Full medal jacket
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Steve’s decorations in the MCU—or rather, the lack of them—and especially about Bucky’s medals, which are nonexistent. I’m writing a fic where there’s some discussion about decorations, valor, and the fact that Bucky was a war hero, trying to make sense of the incoherent hack writing of CACW that has the media identifying the “infamous Winter Soldier” as James Buchanan Barnes, but apparently no one seems to also be talking about the fact that this is Howling Commando James Barnes, Captain America’s best friend James Barnes, decorated war hero James Barnes. (laporcupina has a nice examination of this here.)
The first time we see Steve in his Captain’s uniform, he’s wearing these ribbons and badges
Sigh. He’s so dreamy… There’s a few different posts floating around identifying what those ribbons and badges are, but the most important is that he’s wearing the ribbons for only two medals: one is the purple heart with an oak leaf cluster, which signifies that he was wounded in action at least twice (once for the original medal, the oak leaves for another award). That one’s interesting because we don’t see him get wounded, really, in the First Avenger; it could mean, though, that the multiple purple hearts were for meritorious service because they were given for that at that time. He’s also wearing an American Service Defense Medal ribbon, which confuses me, because in the MCU he shouldn’t wear it: they were given for active service from 1939–1941, so he wouldn’t have had this. (In the comics, yes, but not the movies.) I chalk this up to Marvel’s notoriously terrible props department, the folks who gave us a museum display with two different birthdates for Bucky on the SAME DISPLAY, and use quotation marks and apostrophes for feet and inches, when no self-respecting museum would do that. (Those are the tip of the props issues iceberg but my personal pet peeves.)
Now, this shot is presumably in the scene where he blows off Senator Brandt in London, where he’s supposed to receive a “Medal for Valour” which is never specified. And it’s irritating because: which was it? Was it the Medal of Honor, the highest award you can earn? Or was it the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award for valor? It could even be the Silver Star, although I feel like that’s unlikely because single-handedly rescuing 400-plus men from a heavily guarded prison camp is a lot more than Silver Star-worthy. My feeling is that it was the DSC, maybe because they figured they’d save the MoH for later since he’d probably be raking in medals as he won the war. I can buy him not wearing it right then since the ceremony just happened, but…it’s a stretch.
Then immediately after, we see Steve with the men who will become the Howlies, and no one has any decorations on their uniforms/they’re not in full uniform…and then there’s Bucky. He has no decorations even when we see him in the service uniform at the start of CATFA, and he’s certainly not wearing any in the pub.