the streets in cardboard-soled boots in the rain or chasing a dangerous criminal. He abhors the politics he's forced to participate in, and still basically sees the world like a beat copper.
Col. Fedmahn Kassad of Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos fights his way through the exploding wreckage of an enemy fleet, plummets down onto a planet and then fights the soldiers there. Later, he gets into hand-to-hand combat with the Shrike, a giant, indestructible Eldritch Abomination covered in spikes. Did we mention it can move faster than light? He is explicitly stated to be the greatest soldier in history which is why godlike AIs use his consciousness to create the Shrike.
Colonel Sebastian Moran in the Sherlock Holmes stories. In addition to being Professor Moriarty's right-hand manand top assassin, he's a decorated war hero and celebrated big game hunter who once crawled down a sewer drain after a wounded man-eating tiger.
While not Colonel, Major Greer from The Passage qualifies.
Two in Warhammer 40,000: Gaunt's Ghosts: Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and his subordinate, Col. Colm Corbec. Gaunt has a head-start in that he's already a Badass Longcoat, but Corbec makes a rather good accounting of himself as well.
Col. Shaeffer of The Last Chancers. He can stroll up and down a battlefield filled with Orks and Tyranids like he was on parade, decapitating Carnifexes and seeing the whole battle through without a scratch. At the same time, the hardened criminals of the 13th Penal Legion absolutely fear him more than those same Orks and Tyranids.
Let the Galaxy Burn: Commisar von Klas. He's kidnapped and enslaved by a kabal of dark eldar, kills an eldar wych in one-on-one close combat, kills his torturer with his own weapons, then organises a break out which dooms the entire kabal to be defeated by a rival faction. The story ends with him telling his former master "They will cut my throat like some common animal. I suspect, however, you will take much longer to die."
Col. Regina Kasteen of the Valhallan 597th is more noteworthy for her strategic and tactical skill than her record at personal combat, but she's no slouch at the latter. In fact, during The Traitor's Hand, she's positively glad to have a chance to get stuck in, potting traitors with her bolt pistol as they storm her headquarters. Of course, her backstory — that she attained her command by default, being the most senior member of her regiment who was not eaten by Tyranids — attests to impressive badass credentials all by itself.
Count Dokhturov in War and Peace. Calm, methodical, the perfect man to have fighting for you. Tolstoy devotes most of a page describing why people like Dokhturov are never considered heroes despite the fact that battles would be lost without them.
Lt.Col. Du Bois in Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers. He taught the main character's History and Moral Philosophy class, and the character was startled that the old man had been both a Lt.Col. in the infantry and a classmate of his Drill Sergeant Nasty, Sergeant Zim.
Col. 'Lizard' Tirelli (from The War Against the Chtorr sci-fi series by David Gerrold) is so badass she single-handedly flies jet-assisted helicopter gunships in her spare time.
Mostly inverted in the Sharpe series, except when Sharpe himself attains the rank. Much of the conflict in the series is driven by various Upper-Class Twit officers. While not technically a colonel, Sharpe often fulfills a Colonel's duties as his regiment tends to go through colonels like disposable cups.
Commander Wedge Antilles: A fighter pilot who flew against both Death Stars and rose to become the leader of Rogue Squadron, the Alliance's best fighter squadron. Instrumental in the retaking of Coruscant from the Empire, the negotiating of a cure for the Krytos disease, the taking of Thyferra, the capture of a Super Star Destroyer, the death of Ysanne Isard (twice!), and the campaign against Warlord Zsinj. Then he finally accepted promotion to General. (Weirdly, he was never a colonel, even though, depending on source, colonel is a half-notch above commander.)
Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo: A member of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet, Thrawn was born a commoner and gained status through military service, becoming a merit adoptive of the Eight Ruling Family and further becoming a trial-born. He was the youngest ever Force Commander in the Expansionary Fleet, using brilliant and undeniably effective but underhanded tactics, often involving preemptive strikes, that were seen as morally bankrupt to his people. Some time after the events of Outbound Flight he was exiled and wound up in Imperial service, where he very quickly rose through the ranks until becoming one of the thirteen secret Grand Admirals.
Hand of Thrawn: Supreme Commander Gilad Pellaeon: "Supreme Commander" is actually the highest military rank in the Empire, so this properly belongs in Four-Star Badass. But "Commander" is part of the rank, so he gets a mention here. He also was a captain for a while, which is roughly equivalent to a colonel.
There was at least one colonel. When Wedge's wingmate Tycho Celchu took command of Rogue Squadron, he took this rank.
Before he defected to the Rebel Alliance, Soontir Fel was a Baron-Colonel. His badassery is unquestionable; after Vader's death Baron Soontir Fel was perceived as the best pilot in the Empire, bar none (and without Vader around, rumors started spreading that Vader's only edge was in his expensive custom starfighters). He lost that rank when he joined Rogue Squadron, but it may be assumed that he got it back, and more, in the Empire of the Hand after Thrawn had him kidnapped and brought there.
Other real colonels (okay, lieutenant colonels are among them) would be Jaina Solo (being a member of Rogue Squadron at the age of sixteen, seriously kicking around numerous Yuuzhan Vong, later on being in command of Rogue Squadron just to be court-martialed by her own twin brother whom she later on kills in a duel after he turned out to have become a Sith), her brother Jacen Solo (became head of the secret police of the Galactic Alliance, tortured Boba Fett's daghter to death, became a Sith Lord, made himself joined head of state and later on sole head of state of the Galactic Alliance, set half of Kashyyyk on fire, killed his aunt Mara etc. until his sister finally got him), and Jagged Fel (who (nearly) manages to keep up with Jaina Solo and Kyp Durron, two extremely talented Jedi pilots using a battle meld, and displays various feats of general badassery until he finally becomes the Imperial head of state).
Colonel Jesse Wood, from the 1632 series arguably qualifies, being the very first pilot in the new timeline created by the Ring of Fire. Because of that and his service in the uptime US Air Force, he's appointed head of downtime's new Air Force.
Patrick McLanahan from Dale Brown's books spends some time as this in earlier books, before receiving his stars at the end of Fatal Terrain. He's not the only character in the books to go through this phase, though.
Colonel Rosa Klebb of the Soviet SMERSH in Ian Fleming's From Russia with Love. In the film version she defects to the terrorist organization SPECTRE and fails to kill James Bond with a poison tipped dart in her shoe but she is still a Russian agent and succeeds in poisoning Bond and almost killing him with the shoe dart at the end of the book.
Colonel Christopher Williams in Tranquilium. He starts out as a charming Reasonable Authority Figure the main character meets in Port Elizabeth, then quickly proves his badass credentials by showing that yes he canthwart stage one by rallying the militia to defeat the KGB-led rebellion in the town and so saving the main characters from the rebels in the process. It is subsequently revealed that he is (was, as of Part Two) also an Almighty Janitor to the Merryland government and a former FBI agent who was a literal Mulder who eventually became fed up with his superiors' adamant refusal to notice Tranquilum and Soviet shenanigans therein and went native to fight a one-man-war. He's also firmly an antihero, and an awesomely ruthless one at that, going about and taking out Soviet spies with his crack squad of Forbidders and using torture to bring down a huge part of their information network. He is also scarily good at one-shotting would-be-prominent-villains on the Soviet side, sometimes across dimensions.
In the Legacy of the Aldenata, there's Colonel Cutprice, a rejuvenated Medal of Honor winner and one of the most decorated Korean War veterans. Later, he's leader of the Ten Thousand, an elite fighting group arguably more badass than the ACS as a whole, as the Ten Thousand fight without the benefit of Powered Armor. It's explicitly stated that he refuses promotion above the rank of Colonel.
The also unnamed KGB colonel who set the Kremlin bomb - he later goes on to set another Kremlin bomb and kills four men with his silenced automatic. Bonus points for being a Badass Longcoat too.
Colonel Douglas "Duke" Ellington, the F-19 Ghostrider pilot who provided the main point of view character for the central front air war in Germany and the Soviet colonel commanding the MiG-29 regiment at Keflavik both also qualify (both demonstrate their Ace Pilot skills numerous times, the MiG-29 regiment CO survives leading his pilots in a battle against two full squadrons of F-14 Tomcats at one point, while Ellington also gets to demonstrate his all-around badassery by managing to successfully escape and evade after being shot down over hostile territory late in the war).
Colonel Sir Nigel Loring of the Emberverse (also late of the Blues and Royals). In a universe where much technology (including guns) suddenly ceases to function, he helps rescue the Queen and the Royal Family, trains his troops in the "new" fighting methods, makes sure his soldiers' families are safe, makes a daring escape from captivity, comes to the aid of the Crown Prince in battle, and outwits the Lord Protector of Portland. Only then, does he hook up with the main plotline!
The Colonel (technically, Lieutenant-Colonel) in George MacDonald Fraser's McAuslan stories, based on a real commander of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders. He is quiet, unassuming, looks like a vulture, and walks with a limp (his leg having been broken by the Japanese as a PoW). He's over retirement age, and has served with the battalion since 1914, wounded at Passchendaele and captured at Singapore. But he is highly respected, a Father to His Men, "looked the Japanese in the eye on the Moulmein Railway and said 'no'", and at eighty went into the streets of Belfast with a patrol from his old regiment, just to see what things were like for the new generation.
Horatio Hornblower is promoted to Commander at the end of Lieutenant Hornblower, only to be demoted back to Lieutenant and put on half-pay when the French and English declare an armistice. He is promoted back to Commander at the start of Hornblower and the Hotspur, where his exploits eventually earn him a promotion to Captain. In a later book, he is appointed as a Colonel of Marines, a sinecure position granting him extra pay with no extra responsibilities, as an indicator that the Crown is pleased with his performance.
Colonel Hunter Blayde of Wyvern Diary's Dragon Guild is badass enough to scare extremely pissed off dragons away armed with nothing more than his two swords and a jetpack. His subordinate, Lieutenant Colonel Maxine Harris may be even more so, being a Determinator, an excellent warrior who takes out an elite cyborg while bleeding out through a violent amputation and seeing the entire war with Apex through.
Stargate SG-1 features Jack O'Neill, Samantha Carter, and Cameron Mitchell.
In Stargate Atlantis, there's at least four colonels and lieutenant colonels, and possibly more. One episode had all of 'em arrive in the same room at once, with predictable results.
That scene is a reference to a scene in the SG-1 episode "Frozen", except the overused title in that one was "Doctor".
Colonel Everett Young in Stargate Universe would be this, if he didn't frak it up with some truly dumb-ass decisions. General O'Neill had to personally let him know that he was screwing up the Colonel Badass mantle with his actions in "Incursion", part 1.
Once he gets his act together though, he quickly regains the Colonel Badass status.
Col. Ed Straker in UFO. In one episode, he shoots an opponent who can travel through time and downs a UFO with a rocket launcher.
By that time, Straker was a "Commander" with colonels and naval Captains as subordinates. This Commander-is-the-boss idea occurs in many of the Gerry Anderson series.
Col. John "Hannibal" Smith from The A-Team. "Hannibal", in this case, has nothing to do with the Serial Killer, but the Carthaginian general who almost brought down the Roman Republic. This Hannibal is that good. "I love it when a plan comes together."
After the failure of the crappy, bumbling Major sent to hunt the A-Team down, the Army gets serious and brings in Colonel Decker, an unconventional badass in his own right who's very nearly as good as Hannibal. From then on, it goes from pratfall laughs as the Army is outwitted to hair-raising near-misses where the team's celebrations at beating the bag guy of the week are cut short as Decker closes relentlessly in. Decker's first appearance has him chatting with his superiors as he fires off every infantry weapon in the army one by one. Hard-friggin-core.
Usually the heroes in Star Trek tend to be Captains, but the Commander rank can't be overlooked. The first, and in some cases second officers, of the ships hold this rank. Any Starfleet officer that's a Captain or higher was one. Ben Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a Commander even though he was The Captain.
Especially Kirk could verge on this trope: a naval Captain does have an equivalent NATO officer code of OF-5 (the same as a Colonel), and Kirk repeatedly went down to planets himself and got into dangerous situations (it's a rare The Captain who can solve problems by punching them).
Col. Mace in the Sontaran episode of Doctor Who: "You will face me, sir!"
For that matter, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in his first serial, before he was promoted to Brigadier.
Bishop Octavian, of "The Time Of Angels"/"Flesh And Stone".
Averted by Col. Wilhelm Klink in Hogan's Heroes, although his rank might just be a foil to that of good guy group leader, Col. Hogan, who plays this trope more or less straight.
Perhaps ironically, in the German version of the show (Ein Käfig voller Helden) Klink gets his proper German rank of Oberst, but Hogan, as an American, is still called Colonel Hogan by everybody... thus playing the trope completely straight.
Subverted in M*A*S*H with ineffectual Lt. Col. Henry Blake, then played somewhat straight with his replacement, Col. Sherman T. Potter, who had massive cred as a leader of soldiers as a former enlisted man and veteran of earlier wars.
Truth in Television for Potter's history giving respect. People who go from NCO to officer are called "Mustangs", and enjoy great respect from enlisted personnel.
And Hotlips' overhyped hubby Lt. Col. Penobscot is likely a parody of this type.
Colonel Flagg fits this role as is evidenced in the episode where he breaks his own arm so he can infiltrate the hospital as a patient.
Double bonus badass: When an X-ray shows that his arm has healed sufficiently for him to be released, he pulls the X-ray camera down on his cast, shattering it and re-breaking his arm.
Col. Flagg would come to squander his badass credibility in later episodes, though. (Sometimes edging towards Colonel Kilgore, occasionally, at least mentally.) His behavior in later appearances became more and more erratic and paranoid; culminating in complete disgrace in his final appearance.
Sergeant Major Jonas Blane from The Unit, even though he's not a colonel. The show's resident colonel, Tom Ryan, is more Da Chief.
Sergeant Major (or his battalion staff equivalent, the Command Sergeant Major) is the Colonel Badass of Army NCOs. Any officer who doesn't give their advice careful consideration is extremely foolish.
The seventh season of 24 features the villainous African, Colonel Ike Dubaku of Sangala. Also a Scary Black Man.
Col. Mason Truman of Power Rangers RPM You definitely going to need a Colonel Badass to be in charge of the last remaining humans on Earth. His appearance in the first episode says it all: Explosions reflect in his shades. He just stands there watching over his soldiers as all hell breaks loose. When Corporal Hicks tells him they're all screwed, he just tells him to "go shoot at something."
Colonel T.C. McQueen from Space: Above and Beyond. He's the sole survivor of the battle between the Earth's best squadron and the Chigs. Like his last fight with "Chiggie Von Richtoffen," and his "I don't think 'our Lord' wants to hear from me right now," speech.
Captain Ronald Speirs filled this role in Band of Brothers. He wasn't a colonel, but as an officer, he was viewed this way by the enlisted men because of the things he said and did.
Maj. Richard Winters, possibly even more than Speirs since while Speirs gained respect mainly through being terrifyingly Badass, Winters was more like awe-inspiringly Badass. And Officer and a Gentleman to a T, plus greatly admired and loved by his men.
On Ultimate Force, Colonel Aidan Dempsey reliably kicks a lot of arse when called upon, most notably in the episodes 'Dead Is Forever', 'Never Go Back' and - particularly - 'Charlie Bravo'. In the latter, he strides through a gunfight, casually taking one-handed potshots at rebels, while exhorting his local counterpart to "Pretend you're an officer and get your men in order!"
Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman TV series. He gets knocked in the head with a blunt object about once per episode, but he always wakes up with no ill effects and never complains. In early episodes, he even wears military ribbons that weren't even issued until after the war ended.
The British Army Colonel character played by Graham Chapman on Monty Python's Flying Circus. He can come in and put a stop to a sketch when he thinks it's getting too silly or out of control!
Nate Taylor from Terra Nova, played by none other than Stephen Lang. Due to strange time dilations, he had to spend 118 days alone in the Cretaceous Period, and doesn't even have any visible scars. And he still goes toe to toe with carnivorous dinosaurs to protect his people.
Strike Back has Colonel Grant who normally commands the team from the command center but when a things go to hell she goes into the field and saved the day herself. She even commandeers an arms dealer's team of mercenaries to go and rescue a member of her team trapped in southern Sudan.
Her successor Rachel Dalton, while not actually a Colonel (Captain upon introduction, promoted to Major at the end of the episode), displays some serious badass cred in the season two opener, using an anti-tank rocket to blast through a Somali blockade about midway through the episode and generally keeping up effortlessly with Scott and Stonebridge on the battlefield until their extraction arrives. As a bonus, she initially appears to be little more than a junior beaurocrat until she finds said rocket launcher in the enemy's weapons cache.
Commander Harmon "Harm" Rabb, Jr. in JAG. Lieutenant Colonel Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie would also qualify.
Thai Colonel Patano in "Déjà Vu". It's made clear that the only reason Harm isn't dead is because Patano never had the intention to kill him.
Colonel Cedric Daniels in The Wire. He starts as a Lieutenant, and becomes Majorl Awesome, Colonel Badass, and finally Da Chief, before realizing he doesn't want to be at the head of such a flawed police department. the fact that he immediately starts getting blackmailed doesn't help. He quits and becomes a lawyer.
Elite Agent Rotor in Dino Attack RPG. In addition to taking command whenever the team takes to the skies, he also happens to be an Ace Pilot, have a taste for classical music, and let's just say you don't want to be on the wrong side when you start hearing that classical music. His second-in-command Elite Agent Cabin is quite tough as well.
In order to make it to colonel in the Imperial Guard of Warhammer 40,000, hefty portions of this trope are required.
Colonel "Iron Hand" Straken, Commander of the 2nd Catachan Infantry Regiment. He was badass enough to begin with, being from the Death World of Catachan, known for producing some of the toughest soldiers in the Imperium. Then he was attacked by a Miral land shark that tore off his arm. Instead of dying like a lesser man would, he killed the beast with his his "fang"-pattern combat knife and walked 30 miles to safety(some sources claim he tore the beast's throat out with his teeth, but that may be exaggeration). He then had his arm replaced with a bionic one, and continued commanding his men. Since then he's survived multiple life-threatening injuries and his body is riddled with bionics, making him as much a machine as a man. He's as tough as a space marine and can destroy tanks with his bare hands (mechanical hands, but still, that's impressive).
And all this goes Quintuple for Space Marines, whose equivalent, Captain, is fully capable of going face-to-face with a genetically engineered, 18 foot-tall alien killing machine and winning.
And their equivalent among the Grey Knights, who are designed to eat thirty-foot suspiciously-balrog-like incarnations of the Chaos God of slaughter for lunch. Though until the Daemonhunters codex is updated, this is an example of Gameplay and Story Segregation as GK Brother-Captains technically have a Weapon Skill of 5 vs. 6 for normal SM Captains.
The Canonesses, leaders of the Sisters of Battle, arguably one up the Space Marine captains because they do the same things — only they aren't genetically modified, hormonally modified, chemically modified, all-powerful superhumans... they're just biologically ordinary humans (one of the weakest races in the galaxy) females who happen to be that damn good essentially through skill alone.
The Tau Empire's Shas'o (lit. "Commander") are this to a man (or woman). Even ignoring the named characters such as Farsight or Shadowsun, the rank structure of the Tau requires every Fire Caste soldier begin as a lowly shas'la. After four years of service, they earn the right to take on a Trial of Fire which, depending upon their sept, may be a live-action training mission of some description, a highly realistic simulation, or a real live mission of vital importance. If the soldier is successful, he graduates to shas'ui (sergeant). After another four years, and another, more difficult Trial of Fire, he may attain the rank of shas'vre (lieutenant); then another four years of service and another Trial to become a shas'el or "sub-commander". Shas'el may lead Hunter Cadres, but to become shas'o he has to complete the cycle one more time. Every single shas'o has at minimum 16 years experience, in everything from footslogging to battlesuit combat; he has passed four of the nastiest, most realistic tests his superiors can imagine; he is equipped with a Crisis battlesuit and the best technology the Empire can provide; and as if that isn't enough he is accompanied by a squad of handpicked shas'vre.
In BattleTech, this is one of the requirement for a Star Colonel in the Clans, in which they have plenty fighting experiences, or they take it by Trial of Position from another Star Colonel.
If Kaidan Alenko is still alive by Mass Effect 3, he will be Major who now heads the Special Operations Biotics Division at the Alliance Warfare Center. A Major in the Systems Alliance is the same rank as a Naval Captain and a Colonel. Kaidan now basically outranks Shepard.
Col. Sawyer from World in Conflict. While we never see him in the field, in that scene where he is shot by sniper (who misses by a few inches), he is just too stoic. And he is fluent in French, too.
The lieutenant colonels in the second Wing Commander were Ace Pilots, without exceptions. Colonel Halcyon, however, acts more as a commander rather than a pilot.
There's Colonel Blair himself, from WC3 and WC4. Having killed the most "ace" Kilrathi pilots in the entire three decade war, and defeating Prince Thrakhath, twice (the second time when Blair's fighter is weighed down with the Temblor Device, which also halved his missile loadout), is one way of earning badass points. He later gets promoted to Four-Star Badass
Col. Corazon Santiago from Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri: military genius, knows how to run a police state properly, and hot to boot.
In the first of the novelizations by Michael Ely (one of the writers for the game), Santiago personally leads an elite unit of her Myrmidons to storm the UN Headquarters (the Peacekeepers' home base), which has been under Spartan siege for days. Not only does this seal the base's fate, she also ends up personally killing Pravin Lal's son in revenge for him killing her son.
It's required for the former, seeing as his Rival is the resident Badass...
Col. Burton, the US hero unit in Command & Conquer: Generals and Zero Hour. Kills enemy mooks with a machine gun, sets timed demolition charges (or can destroy a base at once with his remote), is Invisible to Normals, starts avalanches, and, due to an early bug, killed aircraft with a knife.
Though he was only a captain during Renegade, Nick "Havoc" Parker was ultimately promoted to colonel before his retirement, in spite of his antics on he battlefield.
Col. Jade Curtiss from Tales of the Abyss. He starts out approximately 45 levels ahead of the other characters, is far stronger physically than most other black mages, and is 35 years old. In a JRPG. Still kicks the ass of a God-General after getting sealed down to the level of the rest of your party.
Even when Jade gets hit with a Fon Slot Seal, he doesn't lose any of his awesomeness. In fact, it's by traveling with the party that he can learn the Meteor Storm spell. And Indignation.
He's also the ultimate Deadpan Snarker, and almost completely unflappable, something shown time and time again as a contrast to the other characters. His badassery isn't just in fighting, it's also in the fact that he can stand in the middle of a raging volcano and appears not to sweat. Although that could just be the Convection Schmonvection in effect.
Also from Metal Gear Solid, we have Col. Roy Campbell. Even when he retires, Snake not only continues to respect him, he even refers to him as "Colonel"... over Campbell's explicit objections. And in the original MGS? He gave orders to Solid Snake.
Heidern. He's only appeared in four of the games, and he's a freaking god. Imagine what happens when you give a character similar to Guile absurd priority in attacks, the ability suck the life out of his opponents and give it to himself, and has no "magical" justification for his abilities. SNK developers worried people might think he was an alien or a wizard. His adopted daughter Leona takes after him quite well (and replaces him after '95). He clearly takes a few cues from the colonel from Fist of the North Star.
Technically, Ralf (who's under his command) hold the rank of colonel as well.
Col. Hoffman from Gears of War, at least in the sequel. Prior to that, he was more of a General Ripper type, at least toward Marcus, until Marcus redeemed himself.
Maybe to appeal to players' potential Munchkin desires and knowledge of this trope - you are referred to as 'Colonel' for your military rank in End War.
The abilities of soldiers in X-COM: Ufo Defense generally improve as they survive more missions, as does their rank. The rank of colonel is the second highest in the game, next to the commander which you can only get one of at any time.
In the reboot, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Colonel is the highest rank, and any soldiers who make it there will most assuredly be Badass.
Subverted by Captain Price from Modern Warfare, who displays the amount of sheer badassitude commonly seen only in colonels, yet is still inexplicably a "mere" captain. Had he not been held prisoner by the Russians for five years, though, he may have well been promoted to colonel by MW 2.
Colonel Hyuga from the original Shadow Hearts is playable only briefly, but manages to annihilate a squadron of thugs due to his souped-up stats. He then proceeds to save an old man and befriend a child.
Another chance for the player to pick up this trope: if you play as the United Earth Federation officer in Supreme Commander Forged Alliance, you're referred to only as the colonel, having been promoted from Major in between the original game and the expansion. The more informal Cybrans only have two ranks that anyone ever hears about, so their player is always just commander, and the Aeon player is either Knight of the Illuminate or the Champion of the Princess, depending on where they are in the storyline. Both Cybran and Aeon players remain every bit as badass as their UEF counterpart, though.
Colonel Augustus Autumn, Fallout 3. Autumn is not a particularly strong opponent (he is only slightly more durable than the average human, and his only armor is his trench coat), and he doesn't often appear during the game. This would make you think he doesn't qualify for this trope... until you realize that the troops under his command — which form the power-armored, plasma-rifle-wielding striking arm of the Enclave — were so loyal to him that they, to a man, defected with him when he mutinied against the President. The. President. The leader of the Enclave. Either Autumn either has some very impressive leadership skills, or everyone really hates bureaucrats.
Additionally, he somehow survives a dose of radiation that kills you no matter how many anti-rad meds you take.
Just before he falls on the floor,you can see him injecting something into his arm, maybe it's some kind of super-duper high-tech Enclave Rad-X?
Colonel Cassandra Moore in Fallout: New Vegas. She's the commander of the garrison at Hoover Dam, within spitting distance of a massive enemy troop buildup on the east side of the dam. General Ripper-esque, ball-busting, credentials in the form of four campaigns against the Brotherhood of Steel during the NCR's war with them.
Col. Randall Moore from Universe at War: Earth Assault, although he gets promoted to General by the second mission. It takes a lot of badass to be a powerful hero unit when everyone else in your species is Cannon Fodder or, even worse, resources for the alien invaders.
Cpt. Keyes from Halo. Sure, in the games he only gives you your first gun, but in the books he's epic. He takes a soldier's pistol and blasts an invisible Elite in one shot right after escaping the locked-in-landing Pillar of Autumn, and manages to survive for a remarkable time on the Halo ring.
The upcoming Ace Combat: Assault Horizon will give us a USAF Colonel for the protagonist and a Russian Colonel for the antagonist. You just know this is gonna be epic.
Colonel Relius Clover of BlazBlue. Puppeteer extraordinary and is one of the people that is quite possibly the closest one that can be said to be Hazama's superior other than the Imperator. And he's a gigantic scum.
Chronophantasma includes Colonel Kagura Mutsuki, who's not only the leader of the highest clan amongst the NOL Duodecim... but also a surprisingly pleasant dude. To fill in the Badass part, he Curb Stomps Ragna and fights Noel/Mu-12 on equal terms.
Colonel Sanger Zonvolt of Super Robot Wars fame. Pilot of a giant mech, a German samurai and all-round badass. What's not to like about this guy?
Lt. Colonel Burns of Vanquish is a massive dude with cybernetics up the wazoo touting a big ol' minigun as his main weapon.
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the rank of "Legate" fills a niche that resembles Colonel (in the regard of "highest ranked line officer"). Legate Rikke fits the bill of Legate Badass, and if you side with the Empire in the civil war, you eventually are promoted to Legate as well.
Zephyr Crow of The Wandering Ones Definitely qualifies for this trope; she is faster and stronger than the Special Forces men she trains, and before that, she and her husband single-handedly killed the leaders of over 35 Kilabyker gangs.
Tech Infantry has Colonel Arthur Clarke, commanding officer of the Raptors, an elite military unit tasked with chasing down and arresting (or killing) draft-dodging Werewolves and Mages, as well as other secret operations. His successor, Colonel Andrea Treschi, is quite the badass himself.
Suzumiya Haruhi no Yaku-Asobi has Colonel Harriet Isuzu, an alternate Haruhi who works for a multi-dimensional paramilitary law enforcement agency that monitors sliding. Possible subversion in that soldiers from her home dimension's military look down on said agency and thus smugly refer to her as 'agent'. Her rival from the intelligence department, Colonel Sascha Sakisa also counts, being quite the Trickster.
Lt. J.T. Marsh in Exo Squad gets promoted to Wing Commander around the time he becomes acknowledged as the single best Ace Pilot of the Solar System. Wg.Cdr. is the air force equivalent of infantry's Lt.Col.
King of the Hill's Cotton Hill. The guy took fiddy bullets to the back while lost at sea, managed to survive an ambush by an island full of Japanese troops, then proceeded to kill all of them with a piece of one of his deceased friends even though both his shins were blown off by machine gun fire; thus completes his famous deed of having killed fiddy men during WWII.
The time he took out a Japanese machine-gun nest by hiding in a barrel of sake, holding his breath until the guards got drunk, then leaping out and 'hibachi-ing' the entire group by blowing sake out over his zippo.
Cotton is more of a subversion. True, he lost his shins, but his story...just doesn't add up. He mentioned Fatty was killed by sharks...yet he then mentions he used Fatty to beat the life out of the Japanese. Also, he claims to fought in both Munich and Okinawa in just mere days of each other. He's more a Small Name, Big Ego than anything.
As Hank pointed out to Peggy, even though Cotton is fond of exaggerating his accomplishments he is still the greatest war hero Arlen had ever seen. Cotton was awarded a Medal of Honor, after all, and we know he was in the 77th Division which fought in Guam, Okinawa and the Phillipines, all of which have been cited by Cotton as locations he fought at.
All that needs to be said: When he came back from the war, his shins were gone. Colonel Badass through and through.
The little-advertised fact about Vladimir Putin is that he is a colonel of the reserve. And he's a black belt in judo.
His badassitude is even greater in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar books, merrily going up against a superior alien foe. During one battle, when a Racelandcruiser is blasting everything and everyone in the vicinity, he waltzes up to it and throws a satchel charge in-between the turret and the chassis. He also ends up liberating Mussolini right from under the lizards' snouts. And yes, the lizards speak his name as a curse.
Possibly averted and based on good publicity; most of Skorzeny's missions were failures, and the famous rescue of Mussolini's was largely someone else's plan which Skorzeny got credit for (and apparently got in the way rather than helping during the actual operation).
George Washington was a colonel during his time fighting for the British during the French and Indian War, and his Bad Ass exploits earned him enough distinction to be appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolution, which in turn helped get him elected as the first President of the United States.
Lt.Col Jack Churchill. The man who fought the Nazis with a bow, arrows, and a claymore. The Germans eventually captured him by killing his entire commando squad with mortar fire; when they finally moved in, they found him sitting there, alone, playing the bagpipes. He got sent to two different concentration camps:Sachsenhausen and Dachau, and escaping both times. When he returned to Britain ready to go back to the battlefield, the war ended, and that pissed him off.
Lt.Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Son of the first Black general in the U.S. Armed Forces, he led a WWII fighter plane group known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The baddest fighter pilots in damn near any war. Oh, and he was the first Black general in the U.S. Air Force. Coming from military roots, his dad was the first US black general, period — and he started as a private.
Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Netanyahu of the Israeli Defense Forces, who, among other things, led the ground team during the Entebbe Airport Raid to rescue the hostages of an Air France flight. He died in the attempt (and was the only military Israeli fatality of the raid) and is a national hero in Israel.
Colonel Avi Peled commander of the Golani Infantry brigade, who after having a building collapse on top of him and 20 of his soldiers after a tank shell hit it by accident, took over the evacuation process of all of his injured soldiers despite being wounded himself, was the last one evacuated to a hospital, and then returned to the battlefield the very next day.
The famous Special Operations division Delta Force was founded by Colonel Charles Beckwith. He was badass enough to take a .50 cal round through the torso and survive with only basic medical aid (as the doctors couldn't waste time on someone who was "clearly" going to die).
Lt. Colonel James Doolittle of the famous Doolittle Raids.
Chesty Puller of the US Marine Corps and namesake of the Corps' bulldog mascot. He's also the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps, with a long history that has achieved Memetic Mutation level amongst Marines.
Ken Reusser, a USMC fighter pilot in three different wars (World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War), who retired from the Marine Corps as a colonel. Probably one of the most badass feats he performed was downing a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft that was reporting on US positions for Kamikaze attacks, flying about 1000 feet above the theoretical ceiling of its pursuers. Him and his wingman both had their guns malfunction, so they used the props of their F4U Corsairs to chew up the Japanese aircraft's tail to take it down.
Colonel David Hackworth (retired, deceased), also known as the most decorated US Army Officer of the 20th century. He was awarded 110 separate medals, of which the following were for heroism: eight Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Service Crosses, ten Silver Stars, seven Bronze Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and the Valorous Unit Award. He served in 12 separate wars, from the end of World War II right through to conflict in Yugoslavia. His initial request to be deployed in the Vietnam War was turned down because he had too much combat experience.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain commanded the 20th Maine during The American Civil War, and was in charge of the Union left flank at the Battle of Gettysburg, day two. He is best known for calling "BAYONETS!" and ordering a charge downhill into the Confederate lines when his men ran out of ammo. It worked. The Union won. Later promoted to Brigadier General in recognition of his competence and badassery—which he persisted in nevertheless.
Colonels Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry ("Rough Riders"). Badasses both.
Colonel Rick Rescorla - Served in Africa with the British Army, joined the US army in the mid-1960's and served in Vietnam, one of the hero's of the Battle of Ia Drang. He led the evacuations of both World Trade Center attacks, and was killed on 9/11 going back in with three subordinates to attempt to save the last 2 missing employees of Morgan Stanley, for whom he was the Head of Security at the World Trade Centre. He succeeded in getting the other 2700 employees safely out, singing "Men of Harlech" over a megaphone in the process.
Lt. Colonel John Frost was the British Army's go to guy for impossible airborne missions. After proving himself by stealing a German radar station from occupied France, Frost went on to perform similarly daring missions in North Africa and Sicily. However his Crowning Moment Of Awesome came during the Battle of Arnhem as part of Operation Market Garden where he was tasked with securing the Arnhem Bridge. Although ultimately doomed by the poorly conceived operation, John Frost and a small force of some 400 lightly armed paratroopers managed to penetrate German lines and seize the north end of the bridge where he held out against a German SS Panzer division for 4 days until finally being forced to surrender due to lack of ammunition. Lt. Col. Frost was later depicted in a movie and Arnhem Bridge was renamed in his honor. He finished his military career as a Field-Marshal and commander-in-chief of British armed forces.
Lieutenant Commander Patrick Dalzel-Job. His rank equates closer to Major, but nevertheless his Naval Intelligence Commando unit (British Navy SEALs) stormed German targets four days after D-Day and disabled a German destroyer at port (with its whole crew compliment) and then captured the town of Bremen. His boss was Ian Fleming, and many consider him one of the models for James Bond.
Titus Cornelius was a former Black slave who fought in the American Revolution for the British. Although the British did not allow Blacks to be officers, let alone reach the rank of Colonel, he nevertheless was known and referred to as Colonel Tye. His guerilla-tactics were legendarily effective, even so far as helping hold off George Washington troops in their first siege of New York. Most historians agree that had he been white (and, y'know, not fought for the British) he'd have been far more famous today. There is a rumor that his name inspired a certain other Colonel Badass from Battlestar Galactica.
Lloyd L. Burke received the Medal of Honor in the Korean war for his actions at Hill 200. He was on his way home when he heard his platoon was pinned down so he went back to them. After assessing the situation he stormed a Chinese trench with a pistol and a hand grenade. After using those up, he got out and grabbed a Browning 1919, ignored the shrapnel that shredded his hand, wrapped his jacket around the hot barrel, wrapped the ammunition belt around his body, lifted the 31 pound machine gun (normally used on a tripod), and proceeded to storm the trench again. He was only a Lieutenant at the time, but he achieved the rank of Colonel before he retired, so he counts.
Many of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's claims to badassitude occurred when he was a Colonel in the reserves, in particular defending the key pass whose loss would have probably made the Gallipoli campaign in World War One succeed. Even after the Ottoman Empire ultimately lost, he continued being a badass as a soldier and then the founder of modern Turkey, until he died.
Colonel David Randolph Scott, seventh man on the moon and the only Air Force pilot to actually pilot a moon landing (the rest of the Apollo commanders were Navy men).
Also survived the near-loss of Gemini 8 with Neil Armstrong due to steel nerves and badass piloting. On the other hand, he got in trouble for trying to profit off Apollo 15 by selling souvenirs.
Lieutenant Colonel John U. D. Page, an artillery officer who served in the Korean War and recieved the Medal of Honor for his actions. In just 12 days of combat service, he singlehandedly took out an enemy MG nest, commanded tanks while also acting as a tank machine gunner , performed an aerial attack with hand grenades in an unarmed observation plane, and saved an ambushed logistics regiment from their Chinese attackers. In this last action, he was eventually killed, but not before taking at least 16 enemy soldiers with him.
Colonel Buzz Aldrin (USAF), the second man to land on the Moon (but not the highest ranked officer to ever walk on the Moon - that's Alan Shepard or Charles Duke), and effective silencer of Moon landing hoax advocates. Other Colonels who've landed on the Moon include David Scott and James Irwin - the rest are divided between Navy Captains and civilians.
Lt. Colonel Anatoly Lebed'. 29 years of service, first as a paratrooper in Afghanistan, then entered an officers school, flew a helicopter there, first as a tech, then as a pilot until his retirement. But as he couldn't imagine himself as anyone but soldier, when Chechen war started he reenlisted himself, served again as a paratrooper officer and got a reputation as Father to His Men there. Then he got blown on a mine, had his foot amputated, but returned to duty in just one year on a prosthesis. Then, to up the ante, when his patrol got ambushed and he suffered a serious shrapnel wound, he just ignored it until his unit got back to safety. The guy's also an accomplished engineer, designing and building a lot of his unitnote The legendary 45'th ORP SpN VDV, which is as close to Russian Army admitting the unit being the part of the feared GRU Spetsnaz as it gets equipment and gear, like the combat buggies and such.
Lt. Colonel Herbert Jones VC OBE. During the Falklands war his battalion was stalled under heavy small-arms fire from entrenched positions and being further pinned by increasing artillery fire. Realizing that he couldn't afford to loose momentum, Lt. Colonel H. Jones charged the fortified enemy position under concentrated fire, getting knocked back once, but continuing until he died feet from the enemy. His men later charged, galvanized by his sacrifice. The enemy surrendered due to the heroics he displayed personally and simultaneously inspired in his men.
Charles Lindbergh, colonel in the Army Air Force, first man to fly solo across the Atlantic, and combat veteran of World War II (even though at that point he was a civilian).
Colonel Dave Belote, base commander of Nellis AFB and five-time Jeopardy! champion.
Lieutenant Colonel Danny Mcknight of the 75th Ranger Regiment. He was deployed to Somalia and participated in the infamous Battle of Mogadishu, in which seventeen American Soldiers died and hundreds of Somali militia were killed. LTC Mc Knight was famous for not taking cover when he got shot at, figuring that if he got killed, God wanted him in heaven. Also in the movie.
Claire Lee Chennault, commander of the Flying Tigers held the rank of Colonel in the US Army Air Force, then the Chinese Air Force, and then again in the USAAF before he was promoted to Brigadier General in 1942.
Colonel Peter Julien Ortiz, USMC. Though he didn't get promoted to Colonel until after WW2, Ortiz had an enormous amount of combat experience and badassitude, too much to list here so this entry will be restricted to one notable incident. He was operating with an OSS team in France over a year before the Normandy invasion and would openly wear his USMC uniform in rural areas and in towns, a fact which cheered the French but drew the attention of the occupying German forces. One particular incident involves some German soldiers at a café in a French town boasting about what they were going to do to him when they found him. Ortiz strolled into the cafe, wearing a freaking cape, whereby he threw the cape back to reveal his US Marine uniform and a .45 pistol in each hand. He took out the enemy soldiers and was long gone by the time any reinforcements showed up.
Lt.Col. Alfred Wintle. Talked a dying soldier out of a Scarlet Fever-induced coma, was arrested for trying to steal a plane and signed his own arrest warrant, was captured by Vichy French whereupon he informed his captors it was his duty to escape...and did.
Subverted with Muammar Gaddafi. Though state media made him out to be this, as is common of a dictatorship, in practice he went down rather quickly once the rebels got their hands on him.
Admittedly, by then he was 69 years old. However, he didn't really do anything particularly badass even when he was younger. In fact, he lost pretty much every war he participated in...
To some, Colonel Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame.
In an aversion "Colonel" was for a long time simply the "constitutional monarch"(so to speak) of a given regiment(originally meaning mercenary unit on permanent contract to The Government from the latin regimentum). He, or even she on rare occasions; might indeed be a badass but their badassery and their colonelcy were unrelated. That is because in several armies a regiment was a ceremonial and administrative unit rather then a tactical unit and the highest rank to go into battle specifically as a member of a given regiment was Lt Colonel. General officers in the British army often retained colonelcies for much of their carreer but this was a ceremonial position. For instance General Killalot might also be Colonel of the Duke of Earl's own Fusileers but his only relation would be to pay for the band or the silverware or what not.
US Air Force Colonel John Stapp, hands down. In the interest of science, he strapped himself to a rocket sled and ended up subjecting himself to a force 46.2 times the force of gravity and lived. At the time, it was believed that 18 G was fatal. Basically, his work showed that as long as the human body is properly restrained, it can take a lot more Gs than first expected. He also felt that it was possible to go higher if the person was facing backwards (the 46.2G run was forwards). He ended up applying his rocket sled research to cars and lobbying to make seat belts mandatory in all vehicles, saving countless lives.
Colonel Colin Mitchell, who ignored direct orders and restored British prestige by recapturing the city of Aden in 1968, in the counter-insurgency war prior to Aden's independence from the British Empire. Communist rebels had previously disregarded British forces as weak and ineffectual. Most of this perception was down to flawed orders from an out-of-touch government keen to avoid conflict and appease the natives. "Mad Mitch" Mitchell's aggressive action changed all this and his show of force scared the rebels and insurgents into relative quiet.
Yugoslav partisan Colonel Sava Kovačević had a reputation for great personal courage. Highlights include single-handedly capturing an Italian tankette without using any anti-tank weapon, leading an infantry assault that destroyed another three Italian tankettes by leaping onto them and attaching explosives, and making daring raids behind enemy lines. His career was cut short when he was gunned down during the partisan breakthrough from German encirclement at the Sutjeska river, June 1943.
Marine Col. John Glenn, who was an ace pilot before becoming the first American in orbit and much later, the oldest man in space.