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Frontline General

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Erwin Rommel gets up close and personal with the British in Africa.

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

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

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

While seen as highly heroic, there are significant drawbacks to this, especially in modern settings. Battles hinge on minute-by-minute decision making and updates must be frequently provided to the general staff. If the general is on the front, he'll be moving around a lot and it will be more difficult to apprise him of the situation, not to mention him giving updated orders for those lower in the chain-of-command. In the long run, the Confederacy during The American Civil War lost many good generals this way.

This can be justified in a Mildly Military organization, especially in the case of La Résistance, as the command infrastructure may not be deep enough and the crisis is too severe to not implement an "all hands on deck" situation.

In strategy games, they can take the form of hero units which sometimes represent the Player Character, thus averting the Non-Entity General trope in the process.

Contrast Armchair Military (a.k.a. "Chairborne Ranger" in US Army and Marine Corps lingo) and Soldiers at the Rear. See Outranking Your Job when this is taken too far. May overlap with Royals Who Actually Do Something in historical settings. Doing this increases the chance of a Keystone Army by a lot, and makes you an easier target if they want to go right after you. A Decapitated Army may result if the general dies. Often justified if Rank Scales with Asskicking, and might be a requirement of the position if Asskicking Leads to Leadership. Also, an Uriah Gambit is a not-so-uncommon reason to send a general into the harm's way.

Compare The Main Characters Do Everything.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, Gotei 13 Captain-Commander Genryusai Shigekuni Yamamoto usually zig-zags this trope, only reluctantly getting involved in a fight when his subordinates can't handle it. This changes during the Thousand Year Blood War arc, where after obliterating the man responsible for the death of his lieutenant and right-hand man he jumps into the front lines and coldly declares to the enemy leader that he will annihilate them himself.
  • In Code Geass, this sums up Lelouch's view of how a leader should act, exemplified by how he always leads with his king piece when playing chess. "If the king does not lead, how can he expect his subordinates to follow?" "The only ones who should kill are those prepared to be killed!" He is often seen taking an active part in the military operations he commands, though he's usually smart enough to recognize his limits and not attempt something he cannot do.
  • Gundam:
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: Due to how Minovsky Particles work (messing up long-range communications), many high-ranking commanders had to be present on the battlefield.
      • General Revil, the Big Good of the Federation Forces, was captured in the backstory due to the Black Tri-Stars identifying his flagship and capturing his escape craft. Later still, he personally commanded the massive Federation fleet en route to A Baoa Qu... which was devastated when Gihren Zabi used the Solar Ray.
      • Each of the Zabi siblings was known to personally take to the field to varying degrees. While Kycillia normally commanded from her flagship, in the anime she once personally engaged the Gundam alongside her subordinate M'Quve. In the backstory, Dozle Zabi was known to sortie in a customised Zaku, and later met his death while pulling a You Shall Not Pass! while piloting the Big Zam. Garma Zabi was first introduced flying a customised Dopp fighter against the White Base, and later personally commanded a Gaw Attack Carrier in his final battle. Only Gihren, the Non-Action Big Bad, stayed out of the field until the Final Battle at A Baoa Qu, where he commanded from the heart of the fortress.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin: Admiral Tianem, while not an MS pilot, would often lead his sorties from his warship at the front. He was the primary enemy to the Zeon during the initial rebellion and was front and center for the battle at Loum. Even after their defeat at Loum, most of the major generals return to Jaburo to plan or Luna II, while he remained in space fighting with the Zeon soldiers occupying the Moon cities.
    • This is also what eventually resulted in Tianem's death in the original series, as he was leading the Federation Forces during the Battle of Solomon when Dozle Zabi launched a counterattack in the massive Mobile Armor Byg Zam that targeted the Federal fleet's warships.
    • Char Aznable, at least in Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack, takes to the front lines personally in most of the battles. Not out of any sense of loyalty or duty to his men, but simply because he's obsessed with defeating Amuro Ray personally. He does have the presence of mind to put his confidante/lover, Nanai Miguel, in overall battlefield command while he's out piloting, meaning the army is not completely without direction in his absence.
      • Played with in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam when (as Lieutenant Quattro Bajeena), he succeeded to leadership of the AEUG following the assassination of their original leader. He spent a bit more time off the field acting as a diplomat and rallying point, but during the final battle with the Titans, he sortied alongside the others in his Hyaku-Shiki. This was justified, as everyone recognised this was the big one and everyone who could fight was needed.
    • Commander Andrew Waltfeld of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED likes to lead his men from the front, and is happy to jump into his own mobile suit in order to square off against The Hero. This is to be expected, given that he's at least partly based on Erwin Rommel (see Real Life below).
  • In Naruto, the generals of the Allied Shinobi forces (Gaara, Kakashi, Darui, Akatsuchi) are this, as they join their forces directly on the battlefield. Understandable, given that those four were chosen for their battle prowess as well as their leadership ability. Arguably the Kages also count — though in their case the term Frontline President might be more accurate.
  • Justified in Legend of the Galactic Heroes: electromagnetic interference during battle makes communications difficult, so the admirals of both sides have to come close to the line of fire. As the firepower thrown around in the setting is high enough to cause heavy damage with every successful hit, they do so with larger and better armed and armoured dedicated flagships, and tend to stay as far from the enemy as they can afford.

    Comic Books 
  • In Oz (Caliber), Action Girl General Jinjur is always out with the rest of the Freedom Fighters of Oz; going sord to sword with the forces of evil.
  • Baron von Strucker in Marvel Comics, and especially in his early appearances in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. He was presented as a senior Nazi general, but not above leading his own Nazi special forces counter-insurgency group in battle against the title characters.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Star Wars: Republic: Separatist General Alto Stratus leads his men into battle regardless of how well-armed his enemies are and remains within walking distance of the battlefield to observe and coordinate things even after losing a leg.
    • Darth Vader :
      • In The Lost Command, Star Destroyer Captain Shale leaves his vessel on many occasions to go into combat at the head of a group of Storm Commandos and is also a Genius Bruiser when it comes to conceiving combat strategies and defeating enemies as part of those strategies.
      • In The Cry of Shadows, Separatist General turned rebel Atticus Farstar stands within artillery range while shouting encouragement to his men and helping lure enemy soldiers into a trap.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Asuka and Shinji are the leaders of the Avalon forces deployed in their timeline. They and the other commanding officers -Misato, Ching, Bir...- take part in all battles, always taking point. Justified, since they are a relatively small force — due to be cut off — and Shinji and Asuka pilot one of their few Humongous Mechas... although Asuka would surely fight in the frontlines anyway, since she is a soldier and a warrior first of all.
  • Bait and Switch (STO):
    • Peace Forged in Fire has Romulan Republic High Admiral D'trel and Subadmiralnote  Morgaiah t'Thavrau, as well as Romulan Imperial Praetor Velal (a retired general), in the thick of the fighting against the Tal'Shiar. Justified because the Tal'Shiar attacked a peace summit where the three were lead negotiators for their respective sides.
    • Beat the Drums of War features a number of admirals and generals leading fleets in the field, two of whom die: Starfleet Admiral Yarlin Dao is killed in action when his flagship is destroyed by the Heralds, while Rear Admiral Zandra Taitt dies in a Heroic Sacrifice to foil a Herald attack on the Sol System before it can even start.
  • Child of the Storm has Odin take the field at the Battle of London at the head of an Asgardian army, with Thor and Loki fulfilling similar functions. This is to some extent justified, since the three of them — Odin in particular — represent Asgard's heaviest hitters, and Odin was the only one on the battlefield who could match Chthon in combat.
  • First Flight has a non-military version of the trope: The unofficial slogan of the nascent Kerbal Space Program is "We all build them, we all fly them!", with Werhner and Gene flying a couple of missions each and Jebediah, Bill and Bob pitching in alongside the crews in the Vehicle Assembly Building. This starts out as an Enforced Trope because they didn't have the numbers or resources for strict division of responsibilities, but the tradition continues even after they acquire official endorsement and funding because it's good for morale. They do however take precautions against the risk of losing someone critical: When the lottery to choose volunteers for the next series of missions would put Wehrner and Ornie, the second-most senior engineer on the team, on the same flight together the latter switches assignments with someone else.
  • HERZ: Even after being promoted to Captain Asuka still sorties with her troops and leads from the frontlines.
  • Godzilla: New Era: G-Force Commander Aso personally pilots the Super-X3 into the final battle at Kyoto to dogfight the Millennian UFO. Justified as G-Force had just suffered a mass attack that killed the previous pilot, Aso was trained to fly it, and as a Father to His Men he felt personally guilty the past Super-X pilots were young soldiers who died under his command. The action, which took the G-Force offensive by surprise, did have the desired effect of boosting morale.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, General Javelin fights alongside his men and his Pokémon against the infamous criminal Twenty Gyarados Bill.
  • Queen of Shadows: When the Shadowkhan resume their conquest of Kyushu, several of the Generals are sent to oversee it, with Ikazuki being given overall command as Warlord, a position from which he in face leads from the front, hoping to find worthy adversaries. Thing is, Jade is actively trying to invoke the downsides of this trope by appointing him to the position, hoping that it'll get him killed and deal a blow to the Shadowkhan.
    • Later, when the Shadowkhan launch a strike on Awaji Island as retaliation on the forces of Tobe for infiltrating their lands and almost killing Jade, she orders General Tsume to handle the attack personally. Again, she's hoping that the negative aspects of the trope will come into play, as she's expecting a Darkest Hour turn around by the local heroes after the fall of Kyushu, and that they'll defeat whatever General shows up.
  • Discussed Trope in Rocketship Voyager when Captain Janeway goes in with the Space Marines instead of directing events from The Bridge like she's supposed to. While the latter is more effective for command & control, she knows it's important to show your men that you're willing to put your life on the line as well, especially when your Redshirts are all too often regarded as expendable Cannon Fodder.
  • In Son of the Sannin, Jiraiya (who was appointed Hokage after Sarutobi's second retirement) personally leads the raid on Root headquarters when Danzo is declared a traitor.
  • In A.A. Pessimal's Discworld-themed work Strandpiel, an adventurous General is rebuked by a junior officer in a position to be able to say these things, because he personally went on a reconnaissance mission deep into the territory of a neighbouring country where a Cold War situation applied. He accepts this was irresponsible and could have led to a lot of trouble had he been killed or captured. But he points out that being the General commanding a "special forces" operation means he had to get away from the command desk and do something that restored a sense of adventure and fun to his life, or else he'd go nuts.
  • As seen in the first chapter of Close Encounters of the Gem Kind, set in the There Was Once an Avenger From Krypton series, Yellow Diamond leads her troops from the front-lines. Pidge can't help but find this rather idiotic since it could result in a Decapitated Army scenario.
  • The Westerosi armies in Wearing Robert's Crown, being of largely medieval customs, are led by lords who fight on the frontlines, right the way up to King Robert Baratheon.
  • In Wonderful (Mazinja), Taylor fights together with her troops.
    Fight alongside me, because I will NOT ask you to do this without putting myself in the line of fire.
  • At one point in A Young Woman's Political Record Tanya fights in the war personally, though only for a single day. One of the bomber crew members grumbles about how they deserve a raise for all the work they're doing, only to see Tanya flying alongside their plane and admits he can't exactly complain about his workload if the Chancellor is picking up a rifle to fight the communists.

    Film — Animated 
  • Mulan had Shan Yu, the leader of the Hun army, charging before his entire army on horseback. He was probably an entire mile ahead of his army when attacking the small group of Chinese soldiers. Clearly, he wanted to spill first blood.
  • In The Steam Engines of Oz, Sir Blackburn, the commander of Oz's army, leads his troops from the front. And, even when many of his troops are breaking and running under the combined onslaught of the lions and the munchkin air force, he instead charges the the leader of the lions and takes him on single-handed.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Apocalypse Now, Kilgore not only personally flies the lead helicopter into the attack, it's shown he's a pretty darn good pilot and an excellent shot.
  • Blood Brothersd 1973 have the three titular characters - sworn brothers leading a reformed bandit army serving the Manchurian government - leading the charge in numerous large-scale battle scenes.
  • Most of the Allied generals in A Bridge Too Far, especially the Americans Maxwell Taylor and James Gavin, who jump into battle with their respective airborne divisions. SS-General Wilhelm Bittrich is this as well.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Colonel Phillips fits this trope and even gets involved in the fighting at the end, helping to infiltrate a HYDRA base and shooting down a few enemies.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Discussed in Wonder Woman (2017); Diana has greater respect for generals who lead from the front, and is appalled by Armchair Military like Field Marshal Haig who are more than eager to sacrifice men from the safety of their London penthouses. This is built from memories of her aunt Antiope, who lead the Amazons against intruding Germans who were pursuing Steve Trevor and died taking a bullet for Diana.
    • Justice League: Steppenwolf personally leads two separate invasions of Earth, once in the distant past and again in the present. His infantry consists primarily of parademons, which would easily overwhelm a normal army but are handled by both the various gods of mythology in the past and the Justice League in the present. What makes the invasions almost succeed is the fact that Steppenwolf is an accomplished warrior himself.
    • Zack Snyder's Justice League: It's a young Darkseid himself (as Uxas) who leads the invasion in the distant past (he was replaced by Steppenwolf in the theatrical cut).
  • In Gettysburg, Lee warns General Longstreet against his habit of going too far forward, as he's already lost a number of his generals (particularly Stonewall) to this trope and he feels he cannot spare Longstreet.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Colonel Diane Foster, leader of Monarch's military attachment, takes point and accompanies her troops into battle in Antarctica. Same with Colonel Alan Jonah, leader of the human bad guys.
  • The Heroic Ones, a Shaw Brothers war epic, have the two heroes, Hsiao and Shih - the youngest Warrior Princes of their kingdom - leading their armies into battle.
  • President Whitmore leads the charge in the final battle of Independence Day. Justified, as he's one of the few people around who can fly a plane, and one of the even fewer pilots with combat experience, and if they lose, he won't have a country to lead anyway.
  • M in the James Bond series:
  • A civilian variant in Jurassic World. Simon Masrani, the billionaire who built and owns the now fully functional dinosaur park after his friend John Hammond's death, realizes that the Indominus rex needs to be killed after the super-violent, highly intelligent, genetically engineered monster of a dinosaur kills nearly all members of a security team sent to recapture it. They decide to kill it from the air with a helicopter mounted chaingun. Since all the pilots are either off-island or trapped in lockdown during the incident, Masrani volunteers himself to fly the chopper himself despite not quite earning his pilot license yet (he had two more days). While flying towards the I. rex, he finds out at least one of his crewmen is ex-military and an Afghanistan veteran. He even asks if his general ever flew into combat with him.
  • Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road is an utterly despicable Evil Overlord who keeps harems of women as Sex Slaves and brainwashes hordes of young men to be willing to kill themselves for him if necessary, but his vehicle is often shown near or at the front of the fleet throughout the chase.
  • Oath Of Death have it's three main heroes, Ming Dynasty swordsmen who leads the Imperial Army, where they're in front of the charge when battling against the Mongol Invaders.
  • Patton. The title general is portrayed this way several times. During the battle with the 10th Panzer he's on the front lines giving tactical orders. During the invasion of Sicily he's shown scouting out a ford across a river while under enemy artillery fire. On several other occasions he's depicted driving around in battle areas.
  • It was pretty clear right from Star Trek: The Motion Picture that Admiral Kirk really, really wants to be this trope (that is, he wants to be out in the field, and since he's ended up at flag rank now...). He gets his wish in that film (abusing his personal connections to get himself temporarily put in command of Enterprise for the crisis), but it's not a lasting thing — fortunately, circumstances conspire to move him out of a desire for this trope and back to the trope where he belongs by the end of the fourth film.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact, Admiral Hayes leads the Federation fleet against the Borg, though his ship is destroyed just before the Enterprise arrives. (Star Trek: Voyager confirms that he survived.)
  • Prevalent in Star Wars:
    • The Jedi in all Clone Wars-related media, such as Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and the animated series Clone Wars and The Clone Wars. They are all automatically generals, and prefer to command from the frontlines. Probably because they don't fear enemy blaster fire. Pong Krell from The Clone Wars is an exception, preferring to stay in the back. But he has a good reason to do that. He's killing as many clones as possible and using Hollywood Tactics before he officially betrays the Republic. Once the clones realize this and try to have him arrested, he slaughters them by the dozens to prove he would have had no problem standing at the front if he chose to.
      • In fact, this trope is the key to the success of Order 66, spreading Jedi thinly across the galaxy and leaving them at the mercy of their clone troopers — who all unexpectedly turn against and execute their commanding officers.
    • On the flip side, General Grievous was often on the front line during the Clone Wars. Granted, he was also perfectly willing to bail if the situation turned against him and often had an honor guard to watch his back.
    • He is also present at an extreme example: During the battle over Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine (though the heroes were under the impression he was kidnapped and a hostage), Dooku, and Grievous are all on one ship, right in the middle of the battle.
    • In A New Hope, Darth Vader takes to space with his TIE Advanced to defend the Death Star.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back the Empire's General Maximilian Veers not only prepares his troops for the Hoth surface attack, he's aboard the lead AT-AT that fires the shots which destroy the Alliance's power generators. He paid a price though: in the novelization Hobbie Klivian (Rogue Two) crashed his damaged snowspeeder into Veers' cockpit a couple minutes later. Veers survived but both his legs had to be amputated. His Rebel counterpart Carlist Rieekan was more cautious, commanding from an Echo Base bunker rather than the front lines.
    • By the time of the Battle of Endor both Lando Calrissian and Han Solo were Generals. These men blew up the second Death Star and personally led the ground assault on its shield generator respectively. Admiral Ackbar also commanded from the front, leading to his legendary line "It's a trap!" In addition, Admiral Piett leads the Imperial Fleet from the Executor, though he is handicapped by the Emperor's shortsighted orders.
    • This carries over to the sequel trilogy. By The Rise of Skywalker, both Finn and Poe are Resistance generals, and they lead their forces in the attack on Exegol.
  • Cohaagen in 2012's Total Recall becomes this, the sort of Big Bad who still has henchmen and a souped-up robotic bodyguard, but also has a flak jacket and prefers to execute his enemies personally rather than delegate it to an underling. And while both versions confront Quaid in the end, in the original version it was because Quaid had killed any Mooks who could get between them.
  • In The War Lord, 11th century Norman war lord Chrysagon de la Cruex (Charlton Heston) leads the Normans through and through amidst the battle and siege, and doesn't hesitate to put himself at risk to defend the tower against the Frisians during said siege.
  • The Warlords, a remake of Blood Brothers (1973), once again revolves around the three titular warlords who leads a platoon of reformed bandit troops in battling rebels. The trio of warlords places themselves ahead of their armies in all the battles.

  • Belisarius in Belisarius Series is this and often has to be urged by his subordinates to risk himself less often. The Persian emperor even makes his bodyguards at promise to arrest him if he risks himself because the Persians need a Roman general they can trust to carry out a politically delicate strategy that might threaten the alliance between the two empires, who had only recently put to rest centuries of intermittent warfare between them.
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): The "general" caste of ants is physically weaker than other soldiers (in exchange for better tactical and planning abilities), but typically fights on the front line regardless, acting more like a squad leader. Since they often get auras that Status Buff the ants around them, this is actually practical, as well as fitting their self-sacrificial mindset.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • When the senior council members enter a fight alongside the Wardens they lead the charge as they are much more powerful magic users. The same goes for the Wardens' Commander Anastasia Luccio.
    • Battle Ground: Marcone and Harry each take up a "banner" leading hundreds of members the makeshift militias of Chicago, and in Marcone's case his own men. They are also fighting in the thick of the battle with the two of them being embroiled in some of the heaviest fighting.
  • In the Destroyermen series, the entire high command of the Alliance is guilty of this. In some cases it's because they're some of the few humans left alive who were swept into the new world the series is set in, were originally low-ranking soldiers, and have been promoted by necessity. In others it's because they take A Father to His Men just that seriously. Others have always been that way. A few take it to Leeroy Jenkins levels, with ordinary troops literally begging their superiors to return to the rear so they don't have to worry about protecting them.
  • Discussed and played with in the Everworld series. David is very much a frontline general, though he also is heavily involved in the behind the lines planning and logistics. When April, afraid of an upcoming battle with the Hetwans, asks why they can't stay back in the rear echelon, David explains that it's one of the "advancements in warfare" that she had previously been droll about.
  • Fengshen Yanyi, since Rank Scales with Asskicking, this trope is almost omnipresent, as more often than not, battles are started by generals from both sides (ranging from expert veterans to badass One-Man Army warriors to semi-divine taoist experts and monsters in disguise) having a duel, with their battle occasionally being the only military clash of the day before both sides withdraw to plan the next move (with the losing side implicitly losing morale). Usually, the death of a general is enough to force the rest of the army to surrender or flee.
  • Given Grent's Fall's medieval setting, it's no surprise this applies to leaders on both sides.
  • In Joe Abercrombie's The Heroes General Jalenhorm is painfully aware of the fact that he got his command solely due to his friendship with the king, and tries to make up for it with personal bravery. He dies leading his division in a suicidal assault on The Children, viewing it as redeeming himself for earlier tactical mistakes.
  • In Outlander Leander, unusual circumstances have led Nagdecht to have two generals. General Glaive is the new, younger general, and is shown getting personally involved in missions with his private unit. When asked where General Oske is, however, General Glaive states, "At the castle, where he always is", suggesting Oske is an Armchair General.
  • Redwall: Exaggerated with Lady Cregga Rose Eyes, who leads the Long Patrol in the book The Long Patrol. She absolutely despises the evil Rapscallion army because they plunder and kill innocent beasts, and she's very, very eager to finish them off. To this end, she forges her own weapons, pushes her army to be the best it can be, and at one point, actually runs ahead of her army, hoping to cut the Rapscallions off and fight them herself. Deconstructed when she runs so far ahead of the Long Patrol that they can't find her, leaving them without a leader and worried sick. They do eventually find her, and she joins them in the final battle, even killing the Big Bad herself. May be justified, since she, like most Long Patrol leaders, is a badger, making her one of the largest and most formidable creatures in the forest.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire. Those commanding armies often take to the field with their men, given that Westeros is a medieval fantasy society where individual fighting prowess is equated with generalship. The extent to which this is true varies — Jaime Lannister is Lured into a Trap because his enemies know he's a Blood Knight who always leads from the front. Bored with the siege of Riverrun, Jaime hears of an attack by raiders on his supply line and leads a small force off to attack them, only to be ambushed by Robb Stark's army. King Robb also leads from the front to inspire his men but is more cautious about it, keeping a strong bodyguard and not taking unnecessary risks. Jaime's father, the coldly pragmatic Lord Tywin, leads from the rear where he can control the battlefield and judge the right moment to throw in his own efforts.
  • Justified in Starship Troopers. "Everyone drops," from grunts on up to the sky marshal who commands the entire Terran military. Taken to the logical conclusion when the sky marshal dies fighting a rearguard action.
    • Also, the officers drop first. When a cap trooper hits the ground, he knows that there will be an officer there to lead him.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • After Wedge Antilles is promoted to general in X-Wing: Isard's Revenge, he still leads Rogue Squadron in the field for at least the remainder of the book. In later conflicts (among them Kueller's uprising and the Yuuzhan Vong War) he continues to put himself directly in harm's way, though not necessarily from a starfighter cockpit.
    • The prequels weren't the first time the Jedi were Frontline Generals. During the Sith Wars of 4,000 and 1,000 BBY (seen in the Tales of the Jedi comics and Darth Bane series among others), the Jedi frequently led the Republic military against Sith forces.
    • Many frontline troops and officers admired Anakin Skywalker for his willingness to lead from the front and to never ask anything of anyone he was unwilling to do himself. This carried over when Anakin became Darth Vader with such members of the military, unlike many in the high command who despised the Dark Lord and his "sorcerer's ways."
  • This is expected of Alethi Lighteyes in The Stormlight Archive, as their culture prizes combat skill above all else. The existence of Shardblades and Shardplate also means it is actually a tactically sound option. High ranking Lighteyes are the only people that own and train with Shards note , a person with Shards is easily worth hundreds if not thousands of regular soldiers, and in Shardplate they are nearly impossible to take down unless the enemy has Shards. Dalinar and Adolin Kholin not only lead from the front, but are typically the first two to charge the enemies, as weakening the enemy line themselves means that there are far fewer casualties among their regular troops.
  • Temeraire: The antagonist Napoléon Bonaparte regularly joins his troops at the front lines and on scouting missions, albeit generally with the protection of his Dragon, a literal dragon. It inspires great loyalty in his own forces and even wins the grudging respect of the protagonist, but by the end of the series, forcing himself to keep up with young soldiers in bad conditions has taken a toll on his health.
  • Very frequent in Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • In The Lord of the Rings, virtually anyone equivalent to a general (Éomer, Théoden, and eventually Aragorn) is only too glad to be right in the thick of it with their men.
    • In The Silmarillion: In the First Age, if you are a king, lord or high-ranking officer, you are liable to be leading the charge against the enemy (Thingol, Finrod, Finarfin in the Final Battle...)... and often getting killed in action (Fëanor, Fingolfin, Fingon, Huor...) or getting captured and suffering a Fate Worse than Death (Maedhros tortured and chained to the side of a ravine, Hurin forced to watch as his family's lives went to Hell...)
    • The Children of Húrin, starts when the remainder forces of good in Middle-Earth unite to attempt to destroy Morgoth once for all... and get utterly crushed. Their kings and lords were leading them, and most of them got killed in battle (Fingon, Azaghal, Huor...). Hurin and Huor particularly made a Last Stand with their whole army to protect the retreat of the forces of Gondolin — led by their king Turgon — and Hurin was the only survivor — to his regret.
    • The same applies in The Hobbit where Thranduil the Elvenking, Bard the Bowman, and the whole Line of Durin lead their troops into battle. It ends badly for the latter, all of whom are killed in either the Battle of Azanulbizar (Thrór, Thráin, Frerin) or the Battle of the Five Armies (Thorin, Fíli, Kíli). Dáin Ironfoot is the only Durin dwarf to survive... until he's killed about 80 years later protecting King Brand during the War of the Ring.
    • Since J. R. R. Tolkien himself fought in World War I, it's likely that he was very aware of the danger that high-ranking officers were exposed to when leading a charge, be it in modern or fantastical warfare.
  • Averted hard with John Rumford in Victoria who stays far away from the front and the closest he ever got to a live combat situation was a drive-by shooting, however this does not stop him mocking other officers for being intellectual cowards who have no idea what it is like at the front.
  • Played with in The Wheel of Time, where it's repeatedly stated that this is a bad idea, because the general makes of himself a target and if he's killed, his command is going to collapse. However, by dint of bad luck Mat keeps finding himself in the midst of the enemy force, especially if he was trying to lead his army in a retreat at the time (though, thanks to good luck, he then turns those debacles into crushing victories), and other generals have had times when they stay in or near the front lines because of a need to keep communication lines short or just because they just need every man they have.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "GROPOS" Dr. Franklin's father General Richard "Old Firestorm" Franklin hits the dirt with his men in the EarthForce assault on the fortress of Matok. He comes out without a scratch.
  • This backfires on Supreme Commander Servalan in Blake's 7. She turns up at the end of a battle against an Alien Invasion hoping to get some propaganda kudos, only to be ambushed and shot down. By the time she gets back to Star Command, the Federation has disintegrated and she has to become a Frontline General for real, rallying The Remnant to save what's left of her Vestigial Empire. This means for Rule of Drama she's always available to directly confront our heroes, as The Dragon who used to do that job was killed off in the previous season.
  • Reflecting Real Life, Chernobyl features Colonel General Vladimir Pikalov and Major General Nikolai Tarakanov. The two were the senior officers sent to Chernobyl after the accident on April 26, 1986, with Pikalov and his men being sent in to help contain the initial fire, and Tarakanov commanding the Liquidators. Pikalov, upon learning that someone has approach the burning core (in a full protective suit and lead-lined truck) with a dosimeter to get an accurate radiation reading, volunteers for the task himself. Tarakanov never does anything that crazy, but he does manage the Liquidators from out in the field, and takes the time to personally thank every single man who went up to clean the Masha roof- all 3,828 of them.
  • In Doctor Who, The Brigadier frequently leads his men in battles against this week's alien menace.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In the Battle of Blackwater, Tyrion Lannister approves the normally inept King Joffrey's decision to join the troops on the city walls as "soldiers fight better for a king who's not hiding behind his mother's skirts". Of course Tyrion is the one actually running the battle, so this works well until the Queen Regent, worried about her son's safety, orders him brought back to the Red Keep. Joffrey, who likes giving a Badass Boast but is actually a Dirty Coward, fails to stand up to his mother (he does seem genuinely torn and seems to at least want to stay, which is about the closest thing to admirable Joffrey ever did). When his soldiers see the King leaving, they start to falter as well. Tyrion (who as an entirely pragmatic dwarf is the least likely person to go into battle) has to lead the sally himself in order to shame them into following him. Opposing him is Stannis Baratheon, who demonstrates unequivocally that he leads purely by example. He inspires his men by being the first into the landing boats after wildfire destroys half their fleet, and the first up the ladder on the city walls. In fact, he has to be physically dragged away from the frontline by his soldiers after his army has lost the battle. Note that in the novels this is actually a trait of his Blood Knight brother Robert Baratheon (Stannis is a more cold-blooded, pragmatic leader who commands from the rear) but is changed for Rule of Drama. Later, Tywin Lannister and Loras Tyrell lead the cavalry charge that wins the Battle of Blackwater.
    • Robert Baratheon won his throne by slaying his counterpart (and second cousin) Rhaegar Targaryen in battle.
    • Khal Drogo's only claim to leadership is his ability to be this.
    • Robb and Jaime both lead their men into battle. Jaime is a bold field commander with the spirit and élan of a rank soldier. It's clear he revels in the front line aspects rather than in the generalship per-se, putting himself In Harm's Way without a second thought. This allows Robb to capture Jaime by surprising him in the Whispering Wood.
    • Lord Commander Mormont flat-out refuses to sit meekly at Castle Black and takes command of the great ranging beyond the Wall.
    • During the Battle of Castle Black, Alliser Thorne and Jon Snow do this for the Night's Watch while Styr and Tormund do it for the wildlings. When tasked with defending the inner gate, Grenn is also front and center among his men.
    • House Umber's Lords personally lead their men in combat.
      • Unlike Ramsay or Harrald, Smalljon Umber dies in the thick of battle.
    • Lyanna Mormont accompanies her men to Jon Snow's camp, putting herself at considerable risk. She also is part of the parley on Jon's side before the battle.
    • King Aegon II Targaryen rode his dragon into battle and against other dragons. One of the few nice things you can say about Aegon II is that at least he wasn't a coward.
    • Downplayed with Daenerys. She herself never does any actual fighting, but she's the only one who can control her dragons, and if she wants to commit them in battle she has to actually mount Drogon, and fly into a battle herself.
    • Lord Ormund Baratheon led the Iron Throne's forces on the Stepstones.
    • Euron Greyjoy. Frontline Admiral may be more accurate, but give the man credit, unlike Balon, Euron actually leads his men into battle.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: Originally Alder was this, leading her troops personally into battles as shown by paintings in the series' opening montage.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • General Hammond was more inclined to lead from the rear, but he wasn't above going into the field on occasion, most notably in "Into the Fire" where he rode second seat in a modified Death Glider to provide air support to the rescue of his troops. He also personally commanded the Prometheus during Anubis' assault on Earth, giving SG-1 time to activate Ancient chair weapon.
    • After O'Neill replaced Hammond for Season 8, he likewise mostly stayed in the boardroom until his ATA gene was required to fly a puddle jumper in "It's Good to Be King". He took out a Goa'uld mothership with it.
  • Star Trek: A rarity for Starfleet. The majority of admirals have been far from the pointy end for too long. Nevertheless, a number do come to the defense of the Federation in combat.
    • In TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2" Admiral J.P. Hanson leads the Federation home fleet against the Borg at Wolf 359, and is killed in action along with most of the fleet.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • General Martok, although justified in that Klingons are a Proud Warrior Race and thus they value the glory of battle. During the Dominion War, he maintains his flag on a Bird-of-Prey instead of one of the larger battlecruisers. Late in the Dominion War, Chancellor Gowron took a more personal interest in battle strategy, however as a career politician he was more interested in usurping Martok's glory and made a lot of tactical mistakes. Worf challenges Gowron for such petty behavior, and ends up killing him in combat. While he was offered the position of Chancellor, he passed that on to Martok. Afterwards, Martok took the Negh'Var as his flagship, but still got into the thick of the fighting wherever possible.
      • Captain Sisko and Admiral Ross also lead from the front in numerous battles. Sisko, notably, took command of a ground troop in "The Siege of AR-558" despite being a starship captain (Starfleet being a monolithic uniformed service rather than a collection of separate branches), and was quite effective in holding off everything thrown his way despite being cut off from reinforcements or supplies.

  • The Book of Mormon: Most of the time, kings and "chief captains" were expected to be in the field. There were exceptions, but they were apparently significant enough for the narrative to call them out.
    • Alma sends an army without him to respond to invasion — because he's still injured from the last time, where he killed one enemy leader in single combat, and fought the king's personal guard while the king ran away from him.
    • Amalickiah stays home and doesn't lead the Lamanite armies in person the first time they invade, and they get curb stomped. The second time, he accompanies them, with his considerable strategic acumen, and they make large inroads, capturing several heavily fortified cities and putting the Nephites thoroughly on the back foot.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Lots of people in BattleTech, since it's based on a Feudal Future, where nobles are expected to ride into combat atop BattleMechs. Indeed, it is woven into the very theme of the universe. While the universe operates more or less on Grey-and-Grey Morality, the farther a character is from being a Frontline General, the more likely they are to be reviled. Leaders of overtly hostile nations that are willing to take the field are usually considered a Worthy Opponent, whereas the true villains of the franchise tend to be those who either disdain combat altogether or who hide in bunkers while gleefully sending other soldiers off to die. The principle exception to this rule is Sun-Tzu Liao. Despite being a middling MechWarrior who's most notable combat action was ejecting from his 'Mech, he avoids this due to being sufficiently awesome (and, while being a mediocre MechWarrior, is still a MechWarrior, an exceptionally demanding job to qualify in).
    • In the Inner Sphere, at least, there's a whole class of 'Mechs, such as the BattleMaster, Cyclops, and Archer which are designated "Command 'Mechs," because they have extra communications and command equipment to allow their pilot to both coordinate a sizeable force and shoot any enemies that present themselves (this is largely a fluff designation, though the Quirks rule provides Command 'Mechs with an Initiative bonus).
    • Among the Clans, this is practically enforced. You can't win honor by sending someone else to fight for you, and someone who isn't good at fighting won't even get a command, because Asskicking Leads to Leadership is in full-force for the Clans. Due to this, villainous clanners tend to be of the Blood Knight variety. Though the above "not Frontline General = reprehensible character" is exaggerated for the Clans. A few Clan leaders try to not be Frontline Generals, and tend to be among the most despicable Clanners you'll ever meet. . . and the results for them are generally quite unpleasant when the truth comes out that they aren't "true" warriors.
  • In Game of the Generals, the number-Star Generals are among the most powerful pieces on the board, and are often placed on the front lines for this reason. (Of course, it's dangerous for them to get too aggressive because of the risk of getting captured by a Spy.)
  • GURPS sourcebook Mass Combat allows the commander of an army to take a frontline role. It is a high-risk/high-reward option, as while the presence of their commander on he front allows to see the situation in more detail and inspires the troops to do better, the commander is more vulnerable to misfortunes of war (random injuries sustained during battle).
  • In Stratego, the Field Marshal and the General are the two most powerful pieces on the board, and are often placed on the front lines for this reason. (Of course, it's dangerous for them to get too aggressive because of the risk of hitting a bomb.)
  • An actual game mechanic in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000: the minimum to play is two units of troops and a general / HQ unit. Depending on their stats, you either keep them the hell away from attack (see Tau Ethereals) or are horrifying death machines to be rushed into melee as soon as possible (orks, tyranids, most Chaos and Space Marines leaders). In the fluff, however, the less insane armies keep their high command well out of harm's way.
    • Taken even further in Dawn of War: the Imperial Guard's general is their only melee unit until they get to the later tech tiers. On the tabletop this is generally discouraged as the Company Commander's statline is not especially impressive; his intended purpose is to stand just behind the line and bark out Orders. Catachan Company Commanders starting from 8th Edition however can take the Warlord trait "Lead from the Front", which doubles the leader's melee engagement range and gives him combat bonuses — Catachans are Rambo-esque hombres from a jungle world that would quite literally eat any other regiment alive, so it makes sense.
    • Despite all attempts to be Only Sane Man of the setting, Tau often play this trope extremely straight in case of their Fire Caste commanders. They are issued custom made Super Prototype mecha suit and are expected to make full use of it. Its not too bad if commander in question loads it out with high range weaponry. It gets somewhat crazy in case of commander Shadowsun, the highest ranking military leader of the Tau Empire who has her suit customized with close range anti tank weapons. Or renegade commander Farsight whose main armament is a sword. Although at least with the default commander, the justification is, that due to the lightning fast attacks that the Tau prefer, the suit is less for the commander to fight and more for him to move where he is most needed and be safe.
    • Defied by the Skaven. Lorewise the Skaven general on the field will almost never be the actual leader of the army, but the most powerful subordinate the actual general could bribe/blackmail/drug and push onto the battlefield. The race's actual leaders, the Council of Thirteen, are not present as characters and do everything in their power to avoid battle. Skaven also have a special rule called "Verminous Valour" that allows Skaven characters to lead units from the back rank and avoid all duels with no loss of face or efficiency — after all, feeding a subordinate into the jaws of death in your place is an extremely Skaven thing to do, and any Skaven would do so if put in the same position.

  • In BIONICLE, Sidorak, the King of the Visorak horde, was known to lead his troops on the front line. Unfortunately for him this part of what led to him being blind to the schemes of his second in command Roodaka. Interestingly enough, Sidorak intentionally invoked this trope in order to show how great a leader he was because deep down he felt he never truly earned the title of King since he took credit for coming up with the impressive accomplishment of a fellow Brotherhood servant to get it and always needed to show his ability...and said fellow servant just so happened to be Roodaka.
  • The various incarnations of the G.I. Joe franchise have Hawk, a general who spends much of his time leading the G.I. Joe forces out in field. His official bio even lampshades this by saying that "When Hawk takes you into a hairy situation, he's usually in front of you yelling 'Follow me!' "

    Web Animation 
  • General Dune in Plastic Apocalypse: The Sabre-Tooth lampshaded by Captain Wilson
  • General James Ironwood from RWBY is this to a T. Despite being the general and leader of Atlas, with the largest military in the setting, Ironwood is seen throughout Volume 3 at the frontlines, fighting alongside professional huntsmen and huntsman teachers on the front lines. Helps that he may be one of the most competent fighters in the series.

  • Justified in Erfworld. Due to the setting's RPG Mechanics 'Verse, a general's leadership literally expresses itself as a numerical bonus to his subordinates' stats, but the unit has to be in the same squad as the general to get the bonus. (Except for the Chief Warlord, and even his bonus is biggest for his squad).
  • Fairly common in Girl Genius:
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • During the Azure City invasion, Redcloak initially leads from the rear, but later is moved by the way the Hobgoblins were sacrificing their lives, and charged personally into the battle with his war mammoth. This is able to turn the tide of the battle in his favor.
    • His Azurite counterpart, Hinjo, spends the entire battle on the front lines. Being a paladin, he even has to be talked into any sort of retreat, no matter how strategically useful.
  • Schlock Mercenary downplays this trope as a common tactic that leaders use to put themselves in the least amount of danger while looking good:
    Maxim 18: If the officers are leading from in front, watch out for an attack from the rear.
  • In Second Empire, Pturdd is only too eager to join in the glorious massacre of the Second Empire rebels. Pity he's a General Failure who led a small army of Daleks to a humiliating Curb-Stomp Battle...
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Sleipnope will usually hang back while sending its subordinate trolls and ghost against the crew to overwhelm them. However, Sleipnope will join the battle if this is not enough.

    Web Orginal 
  • In the gaming clan Shack Tactical, who specialize in the military simulator game ARMA, even the highest ranking soldiers are usually involved in the action to some degree. This is justified, since the group is usually playing as an infantry platoon, and thus even the highest ranking figures would be expected to be involved in front-line combat. That said the player known as Kevb0 truly exaggerates this. While most commanding officers generally tend to either not be right at the front or to take some precautions to make it less likely that they'll be killed, (if only to avoid the potential chaos of the command having to go to someone new in the middle of a pitched battle) Kevb0 is known as the man who never met a charge that he didn't like, no matter how obviously suicidal and doomed that charge might be. Kevb0 is often the first man out leading the very point of these charges, even when he's playing the platoon commander... which often means that he's the first or one of the first men to be cut down by enemy defenses.

    Western Animation