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The Greatest Story Never Told

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"The problem with being a secret agent," he thought as he soaked among the soap bubbles, "is that your mission is so secret that nobody knows how jolly brave you were."

So the character has finally rescued his friends, saved the world and done whatever deeds that prove he is a true hero. But nobody will ever know. Maybe he's a mere buffoon or a comedy sidekick, or the outcast of the society. Sometimes the media just hates him and ended up turning his story upside-down. Sometimes the Fake Ultimate Hero takes all the spotlights. Sometimes nobody believes his story (or he doesn't even try to tell it because it's so implausible). Sometimes his memory gets erased. Sometimes a weird time travel mechanism makes it so whatever happened didn't actually happen at all. Maybe it ends with Kill 'Em All. Maybe the whole incident needs to be hushed up to protect important secrets. Or sometimes, for reasons of his own, he chooses not to tell anyone.

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And occasionally, usually only in works that can comfortably invoke Rule of Funny, all the spectators are utter dimwits and can't even grasp what they've just seen (a Confused Bystander Interview sometimes follows).

At any rate, none of the other characters (or at a larger scale, history itself) have to change their opinions about him. This can overlap with the Wild Wilderness trope often as no one outside the setting would know who the heroes were or what they did. In worst cases, by dealing with the greatest story never told, The Hero had missed the less-urgent but more well-known events. And thus the public thinks of him as a Fallen Hero.

May be A Day in the Limelight, and can be a clever way to introduce a character through a retcon or a remake in a series where he is never mentioned again. Often features What You Are in the Dark.

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Contrast Famed In-Story, Can't Stop the Signal, Based on a Great Big Lie, and Self-Made Myth. Compare Victory-Guided Amnesia, in which not even the hero gets to remember, and Hero of Another Story, in which someone other than the main character(s) is having their own adventures, and may or may not be recognized for it in-universe but will only be given token attention story-wise. Also compare with Lower-Deck Episode.

Not to be confused with The Greatest History Never Told, which concerns undepicted or rarely depicted historical eras in modern media.


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Examples:

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    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Citizen Kane, sure, everyone knows the ending, but the point of the film is that nobody In-Universe will learn. The mystery of Rosebud is something entirely private and special to Charles Foster Kane and something he never shared with anybody. When he died, he took that with him. It will remain a Riddle for the Ages. Thompson hangs a Lampshade on it at the end:
    Thompson: Mr. Kane was a man who got everything he wanted and then lost it. Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn't get or something he lost. Anyway, it wouldn't have explained anything... I don't think any word can explain a man's life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a... piece in a jigsaw puzzle... a missing piece.
  • At the end of Edge of Tomorrow, only one person knows that Cage, Vrataski, Dr. Carter, and J Squad saved the world — and there are, at most, two people in the world who might believe Cage if he tried telling them about it - Vrataski and Dr Carter. On a smaller scale, every time Cage participates in the battle on the beach he sees many acts of heroism as well as countless pointless deaths. Every time the timeline resets, only he remembers any of it.
  • Evil Ambitions (on DVD as Satanic Yuppies) has a reporter uncover a Satanic plot to hand the world over to a group of wine-cooler-drinking yuppies. He stops the forces of Hell but Satan simply lets him go, knowing that he'll never be able to write the biggest story of his career.
  • In Gangster Squad, the Squad's actions were not recorded in history and the Chief of Police got all the credit for stopping notorious crime lord Mickey Cohen, so only the Squad's friends and family know what they did.
  • In The Kid Who Would Be King, Morgana's attempts to recover Excalibur result in a time bubble where anyone but the King and those he has knighted is functionally removed from the setting and remains that way until the mooks are defeated. This includes the climax, and the characters realize the world will never know what happened.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Harry Hart has decorated his study with the front pages of various newspapers, all featuring mundane stories about sports results or politics. Each one is from a day when Hart prevented some scheme or plot that would've killed hundreds, if not thousands or millions, of innocent people.
    Harry: Front page news on all these occasions was nonsense. It's the nature of Kingsman that our achievements remain secret.
  • The Legend of 1900 is in essence about one such story: that of a brilliant pianist who's stayed his entire life aboard the ocean liner he was born in. If not for a repaired LP record of the man's music (and the memory of a friend who kept said record), his tale would have literally gone down with the ship forever.
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance tells the story of Senator Ransom Stoddard, who came to the western town of Shinbone as a naive lawyer and got himself robbed and beaten by the titular outlaw menacing the town, of whom the Marshall is too scared to do anything. Ransom goes on to bravely stand up to and defeat said outlaw in a duel, in pushed into running for office on the story of his duel, and wins, becoming that rare combination of a good man and a politician. Only, Ransom didn't kill Liberty Valance. It was the last cowboy in town, Tom Doniphon, who saved Ransom's life - Ransom is a terrible shot. But, as the present-day editor of the Shinbone Star paper says, "this is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Stoddard doesn't take it well.
  • Men in Black II mentions this as one of the downsides of being a MIB: "You ever hear of a guy named James Edwards? He saved 80 people on a subway car tonight, and nobody knows he even exists."
  • General Custer's speech at the end of the second Night at the Museum. "The greatest battle the world will never know."
  • Salt featured this in the ending, where the main character (Salt) saves America, Russia, the Middle East, and probably the rest of the world from nuclear holocaust by defeating the real villain, a Russian double agent in the CIA. The rest of the CIA arrives to see Salt and the Russian fighting, and because of the circumstances leading up to the ending, the CIA assumes Salt is one trying to kill the President and the world. In reality, she is stopping an Evil Plan by killing the Russian double agents, and no one will ever know except for one CIA agent that can never tell anyone.
  • Silence tells the story of Christians persecuted in feudal Japan who proscribe it as an Illegal Religion. At the end of the film, a Dutch trader states that all of Europe, the world, and history will remember the protagonist Fr. Rodrigues as an apostate sellout who abjured God forever and that he died receiving a Buddhist burial. However, Rodrigues apostatized to spare the sufferings of Japanese Christian and he did so believing that God told him to act. He spent all his life hiding his faith to spare further persecutions on hidden Christians who were allowed to practice their faith so long as he served the Japanese government as a stooge. The last scene reveals that he kept a crucifix in his palm, that he still kept his faith privately till the end. The Dutch trader notes that only God can judge Rodrigues for his actions.
  • In Source Code, the main character is sent to find out who destroyed a train, a few minutes before it happens. After many failed attempts (after each, he is sent back to the time a few minutes before it happens), this trope is invoked when he succeeds so well that nobody knew what he did—apparently he created an alternate world.
  • Mel Brooks' adaptation of To Be or Not to Be. An actor impersonates several Nazi officers, including Hitler, and when the whole deception is over, he remarks to himself, "My greatest performance ever...and no one saw it."
    • A similar comment is made by Harrison in Gettysburg, stating that the problem with having an actor be a spy is that there's no audience: if anyone realizes that they're acting, then they have failed to play their role by definition.
  • In Wag the Dog, Hollywood producer Stanley Motss is initially enthusiastic about the fictional war he'll be "producing" just because of the challenge, but as time goes on the fact that he can't tell anyone about it eats at him more and more. Eventually his refusal to keep quiet gets him killed.
  • In Wonder Woman (2017), Diana and her friends break the trench warfare stalemate in WWI, save the world from being bombed with poison gas, and kill Ares to end the war. Diana then disappears from the public eye for a century and her deeds were apparently not recorded in history.
    • This is later brought up in Justice League (2017). Batman comments that he had never heard of Diana until she showed up in modern times again, but he did some research and found some vague references to her exploits in WWI. He then calls her out on disappearing for so long, pointing out if she had continued to be a hero, she could have made a real difference in the world and been the hero everyone looks up to instead of Superman.
  • In The Core, it's stated that, even with the electrical superstorms popping up all over the planet as the magnetic field weakens, the mission to set the earth's core spinning again will be classified. Ultimately defied by Rat, who later spreads files on the mission in honor of those who gave their lives, and to blow the whistle on Project DESTINI, the program that started it all, to all the major news services around the world.
  • The 1980 WWII film The Sea Wolves is about a group of middle-aged reservists from a unit that hadn't seen war in forty years being called up to destroy a German communications post that is bird-dogging Allied shipping for U-boats in the Indian Ocean. Because the communications post is in a boat anchored in a neutral port, the mission has to be kept top secret (hence why middle-aged reservists are called in, so that the whole raid can be claimed to be an act of drunken vacationers rather than an act of war should they be caught), and as such, the reservists go in knowing they will receive no pay, honor or recognition for their service, and will never be able to tell anyone about it afterwards. The film was Based on a True Story, the events of which were declassified thirty-five years after the fact, making it technically an aversion, but most of the Calcutta Light Horse likely died long before anyone outside the unit or the intelligence department that called them up knew that they were more than a social club for ex-soldiers who hadn't fought since the Boer War.

    Literature 
  • When Turtle wins The Westing Game, she never tells any of the other heirs (including her husband) what the answer was, or that it had a winner at all.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • Several times in The Lord of the Rings it is implied that the majority of the peoples populating Middle-earth have forgotten almost everything about the First and Second Ages, including the existence of The One Ring of Power. Even Gandalf is unsure about the details until he spends almost a year in research. This, of course, changes.
    • Upon reading The Silmarillion and History of Middle-earth, it eventually becomes clear that the ultimate victory over Sauron was partially contingent on the activities of two people, the Blue Wizards, who are never mentioned by name nor barely alluded to in the trilogy, but whose impact must have lasted for millennia. (They organized and supported resistance against Sauron in the lands under his control and influence, and thus kept most of Sauron's forces tied up deeper within his domain and well away from the events of the books, preventing him from simply crushing the allied armies through sheer numbers and flooding Mordor with so many troops that the hobbits likely wouldn't have successfully slipped by.)
    • Also, despite the fact that Frodo essentially saved the world, among his fellow hobbits, he is much less famous than Sam, Merry, or Pippin. This is mostly due to the hobbits' remarkable focus on their own culture over all others, so that Merry and Pippin, as the defeaters of Saruman, and Sam, the Mayor, are respected and immortalized while Frodo, who participated only marginally in the battle with Saruman and then retreated to a life of solitude until his departure a few years later, is generally ignored.
  • Ciaphas Cain: Gunner Ferik Jurgen, aide to the main character and often directly responsible for many of his greatest feats, is nevertheless omitted from pretty much all media that deals with the Commissar's life, a fact that irritates Cain to no end.
  • In the Rynn's World Warhammer 40,000 novel, several of these are mentioned in passing, most notably the last actions of a particular artillery crew who died in sending their co-ordinates to other crews, in order to wipe out at least some of the massive Ork horde at their location. The sergeant's last words? "For the glory of Rynn's World, shining gem of the Imperium, second only to Terra itself."
  • Timothy Zahn wrote a pair of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels called "Survivor's Quest" and "Outbound Flight"; "Survivor's Quest" has Luke and Mara looking at the ruin of Outbound Flight and finding survivors, "Outbound Flight" deals with Outbound Flight and the circumstances that led to its crash. They're set several decades apart and were written in that order.
    • From Survivor's Quest we know that the survivor civilization hates the Jedi for having a hand in their situation, and Luke and Mara find a lightsaber and a distinct Chiss weapon. Chiss forces shot down Outbound Flight; thus, the two Jedi assume that this was the site where a Jedi fought invading Chiss and both died. Reading Outbound Flight, we find that this Jedi and that Chiss were working together to save those survivors, knowing that in doing so they were going to die. And no one ever knew. It's a little heartbreaking. Even Luke and Mara, Jedi themselves, never knew.
  • G. K. Chesterton 's Father Brown story "The Sign of the Broken Sword" has Father Brown piece together what really happened in a battle where, according to the official version, "one of the wisest men in the world acted like an idiot for no reason. One of the best men in the world acted like a fiend for no reason." According to Fr. Brown, "First there is what everybody knows; and then there is what I know. Now, what everybody knows is short and plain enough. It is also entirely wrong." Fr. Brown, respecting the will of the participants of the events, chooses to keep his (public) silence about what really happened because in none of the memorials of the event does he see anyone wrongly condemned, only wrongly praised.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jaime Lannister is villainized as the Kingslayer for murdering the king he had sworn to protect, even though everyone knew the king was insane. What they didn't know was that King Aerys was so insane that he had rigged his entire capital to explode if his army was defeated, and Jaime killed him to save the lives of the half-million people who lived in the city. The reason Jaime never told anyone this is (probably) that even though he broke his oath to protect the king, he still has a lot more honor than people give him credit for, and it could be he saw no reason to break his oath to keep the king's secrets. A need to be liked isn't really a part of his character, but he is still too proud to make excuses for his actions. It's also implied that the guilt he feels over all the other things he stood by and watched Aerys do plays a part (ironically nobody besmirches his honor for standing by and watching innocent men be burned alive, strangled to death, etc). In the TV show, Jamie makes it clear that he just doesn't think anyone would believe him.
  • In Sheri S. Tepper's The Fresco, when a miracle is faked to allow the eponymous fresco to be repainted.
  • In Cthulhu Mythos. None other than The Call of Cthulhu, Gustav Johansen manages to avert Cthulhu's awakening by ramming his head with a steamship, so he's stuck in R'yleh once more as he begins to regenerate - saving mankind from global madness. Johansen never tells anyone and only the narrator knows this from his diary.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, Miles Vorkosigan undergoes this, somewhat on purpose. He is basically a highly decorated covert ops agent, while in his public persona he projects a spoiled noble who got a cushy job because of his father's influence. In Memory, to make a point, he puts on his dress uniform and all the medals he's accrued over the course his career, the first time they've been displayed together in one place, and even he is surprised by how many there are. In Gentleman Jole, he mentions that in a few years his career will finally be declassified and he'll be able to tell people what he did while in uniform.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry witnesses Voldemort's resurrection, duels him, and sort of defeats him. In the process, Harry manages to bring home Cedric Diggory's body (killed by Peter Pettigrew on Voldemort's orders). Unfortunately, even though the agent that sent Harry and Cedric to Voldemort is captured, almost no one besides his friends and colleagues believe Harry's story that Voldemort is back. Even Dumbledore is pilloried in both the press and by the Minister for Magic for supporting Harry's version of events. This is eventually resolved when everyone accepts Voldemort is back a year later.
    • Word of God states that Snape was never fully vindicated; while Harry spreads the story of who Snape really was and everything Snape did to save him and the students of Hogwarts, a good portion of the public is skeptical and remain unconvinced.
    • The series offers more poignant examples in the form of Frank Bryce. He took a stand against Voldemort, but no one was there to see it and he died alone. Frank Bryce likewise is Misblamed for murders committed by Voldemort himself and on his death, the townsfolk still believe he had done it.
    • Subverted for Regulus, as Word of God states that his actions gained much attention in the aftermath of the war along with Slughorn's and helped to redeem Slytherin House's reputation.
  • Patrick McLanahan from Dale Brown books experiences both this and Famed In-Story. While he is recognised as a hero for such events as the counterattack against the American Holocaust, there are also many of his world-saving missions that the public will never know about until he's dead if not years after due to being black ops.
  • The very nature of the Oblivion War in The Dresden Files makes all battles the Venatori fight to protect humanity this trope by default. In fact, if any of said battles became known to an outsider, it would automatically become a sound defeat.
  • Star Wars: This is how it is for all of the clone troopers. Non-clones can't tell them apart, many have no idea that they even are individuals (unless they work with them on a regular basis)—for all intents and purposes, they are the same. Which means that any heroism that an individual clone performs will be forgotten in the grand scheme of the entire army. In one novel, The Cestus Deception, a clone named Nate berates a woman who rants at him for his apparent lack of empathy.
    Nate: Men like me protect you.
    Sheeka: From other men like you.
    Nate: No. Men like me don't start the wars. We just die in them. We've always died in them, and we always will. We don't expect any praise for it, no parades. No one knows our names. In fact, by your standards, we have no names at all... We don't have names, and no one will ever know who we are. But we do. We always do.
  • In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, this is the fate of King Eahlstan Fiskerne and his battle with the great red dragon, Shurakai. Beloved as he was, it is only known publicly that the dragon killed him, and that decades later, Prester John came and finally slew the dragon, ascending to the kingship as a result. The League of the Scroll (and the Sithi), however, preserve the true secret of the Fiskerne line: he killed the dragon, taking his death-wound in the process. John took his sword Minneyar, renamed it Bright-Nail, and claimed to be the dragon's killer. This lie festers beneath the plot like an untreated wound and is largely responsible for the Sithi's failure to come to the aid of humanity in its struggle against the Storm King until it's almost too late.
  • The Star Trek: Vanguard series concerns itself with this (focusing on a highly classified Starfleet operation in the Taurus Reach), particularly given that one of its characters, Tim Pennington, is a journalist trying to get the facts made public. One of the books in Star Trek: The Lost Era demonstrates that a century after Project Vanguard the existence of the Scary Dogmatic Aliens at the heart of it all is common knowledge in the Federation, at least on the level of "they were here", but much of what the characters did in the Taurus Reach remains unacknowledged. The Star Trek: Typhon Pact novel Paths of Disharmony features classified records of Project Vanguard as an essential part of its plot, confirming that although some of the events are widely known (the Tholians won't let the memories die, for one thing), much of the true picture is deeply buried beyond the reach of anyone but the highest members of the Federation government and Starfleet Command. The final page of the Vanguard series finale, Storming Heaven, pretty much confirms that this trope is the major theme of the series.
  • A secondary character in Area 7 by Matthew Reilly is a brilliant computer analyst and mathematician, at one point cracking a supposedly uncrackable encryption for the CIA. However, since you can't let your opponent know you've broken his encryption, his highest honor was a medal and a pat on the back.
  • This is the life story of Alex Rider. He saves the world, or at least the country, over and over and over again, and all he gets is everyone thinking that he's a "druggie" because he misses school all the time in order to save their lives.
  • In The Barrow this trope is initially averted as Stjepan makes sure that the family and friends of the people who died in their expedition to the first barrow, all know what happened and how everyone died. However, it is played straight in the end of the book as the expedition to the second barrow ends up costing most of the characters their lives and what happened there will be only known to a few key people who will keep it secret. In fact, a number of brave and honorable knights who died on the expedition will instead be remembered back home as traitors and renegades because they never got the chance to return and clear their names.
  • Jean Valjean's exploits in Les Misérables are epic yet he dies in obscurity. The epilogue is clear that his grave hasn't been visited in a while.
  • The plot of the first half of Permutation City is to create a fully functional simulated reality. They succeed, but nobody will ever know. Once the computer is turned off, the resulting universe is forever separated from the real world, so its inhabitants can never communicate with the original universe. Even worse, because the leader of the operation has questionable sanity and kills himself once the task is complete, everybody else involved thinks he's just delusional and accomplished nothing. For these reasons, nobody knows about the events of the novel's second half, set entirely within the simulated universe, either.
  • It's noted at the end of the first The Mysterious Benedict Society book that the government covered up the children's achievements saving the world. They're disappointed but don't mind too much.
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: When Diana returns to Themiscyra after her adventure, she finds that barely any time has passed there, and nobody has noticed she was gone. As saving Alia in the first place and bringing her to Themiscyra could mean banishment, Diana keeps her adventure to herself. The oracle, who is the only other person on Themiscyra that knows about everything, swears to keep quiet.
  • Worm: The Echidna attack on June 20, 2011. Only those involved are knowledgeable about it, and the entire thing is heavily Classified Information, to the point that the general populace has no clue why such drastic changes happened in the world, and most don’t even know who or what Echidna even is.
  • The Shadow of Kyoshi: In all previous Avatar media (including the book immediately preceding this one), Avatar Kuruk, Kyoshi's predecessor, was dismissed as a lazy screw-up who partied himself to an early grave after doing nothing of significance besides getting his wife captured by a spirit. In Shadow, we find out that Kuruk was a genius innovator planning to spend his reign inventing new bending techniques and maintaining the world harmony that his legendary predecessor, Yangchen, managed to create. Then he found out that Yangchen's peace in the human realm was the result of constantly favoring humans over spirits. By his time, the spirits were rampaging, and would have destroyed whole villages each. Kuruk hunted down and killed the dark spirits one by one, but doing so damaged his own soul, and the only thing that barely helped was partying and alcohol. Since he refused to explain this to anyone, only one person besides his own reincarnation would ever know.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon 5, this happens to the victors of the Shadow War when Earth restricts news about that conflict.
    Marcus Cole: Typical. First time in my life I'm a war hero, and nobody knows about it.
  • In an early episode of Bones, Booth threatens a gangster with his gun, warning him to stay away from Brennan (who had provoked him to the point of putting a price on her head). Booth is subsequently late to a funeral, which she berates him for...but he never tells her what made him late.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander chooses not to tell anyone about his role in saving the day in "The Zeppo." Namely, while the rest of the cast is in a battle to save the universe with each character getting a high drama moment, Xander escapes from a gang of reanimated corpses, roots gets rooted by Faith, then works out the gang had built a bomb and plan to blow up the school. For the Evulz. As the rest of the cast was fighting in the school to stop the Hellmouth from opening, the bomb would have killed them and allowed the Hellmouth to stay open. Near the end of the same episode, the other characters (unwittingly) lampshade the fact that they never got to see Xander kill most of the gang and make the leader stop the bomb with the line "The world will never know how close it came to ending last night".
    • "I'm oddly full for some reason." Oz was going out of control as a werewolf and was placed in the school basement, where he eats the gang leader after Xander makes him switch off the bomb.
    • Perfect capper to this episode; all throughout the episode, Cordelia has been making snide comments to Xander about how useless and redundant he is, which has affected his confidence. In the end, she sneers another one at him... only this time, he just smirks back and walks away. Cordelia, flustered, is reduced to yelling "What? What?!" at his back. He doesn't answer, realizing that he is, in fact, Made of Win and doesn't need anyone's validation to be sure of it.
    • Also virtually every slayer that ever lived. Very few people know they exist, they routinely put their lives on the line to save people and are almost certainly going to die very young and very messily. At one point, Buffy is trying to research how previous slayers died (in order to avert it herself) and discovers that even the secret records kept by their Watchers are pretty sparse on the details of how most of them met their end. She brings it up with Giles, who reasons that, if they were anything like him, the Watchers simply found it ''too painful'' to record the details of the how the slayer died, so the stories go mostly untold.
  • Cousin Skeeter accidentally warps his friends on a space-faring adventure, thwarts a stereotypical bug queen overlord, and even plants a mole so that her 50,000,000-year-old plot for world domination will be thwarted in the long run. Then his friends get deneuralized by Kay. IN GOLF PANTS. He rolled a natural 20 on dodge, the others call him stupid.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Painless", a social pariah stares down a Mad Bomber and survives. Technically, his story is told — but by the guy who steals it for his own, passing himself off as the hero while the pariah is hospitalized. The real events of that day are left untold until the UnSub finally snaps.
  • The entirety of Doctor Who is arguably a Greatest Story Never Told. With the exception of Jon Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor (most of which was spent with him stranded on Earth) the Doctor rarely, if ever, sticks around after saving the world/galaxy/universe, with only a handful of survivors to know that he even exists, let alone about his involvement. On the other hand, he has justified this as far as "The Power of the Daleks" — he just doesn't want to get stuck with the bill.
    • "The Unquiet Dead": Rose laments that no one but her, the Doctor and Charles Dickens will know that servant girl Gwyneth saved the world.
    • A touching version of this trope appears in "Father's Day". Pete Tyler sacrifices his life to save the world — but nobody will ever know except for the one person who matters most; his daughter.
    • A more specific example is the Series 3 finale episodes: During the Year That Never Was, Martha Jones became known worldwide as she traveled the Earth as part of her plan to defeat the Master. But because the plan involved the year, well, never being, the only people who know what happened were those on the Valiant.
    • Inverted in the Series 4 finale, "Journey's End". Donna Noble saves the damn universe and isn't allowed to remember it or ANY of her travels with the Doctor else she'll die — although everyone else knows, including a few alien civilizations. Some viewers still haven't finished spewing vulgarities at Russell T. Davies for it.
    • As a matter of fact, a track on the Series 4 OST is named "The Greatest Story Never Told", which is used so extensively throughout Series 3 and 4 (from at least "Gridlock", through "The Fires of Pompeii" to at least River Song's magnificent death) that it is hard to resist the conclusion that RTD knew exactly which trope's chain he was yanking.
    • Actually pointed out and then averted at the end of "The Next Doctor", where the Doctor saves the day from the Cybermen, and Jackson calls out to the entire crowd on the streets about what the Doctor does, how he never gets any credit for saving the world time and time again and then gets the crowd to clap and cheer for him. The Doctor can't help but show a small grin.
    • This trope found frustrating new heights in Series 5, as the Doctor gradually discovers that the cracks in time have erased Donna's sacrifice and the Cybermen attack on Victorian London from history, making these instead The Greatest Stories That Never Actually Happened, leaving the Doctor alone with the painful memories. And then he presses the Reset Button, and that's a problem no longer.
    • The Doctor winds up personally enforcing this trope when he realized how dangerous his notoriety as The Dreaded is for him and the people around him — he fakes his death and goes around erasing himself from the records of history. Eventually even the Daleks get their memories of him wiped — which, unsurprisingly, was a state of affairs that did not last.
  • Bates from Downton Abbey tries constantly to be this, but is increasingly thwarted by Lord Grantham and the rest of the household staff's affection and concern for him. Anna, in particular, is very good at weaseling the (always very noble) truth from Bates about his past, especially once they become a couple. It takes nearly the entire first season of the show for the characters and the audience to find out where Bates lived before coming to Downton, and still longer for them to find out why such an evidently kind and honorable man would have spent time in prison for theft. Turns out he was covering for his Jerkass wife, who had actually stolen the silver.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: Isaiah Bradley was a Korean War veteran who was given the Super Soldier serum and had many adventures saving lives and even once defeated the Winter Soldier in a fight. Because the government didn't want the world to know about a Black Captain America, he was betrayed, imprisoned, and experimented on for over 30 years. When he managed to escape, he was embittered to learn he had not been recorded in history but decided to live as a civilian instead of fight it. In the episode "One World, One People", Sam Wilson manages to get Bradley an exhibit in the Smithsonian that tells his story, cheering him up.
  • Fame: The TV Series had an episode entitled "The Crimson Blade" where the main character of a swashbuckling play inspires the students to fight back against an oppressive substitute principal. Everyone assumes the Blade is Jesse, the popular student playing the role in the play. It's actually the unlikable Miltie, and in the end, only Jesse and Miltie know the truth.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • There's a healthy dose of this in that Ned kept the greatest secret in Westeros. Ned brings a baby boy home from the war, names him Jon, and tells everyone that Jon is his illegitimate son when, in reality, Jon is Ned's nephew as Jon is the son of Ned's sister Lyanna Stark and Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Ned died convincing the whole world that he fathered an illegitimate son and had broken his marital vows when, in actuality, this was a cover story Ned told to save his nephew (Jon), the only child of his beloved sister, from the wrath of the Baratheon regime. Ned spent the rest of his life protecting Jon, raising and loving him as his own son alongside his lawful children, and honoring his sister's Dying Wish. This means Ned never dishonored his wife; Jon is the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms while his illegitimate status is the very thing that saved his life; and no one, not even Jon himself has the slightest idea about any of this, except Jon's adoptive brother and cousin Bran and now his best friend Sam — as of the Season 7 finale.
    • As of Season 7, it's revealed that Jon is a legitimate heir to the Iron Throne since Rhaegar annulled his marriage with Elia Martell and secretly married Lyanna Stark. Jon's birth name is Aegon Targaryen, given to him by his mother Lyanna. Ned names him 'Jon' to protect him from the fatal consequences from the Baratheon regime as King Robert Baratheon wanted to kill anyone with Targaryen blood.
    • When The Cavalry reaps all the credit for rescuing King's Landing, Tyrion (who was pivotal in holding off the attackers until they arrived) is left feeling unappreciated until Varys points out that some men will never forget.
    • Jaime Lannister never told anyone (except Brienne) that the real reason he killed his king was to prevent said king from incinerating the entire city and killing half a million people out of spite.
    • In the final episode, a book is written chronicling the events of the series. To Tyrion's chagrin, he's not mentioned in it despite his important role in events.
  • Kamen Rider Build ends with Sento merging his universe with a universe where Evolt never existed and did all the horrible things he did. As a result, Japan is at peace and everyone is living much happier lives. However, Sento and Ryuga are both anomalies since their existences are the things that happened in the old world (namely, Sento being an existing person who had their memory wiped and face changed by Evolt, and Ryuga having Evolt's DNA). Thus, even though they managed to carry over, they technically shouldn't exist in the new world, meaning that none of their friends remember who they are, and there are already people living the lives they could have in the new world. However, the last scene of the series is Sento deciding to avert this by recording a 49-episode script of his adventures with the world.
  • Beautifully used in Lost for scrappies Nikki and Paulo. It was revealed in Exposé that they were in fact the first to find an important Dharma Initiative station and find that the Others are real after overhearing Ben and Juliet. But by the end of the episode they were killed off.
  • Merlin is built on the trope. Magic is punishable by death, and so to everyone except the court physician, Merlin is Arthur's clumsy, moronic servant who can't wield a sword and mainly serves as the Plucky Comic Relief and Butt-Monkey of the team. Behind the scenes, Merlin defeats dragons, two immortal armies, and countless magical foes. Also deconstructed to a point, as Merlin has dealt with the emotional baggage that being treated as a useless coward while you save everyone's skins.
    Merlin: I just want Arthur to trust me, and to see me for who I really am. Everything I do is for him, and he still thinks I'm an idiot.
  • M.I. High:
    • The high school spies constantly save the country, and sometimes the world, but nobody knows because they cannot let the opposition know that there are teenage spies in MI Nine.
  • Early episodes of NCIS played with this, as they would be referred to at best as 'a federal agency' when their actions made the news if their contributions were mentioned at all. Other times, other law enforcement members or agencies would take all the credit entirely, even if the team did all the actual work. This has fallen by the wayside as the show's gone on, though there are still a couple of occasions where civilians don't recognize the name.
    Halloween Party Guest: Nice costumes, but you spelled CSI wrong.
    • Gibbs does this to a serial killer in one episode. The killer killed multiple people in bizarre ways so when caught the trial would become a media sensation. Gibbs has enough of the case classified secret for (flimsy) national security reasons that the killer is barely mentioned on TV.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • "The Voyage Home" revolved around a trio of astronauts traveling back to Earth from Mars. Earlier, two of the astronauts had been replaced by aliens, leaving just the one human who eventually learns about the impostor. Forced to choose between making it back to Earth and the fame and glory he would receive and preventing the alien species from spreading to Earth, the final astronaut finally decides to be a hero and sabotages the re-entry procedure causing the ship to burn up, with Ground Control believing it to be a disastrous malfunction. The ending narration: "The true measure of a hero is when a man lays down his life with the knowledge that those he saves... will never know." However, the episode "The Voice of Reason" reveals the ship's black box was recovered and recordings of the incident are played for a government committee.
    • Although not referenced as blatantly by the narrator, "Feasibility Study" ends similarly, with an entire suburban community of alien abductees choosing to expose themselves to a deadly virus, so they'll all die and their abductors will conclude that humans can't survive on their planet, hence are unsuitable as slaves. The closing scenes show the abductees all holding hands in death, while baffled people back on Earth stare anxiously at the barren gap where the stolen neighborhood used to be, mercifully ignorant of how they've been spared en masse enslavement.
    • In "Better Luck Next Time", two detectives are used as pawns by two men possessed by evil Body Surfing aliens. After tricking one detective into shooting the other, the aliens confess that they have been murdering and playing games to trick people into killing each other for centuries. To stop them, the detectives shoot the aliens' host bodies, then the surviving one shoots herself. Since they are in a big empty warehouse, the aliens are unable to find new host bodies before they disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere. Without any evidence, when their bodies are found, no one will know that they stopped two mass murderers and everyone will likely think the detectives went mad, killed two people, then themselves.
  • Person of Interest has "Prisoner's Dilemma", an episode with an incredibly small B-plot in which Detective Fusco (usually the series Butt-Monkey) has to protect the POI while the others are trying to get John Reese out of jail. Even we aren't sure what happened, as it's told with just bits and pieces, but it includes Fusco going Guns Akimbo with Armenian gangsters and getting a Smooch of Victory from supermodel Karolína Kurková (As Herself)!
    • Then there's the antepenultimate episode, which reveals that three numbers from past episodes were brought together by the Machine to do the same thing Reese and Finch have been doing, only in DC. Which raises the further possibility of other teams...
  • Power Rangers:
    • Bulk and Skull in "When is a Ranger Not a Ranger?". Unfortunately the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Monster of the Week erases memories, so no one knows what happened.
    • They get another in Power Rangers Zeo when the two are warped to an alien planet controlled by the Big Bad and help start a successful rebellion. On the planet, they're deemed heroes. But as usual, once they get back to Earth, no one believes them.
  • In the Scrubs episode "Their Story", Ted secretly gives the nurses the means to get the pay increase they deserve from Kelso. He doesn't care that they don't know it was him.
    Kelso: Ted! Did you have something to do with this?
    Ted: Of course, not sir, I don't have the guts.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "In The Pale Moonlight" has the framing device of Benjamin Sisko narrating to his personal log how he tricked Romulans to join the Federation in the war against the Dominion, and how he crossed more than one personal Moral Event Horizon in the process. He summarizes at the end: "I lied, I cheated, I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men, I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all, I think I can live with it". Once he's finished describing everything that happened, he calmly instructs the computer to erase the entire log. Nobody can know the truth or any good that came from these actions will be undone.
  • Star Trek: Voyager has "Course:Oblivion" which depicts the adventures of a "fake" (copied) Voyager. They all are destroyed moments before being found by real Voyager, which never finds out what happened. Tear Jerker and Shoot the Shaggy Dog in the same Package.
    • "Before and After" and "Year of Hell" feature two separate resets of the same series of events. The first is remembered by only a single crew member, who has to keep most of it to herself to avoid contaminating the timeline, and the later incident is forgotten entirely.
  • On The West Wing, Vice-President Hoynes, while not a bad guy, occupies a significantly different spot on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism than most of the characters, rarely doing anything that's not at least partly for his own political gain, and is constantly resentful of having to live in the president's shadow (among other things, he was originally the favorite for the party's nomination). In one episode, though ("Stirred"), he stops sponsoring an Internet education bill that's been his pet project for years, because the Republican-controlled Congress doesn't want to pass such a popular bill with the Democratic VP's name attached to it while he and the president are running for reelection.
    • Also notable because most of the White House senior staff spend the episode considering whether or not they want to replace Hoynes on the ticket, and it's revealed near the end of the episode that Hoynes was able to guess what they were doing.
    • Another example has Toby realizing a Republican senator would be interested in sponsoring a bill to reform Social Security so it won't go bankrupt. He does all the legwork to get a Democrat who's willing to also co-sponsor, and (after having to write up a letter of resignation because one of his earlier attempts embarrassed the White House) the staff discover that both senators won't do it unless they can say they approached each other. Toby, President Bartlet, and the White House get no credit at all.
    • Invoked in "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail", where an FBI agent (played by a guy who'd play another G-Man a few years later) says in response to accusing the wrong people of being Russian spies that the FBI's failures are public while their successes are private, and they don't take a curtain call even with a big win.

    Roleplay 
  • As far as the public in Embers in the Dusk knows, Seamus Lin's death came from natural (under the circumstances) causes. The Trust can't afford drawing attention by revealing to everyone that the Last Saint actually healed Primarch Guilliman at the cost of his own life.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventure I5 Lost Tomb of Martek. At the end of the adventure, the title wizard tells the PCs that:
    Martek: Those people that cast you into this desert land will no longer remember you. You are once again free to travel the face of this world as you want. All to whom you tell this tale will believe it to be but a fable. Only you shall know the truth of what you have seen.
  • Exalted: The Lunars' sacrifice during the Balorian Crusade. Creation knows that the Scarlet Empress Fantastic Nuke'd The Fair Folk, but they don't know who bought time for her to do that. Even worse, the Lunars remain anathema in the Scarlet Empress' reign.
    • Though this should be taken with a grain of salt. While there is no question that the Scarlet Empress saved Creation, there are several books that "reveal" that the only reason she succeeded was that some other group helped her. So far the Lunars, Sidereals, and Fair Folk themselves have all taken credit for her victory, which really brings into question whether any of them actually are responsible for what happened, or whether they just tell themselves that they are.
    • This is inevitable for the Sidereals. It's not that no one knows their deed; it's that there's a strong magic that removes them from the public memory. It's a necessity, really.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has the Rat Catchers. They brave the medieval sewers of the cities of the Empire with nothing more than a club and a small (but vicious) dog to kill Skaven, and they do it all for minimum wage. Oh, and they're not even allowed to tell anybody what they really do because the Empire would collapse if word got out that a whole empire of evil ratmen was living right under their feet. And you thought your job was thankless.

    Visual Novels 
  • Zigzagged with the escape from the avalanche in Double Homework. While the news media report that the protagonist saved six people from the avalanche, a number of people are inclined to believe that he caused it, just like the first one. And it was indeed a man-made event.
  • Fate/stay night mentions this in the conclusion to the Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel routes. In the first, he can never reveal the existence of his Reality Marble, and thus his defeat of Archer and Gilgamesh, for fear of receiving a Sealing Designation. In the second, Rin only tells the Association that Shirou was a normal human who died during the War, rather than revealing his role and sacrifices.
  • Muv-Luv Alternative: Second Lieutenant Takeru Shirogane's achievements and central role in completing Alternative IV, and even his existence, will never be revealed to the rest of the world, due to him ceasing to exist and consequently getting wiped from the memories of everyone except Kasumi and Yuuko, who had vowed to take the secret of his existence, and therefore that of parallel worlds, to the grave. With all of his comrades dead, no one else will ever know that a certain bratty hero saved the world. No one.

    Webcomics 
  • One-Punch Man: Uses this to parody the superhero genre. Saitama (One punch man) never gets the recognition he deserves for his heroism. At first, it was because he wasn't advertised since he wasn't an official hero, but even after he becomes one and saves thousands of people from disasters they still respond with "who are you?" or outright blame him for their problems after he saves them.
  • In the "A Girl And Her Blob" arc of The Wotch, Mingmei and Myrrh have A Day in the Limelight as a massive battle goes on elsewhere... we get bits and pieces of what's going on there as Ming and Myrrh pass through and the plots intersect.
    • At the end, the writer actually credits Justice League's "The Greatest Story Never Told" for inspiration. The next arc has Jason reading a Booster Gold comic book if you look closely.
  • This strip of Questionable Content is a prime example. It seems to be all in his head, until Tortura shows up again and Steve starts getting noticeably more badass.
  • It is implied in Tales of the Questor that Quentyn's victory in "Hunter of Shadows" is the victim of a governmental coverup.
  • One of the points of tension that leads to the break up of the older "Order of the Scribble" adventuring party in the backstory of The Order of the Stick is the fact that their struggle to contain the Snarl and the heroic sacrifice of their friend, Kraagor, must be kept secret.
  • 8-Bit Theater: When White Mage kills Chaos, no-one will give her the credit. Since White Mage refuses to let the Light Warriors be recognized as heroes, she lets the Dark Warriors take it, as they're the next best option. She does eventually apologize to Red Mage for doing so and admits to Thief that despite all the wanton destruction and other sociopathic behavior that the Light Warriors' actions did ultimately lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy.
  • This xkcd strip deconstructs it by showing that the guy whose story is "never told" can't help but feel immense disappointment as a result.

    Web Original 
  • For all their goofiness, stupidity, and raging insanity, at the very end of Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles the Blood Gulch soldiers actually do manage to finally defeat their Omnicidal Maniac nemesis, Omega, and prevent him from gaining control of an entire army of Aliens (heavy implied in the sequel series to be The Covenant) with which he could have brought great destruction to the galaxy. And no one will ever know or care about it. Hell, more than half of the Blood Gulch soldiers themselves don't even realize the implications of their final act.
    • Happens once more in the Singularity (seventeenth) season in that, while they realize they saved the entire universe/time itself from a very haughty-yet-dangerous mechanical being who thinks its God, no one but them will know they truly did such a thing, not even the Cosmic Powers themselves.
  • Played with by College Humor. Poor, poor Gary...
  • One of SF Debris' reviews of Star Trek: Enterprise makes this a Discussed Trope: whether or not using a Negative Space Wedgie as a result of the Temporal Cold War and the Enterprise crew's Heroic Sacrifice to shut it down making them Ret-Gone (essentially turning the whole series into In-Universe Canon Discontinuity and this, with a good dose of Tear Jerker as well) would have been a good way for the series to end rather than the somewhat disappointing use of seeing the last adventure of the Enterprise through a Holosuite simulation that William Riker plays (and becomes an extra of) many years in the future.
  • Critical Role: Unlike Vox Machina before them, the Might Nein (the adventuring party of Campaign 2) never really receive widespread fame or recognition for their achievements, though they do receive the recognition and thanks of some incredibly powerful and prominent people, so it’s not completely untold. Still, their Final Battle had them save the world from a would-be-god in control of a sanity-defying living city from the astral plane, with the world never even having known it needed saving to begin with, which does not go un-Lampshaded.

    Western Animation 
  • In the premiere episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Cavin stops Duke Igthorn with the help of the Gummis. However, since he can't tell anyone about the Gummis' existence, he has to claim Igthorn's plan fell apart on its own.
  • In the Ben 10: Omniverse episode "So Long, And Thanks For All The Smoothies", the universe is destroyed. Ben uses Alien X to restore it (albeit imperfectly), but nobody remembers this, and anyone Ben tells the story to finds it more likely that he's just hallucinating until several dozen episodes later, when he's put on trial for having committed the act... with the episode ending on everyone still believing he didn't do it, at least on purpose.
  • The kids in Code Lyoko risk their lives saving the world from XANA all the time, but thanks to frequent returns to the past, no one remembers it but themselves.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door, "Training": Cadets Tommy, Sonia, and Lee are left behind at the KND Arctic base by regular agents as they fly off to the moonbase. Turns out to be a decoy by the Big Bad to steal the "Codemodule" stored at the Arctic base. After they wash out the Big Bad and his minions, Sonia says when the regular agents return, "Oh, it was just a simulation" (they were supposed to be doing simulation training).
  • Futurama did this many times:
    • In "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" Fry, the only person on Earth not affected by the flying brains is the only one who remembers them after he defeats them. When he saves the universe a second time in "The Why of Fry," the Nibblonians erase his memory of both incidents, although they do give him a flower for Leela. A smaller-scale example occurs in "Time Keeps on Slippin'": due to temporal shifts Fry finds himself married to Leela: neither of them has any memory of the really nifty thing he did to win her love. He finds out just before the evidence of his act is destroyed.
      Narrator (actually Nibbler): Only Fry remembered what had happened. And nobody listened to him or cared what he had to say.
    • The movies eventually bring to light most of what happened, except for the part about Fry's message to Leela.
    • Fry's own life is this. In the 20th century, he was an underachieving, overworked bullied kid who one day mysteriously vanished, and nobody who was alive and knew him ever learned, or could learn what happened to him. Later episodes such as "Jurassic Bark", "Game of Tones" and "The Luck of the Fryish" deal with how his family reacted to his disappearance in many ways.
    • In "The Inhuman Torch," perennial Glory Hound Bender selflessly saves the entire world and becomes "the greatest hero in Earth's history"...but no one knows except Fry, and the circumstances are so bizarre that no one will ever believe either of them. Fry agrees not to even try to tell anyone what happened, since doing so will only serve to further implicate Bender for a series of crimes he didn't commit.
  • The Christmas Episode of Hey Arnold! ends with Helga giving up a pair of boots she desperately wanted in order to get information that will lead to reuniting Mr. Hyunh with his long lost daughter. When the two are reunited, Helga watches, standing alone out in the snow. Helga gets no credit, never tells anyone what she did, and walks away knowing that she gave them a merry Christmas.
  • Named for an episode of Justice League Unlimited, where glory-grabbing newbie hero Booster Gold saves the world from a man turned into a living black hole while everyone else is off saving the world from something else (specifically, from a powerful sorcerer named Mordru). Afterwards, Batman warns that he will have a long talk with him for not following orders. Between this and Booster's main series, he really likes this trope. It's no accident he's called, "The Greatest Hero History Will Never Know." At least he gets the girl in the end, who is the one person who actually knows what he has done... not to mention a Hot Scientist. He also got out of the subversion of Hero Insurance by the other Leaguers.
  • Another example featuring the Trope Namer in the Justice League Action episode "Time Out". After chiding Booster Gold for being lazy and incompetent, Batman ends up trapped in a temporal anomaly with him, where he learns that Booster is actually a pretty effective time hero. In the climax of the episode, Booster has to send Batman back to before the anomaly started, so he can have enough power to defeat the time creature that was causing it. Booster ends up being the only one to remember what happened and Batman forgets his newfound respect for him.
  • Kim Possible:
    • Ron's heroism in "Exchange" has to be kept secret to protect the secrecy of the ninja school he saved. Unlike most other instances, this is actually followed up on. In "Gorilla Fist", Kim spends much of the episode confused about a major character from that episode, wondering why Ron won't explain how they met or why that girl considers Ron to be a great hero.
    • Also from "A Sitch in Time" where Ron saves Kim by using his Mystical Monkey Kung Fu, throwing Drakken across the room just by grabbing his ankle - the same muscle-enhanced Drakken who had just defeated Kim and Monique with ease. The catch is that the time-travel device was destroyed, leading everything that happened to be written out of existence. He gets to repeat the "use Monkey powers to save Kim" act in the Grand Finale, though.
  • One episode of The Life and Times of Juniper Lee had June's littler brother, Ray Ray, suddenly become the Te Xuan Ze due to time wraiths rewriting history so that June never existed. Ray Ray manages to find the cause of the problem and save June, but in doing so erases all knowledge of the events save for his own. June doesn't believe him when he tries to tell her, writing it off as a dream he was having. Ray Ray starts to doubt too... least till he sees a photograph their older brother, Dennis, took of him in the alternate timeline.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In "Ladybug", Lila has successfully managed to frame Marinette for cheating on a test, stealing an alleged family heirloom from her, and pushing her down the stairs, resulting in the latter's expulsion from school. Alya tries to prove Marinette's innocence but fails to find any clues because Lila covered her tracks extremely well. The following day, Lila confesses that she lied and Marinette is re-admitted to school. As far as everyone knows, Lila's conscience kicked in and made her do the right thing. The truth is that Adrien gave Lila an ultimatum: either she fixes this mess of he'll cut all ties with her.
  • Occurs in Ōban Star-Racers. When everything's been said and done, the surviving human protagonists are forced to keep their adventures in the Great Race of Oban a secret by a Government Conspiracy, and return to their normal lives.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016): In "Blundercup", a boy with a body of living butter manages to swap bodies with Buttercup, then disposes of her by melting her butter body and letting it flow down the drain so that he can live her life. Buttercup spends several hours learning how to control and reform her body, then master her body's powers. She then returns and manages to defeat the boy and get her body back. However, it turns out Blossom and Bubbles didn't even notice the body swap and don't believe her when she talks about her ordeal, thinking she's just making excuses about why she didn't make dinner.
  • In Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King, for once Shaggy and Scooby save the day without any help from the others and are pretty much heroes - only to have the Goblin King erase everyone's memories.
  • Also, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. After Mystery Incorporated destroys the evil alien that's been controlling everyone, the world recreates itself with only Mystery Incorporated and the new Mr. E remembering what happened. They are so out of place in this new world that they head across the country, solving every mystery they come across along the way.
  • The Simpsons:
  • On Spider-Man: The Animated Series, attorney Matt Murdock was hired to defend Peter Parker when the latter was framed by Richard Fisk. The source of Murdock's hiring was not revealed to Parker nor the viewer until the end of the two-parter when the viewer discovers that it was Parker's often antagonistic boss J. Jonah Jameson who had hired Murdock to defend one of his better photographers... And demanded Murdock tell nobody.
  • Star Wars Resistance: In "The Triple Dark", Kaz helps stop a pirate attack on the Colossus by broadcasting an earsplitting feedback loop over their communications channel, with BB-8 the only other witness. The station's defenders, the Aces, don't know what happened, and when Kaz tries to tell his boss what happened, Yeager doesn't believe him.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: In "New Kids In Town", a future version of Brainiac travels through time to kill the future Superman, Clark Kent, when he's still a teenager, and the Legion of Superheroes goes after him. After Brainiac is beaten by Clark, Saturn Girl erases everybody's memories, making them think that the damage caused by Brainiac's attack was caused by a tornado that passed through Smallville.
  • The only people in Wakfu to ever know Nox as anything other than a power-motivated Evil Overlord are Alibert, Grougaloragran, and Yugo. Only the last one cares.
  • What If...? (2021): In the Season Finale of season 1, "What If... The Watcher Broke His Oath?", after the newly formed Guardians of the Multiverse stopped Infinity Ultron from destorying the Multiverse, Uatu tells them that nobody in their individual universes will ever know about before returning them to the exact moment they left.

    Real Life 
  • In recounting the history of the Battle of the Bulge (during World War 2), one historian says with regret that it proved to be impossible to track down all the stories of heroism during the early phases of the battle, as most of the records were lost in the confusion. He describes one such action, in particular, with the following words:
    A platoon of engineers appears in one terse sentence of a German commander's report. They have fought bravely, says the foe, and forced him to waste a couple of hours in deployment and maneuver. In this brief emergence from the fog of war, the engineer platoon makes its bid for recognition in history. That is all.
  • The 1925 serum run to Nome, Alaska was run by some 150 dogs and 20 mushers, and the run saved the city of Nome from an epidemic. Now, the only one at all known was the lead dog of the last leg, Balto; this is regardless of the fact that Togo led the run on the longest leg, almost twice as long as the next longest, and also the most dangerous.
  • Averted now, but for years and years after World War II, Alan Turing and the rest of Bletchley Park weren't allowed to tell anyone about what they had done - namely working on deciphering intercepted messages which had been encrypted using Enigma. This meant they were despised as cowards for not fighting rather than recognized as just as vital to the war effort as the soldiers. Nowadays, fortunately, the site in Buckinghamshire has been turned into a museum so that visitors can learn about what went on there.
    • This was reasonable, as the techniques developed at Bletchley remained useful for a long time after the war. In fact, the Allies allowed Enigma-based encryption technology to be sold in the developing world just because they knew how to crack the codes.
    • What makes this worse is Alan Turing's conviction for buggery, sentencing to chemical castration, and eventual suicide. One wonders if had his work been known, he might have been given some clemency and survived. Thankfully, Turing has finally gotten his due and received a royal pardon for his "crime". At least now he's receiving the recognition he rightfully deserves.
    • Ironically, few people outside Poland realize that the task undertaken in Bletchley Park would've been much harder without the contribution of Polish cryptographers stationed in Kabaty (currently the southernmost part of Warsaw) before the war. Their role in decoding the Enigma is known mostly to historians specializing in WWII history, although they've been gaining recognition in recent years.
  • For about 10 years, the story of Russian Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was this. In 1983 -during an extremely tense period in the Cold War, Petrov's new system for detecting a nuclear weapons launch at Russia incorrectly showed a missile being fired by the US and heading toward Russia. Petrov correctly believed that it was a system glitch, but the story remained buried and untold to the Russian public until the '90s and didn't become widely known in the US until 2006.note 
  • "The Greatest Game Nobody Ever Saw", an intrasquad scrimmage played by the Dream Team in 1992.
  • Terence S. Kirk was a Japanese POW in WWII. Now, this is a very undesirable position on its own, but what he did, with the help of a handful of collaborators, was secretly make an improvised camera and document what happened, so that it could be used in court about war crimes. Once he got out, he showed it to the authorities, who then gave him a gag order not to discuss what happened, which he reluctantly signed. He then complied with the gag order for many years, but later defied it and published the pictures and his memoir. You can read about it in the book The Secret Camera.
  • Downplayed with the Millennium Bug, or Y2K: On account of the media blowing the issue out of proportion, when January 1st rolled around and nothing happened most people believe that Y2K was never an issue in the first place. The truth is that nothing happened because computer scientists and engineers fixed everything before they could go wrong, and while admittedly the world was not going to end either way there was likely going to be major inconvenience for a few weeks if no action was taken. Unfortunately, people outside the computer industry tend not to know of the effort put in.


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