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I am writing a story where a fantasy nation's military feature prominently, but I want the way that this military works to be at least somewhat realistic.
I have a certain battle scenario and I want to know what the likely rewards for those involved would be.

The scenario is a sea battle in which a small, lone vessel (say the size of a PT Boat) manages to single-handedly (without any fleet or air assistance) take out an enemy Heavy Cruiser.

What reward would Germany (the country in my story is heavily influenced by them military wise) in the WW1-WW2 era have awarded the crew of the small vessel. (So i have some historical reference points)

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  • $\begingroup$ probably declare as war hero, reward as a sir, don, or other knight titles, reward with land, or big money ? $\endgroup$
    – Li Jun
    Mar 22, 2020 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ what the likely rewards for those involved would be - staying alive. If they weren't to manage the feat, the cruiser would have sent them into the Davy Jones' Locker - sorta self defense, see? Anything else is secondary in importance. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2020 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ A little research goes a long way here. Why don't you take a look at actual historical records and see what comes up? $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Mar 22, 2020 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ The highest award in the Confederate army was to be mentioned in dispatches AFAIK. Rewards vary a lot. Incidentally heavy cruisers would be very hard to sink, even with torpedoes - it can take multiple hits - they're not called "heavy" for nothing. $\endgroup$ Mar 22, 2020 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ I think a lot is going to depend on the culture and the moral-ethical outlook of this fantasy nation. It's certainly realistic to award plunder, slaves, and lands to the victors. If by "take out" you mean board and seize, perhaps the small boat's captain & crew will be given command & rank aboard the seized and reflagged ship. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Mar 22, 2020 at 16:51

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The highest they have.

In the United States for individuals that is the Medal of Honor. Here is an example of what you are talking about as far as accomplishments by one ship: submarine commander Lucky Fluckey

On Jan. 25, 1945, Fluckey embarked on what Navy officials, seldom given to hyperbole, called “virtually a suicide mission – a naval epic.”

In “an exceptional feat of brilliant deduction and bold tracking,” in the words of his Medal of Honor citation, Fluckey found more than 30 Japanese vessels lurking in a concealed harbor protected by mines and rocky shoals.

Evading a cordon of armed escort boats, the Barb slipped into the harbor on a moonless, cloudy night and scored eight direct torpedo hits on six large ships. One of them was an ammunition vessel, which exploded and caused “inestimable damage by the resultant flying shells and other pyrotechnics,” according to the Medal of Honor citation.

For groups (ships as a whole) I think it is the Presidential Unit Citation. Wikipedia is sort of confusing about these team medals but if this was the one given to the U.S.S. Johnston for its action in Leyte Gulf it has to be the top because that is as heroic as it gets.

In your scenario there would likely be a medal of honor for the commander (and possibly other individuals who performed exceptionally heroic acts) and one for the ship and crew as a whole.

There could of course be additional honors bestowed by other individuals and organizations. For example the home town of the commander might name the high school after him and offer him the keys to the city.

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A comment but it is kind of an answer and it kept getting longer.

This is essentially up to you. Rewards would be based on actual actions and the rules for the specific rewards.

Only commanding officers get rewarded directly for the result because it usually results from their decisions. Most countries have a reward set for meritorious service. It usually resembles becoming knighted and inducted into a knightly order. Soviet Union for example had Hero of the Soviet Union and it had lots of special perks.

High profile engagements might get a special commemorative medal for everyone involved.

In case of a navy, there might be a cash reward or some special perk such as vacation time based on the estimated value of the captured vessel. This was relevant during the age of sail and your navy might have kept it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Amusingly, while the USN didn't have a prize bounty for capturing ships in WW2 they did have a standing reward for recovering pilots: ice cream. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Mar 22, 2020 at 20:38
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Since it is the Navy; it is realistic to have a ship named after them

I'll offer you three examples.

US Navy: Navy helicopter pilot Clyde Lassen (who earned the Medal of Honor for an overland combat search and rescue mission in Viet Nam) had a destroyer named after him.

Italian Navy: Frogman Luigi Durand de la Penne was part of a daring raid on Alexandria in 1941. The Italian navy named a destroyer after him. (When I was in the Med in the 90's we were in the same NATO flotilla for a while).

US Navy: Doris Miller, a sailor whose heroic exploits happened during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, has just had CVN-81 named for him.

Some other navies do the same thing. I think the closest parallel to your scenario is the Italian ship de La Penne.

(Over 30 years ago I served in the USS Caron, DD-970, which was named for a hospital corpsman whose heroism (Medal of Honor) was part of the heritage of that ship).

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  • $\begingroup$ What kind of heroics give you a nuclear carrier? Up till now heroic sailors were given destroyers. Carriers were either presidents or old, famous battles. $\endgroup$
    – Archelaos
    Nov 18, 2021 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Archelaos Politics is how ships get named. Admiral Rickover observed years ago, as they began naming submarines after cities and states (rather than fish) words to the effect of: "The reason they no longer name submarines after fish is that fish don't vote for senators and congressmen" Carriers went from being named for battles to being named for presidents (and in one case a starship?) so why not a heroic sailor? Wayne Caron (USS Caron's name source) was indeed a heroic sailor. I once landed a helicopter on the USS Miller (A Frigate, Knox class, named for Doris Miller) $\endgroup$ Nov 18, 2021 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Archelaos As to Miller's heroics - Miller served aboard the battleship West Virginia, which was sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. During the attack, he helped several sailors who were wounded, and while manning an anti-aircraft machine gun for which he had no training, he shot down several Japanese planes I'm glad they named another ship after him. $\endgroup$ Nov 18, 2021 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not trying to deny the heroics, as the man did awesome job at PH and fully deserve the honors. I also do not see a problem in having a ship named after him, just as far as I understand US naming system, heroic servicemen/women were given as patrons to destroyers and frigates, not carriers. BDW, which one is named after starship? Enterprise is old honorific name from the era of wooden ships and iron men. and the new one is already 3rd carrier with this name. $\endgroup$
    – Archelaos
    Nov 20, 2021 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Archelaos That naming convention is not, as we see with presidential names, written in stone. I'd rather (as a Navy man) that they were still named after battles, or after famous ships like Ranger or Constellation. Such is politics, though, and in this case the naming convention being more flexible certainly gets my thumbs up. But that's just one opinion ... 😊 $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2021 at 19:26
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I can think of several different aspects:

Professional recognition of skill (and luck).

The peers and superiors of the officer will read reports of the action and form a judgement of the commanding officer and crew. This may or may not be the right judgement. How much was skill, how much was luck? Did the officer stupidly get into a situation where a desperate gamble became the only way out? Or did he calmly calculate the odds and risked the PT boat to bag a cruiser?

  • Promotion by one or several ranks, for various crew members.
  • Letters of commendation and medals, which will stay in their personnel jacket forever. That means faster promotions from now on.
  • New assignments where the skill can be further demonstrated/used. The commanding officer of the PT boat might get a destroyer next, to go with the promotion, or an entire squadron of PT boats. The executive officer gets a fancy new PT boat on his own.

Propaganda use of the feat.

This might happen even if the professionals consider the heroes to be dumb fools. What matters is what the civilians and politicos think.

  • A photo opportunity with the Dear Leader, who shakes hands and smiles.
  • Medals to go with the handshake.
  • Being mentioned on the front page of official and semi-official newspapers. Interviews in the newsreels.
  • A shore assignment selling war bonds or holding recruitment speeches.

A side effect of that might be recognition whenever they go on shore leave. Could be relatively low key, like never having to buy their own beer again, or kids asking for autographs.

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Military Decorations have a long and illustrious history - in fact a whole field of study can be devoted to it: Phaleristics

All militaries reward both enlisted and officers with decorations for service. This is a major component of militaries and also a major incentive for performance, apart from standard incentives of increasing rank. There is evidence forms of decoration extend back to Ancient Greek times, but is likely to have developed earlier in even nomadic or early civilisations.

'Modern' military decorations (as in post 19th Century) include typically 3 main types in addition to rank recognition:

  • Medals
  • Ribbons
  • Badges

These are now consistent across all modern militaries and all services (Navy, Army, Air Force and others) with each service often having their own.

In detail:

  • Medals are the typical one you hear a lot about. Particular acts of valour, or bravery, or even death, will award you a medal. In your case, the Navy will already have dozens of potential Medals that can be awarded to the both the crew and the officers concerned. Each Medal will have a strict set of criteria and most often awarded sparingly - these are serious awards. Normally they come in both Campaign medal and Service medal forms.

You don't normally wear medals unless for ceremony - they are usually kept somewhere safe, but don't worry: most in your service will know you got it.

  • Ribbons are closely associated to Medals - in fact in some militaries they are precisely the same just able to be worn more often. You normally wear these on your left breast in either dress uniform or even service uniform. Some navies award ribbons not just for distinction, but also completion of a specialist training, or qualifying aspect of their service.

  • Then you have Badges. Those that excel can be given badges (worn proudly on your shoulder, lapel or in allowed positions on either your dress or service uniform). These are seriously sought after and are more analogous to being 'elite'. Navy SEALS have special badges, obtained after long arduous and rigorous training with strong qualifying requirements. Combat badges can be earned alongside training, depending on which Navy, but mostly badges are awarded for completion of intense specialist courses, or excelling in a competitive environment.

So you could award your gallant crew with any of the above in addition to increasing rank and promotion, but regardless sounds like their valour in an active battle may entitle some to be worthy of a Silver Star (in U.S. and Australian Navy) Medal and silver Ribbons, usually awarded to crew or officers who perform valour in a single action.

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  1. If it was successful through sheer luck and/or reckless courage, they may get a shiny nothing and/or some extra R&R time - but they'll be the subject of stories after the war. No rational army or navy can afford the reckless lost of power if they can avoid it.

  2. If it was done by brilliant tactics and/or teamwork, the captain and/or team will get promoted and get large public recognition. Any good army needs to keep and reward its good tacticians.

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