This article covers a lot of ground, so it’s presented as a series of smaller chapters.
The series starts with this entry, which explains it all.
One of the big hits of 1944 was specifically about life as a wartime conscript. There were two successful releases ; the best-known one was Louis Jordan’s.
History (part 4)
It may have been UDT-13’s and the snafu scavengers’ exploits that inspired sending Squadron S to hold Dinosaur Island.
If so, it didn’t work. The terrible conditions didn’t harden the unit. They just resulted in horrendous losses and rock-bottom morale and discipline.
But one General decided that even the dregs of the military deserved a fighting chance. He selected a new Commanding Officer. Reforming Squadron S was a tall order, but the General had a specific CO in mind – Captain Richard Montgomery Flag.
Flag was a haunted, mettlesome, multi-talented Naval aviator.
Not only was he tough as nails, but he had significant experience with Dinosaur Island and its perils. And a history of overcoming those, as recounted in his writeups.org profile.
Flag forcefully took command. He did not hesitate to employ physical violence, and strongly implied that he would execute troopers giving him problems.
Several of the NCOs (including Sgt. Carson and Sgt. Morgan) were more than willing to help put the unit back on track.
How Flag re-trained and re-disciplined Squadron S is undocumented. But the results were impressive.
The Suicide Squadron troops still hated each other and carried some serious baggage. But now they were elite soldiers concentrating their ample aggression on the enemy – and the extraordinary challenges of Dinosaur Island.
They even were considered a Rangers unit. Presumably, the Rangers’ training had been copied for disciplinary purposes – but a qualification is a qualification.
Let’s draw some parallels between the comic book Squadron S and historical realities.
Come on, it’ll be fun.
Disciplinary and penal units
The US military did not have penal or disciplinary units during World War Two. Men in correctional custody and disciplinary re-training, or held in military prisons, were not deployed – and certainly not as a unit.
But as with any military — particularly after a mass conscription — there were :
- Men who had been given a choice between prison and the draft.
- Men who enlisted to avoid arrest.
- Postings where the oddballs were dumped together. To get them out of the CO’s hair and under the care of NCOs enjoying this sort of work.
However, the Suicide Squadron was something more formal, and larger, than all of these.
There are real-world precedents for World War Two reprobates, headcases and criminals becoming elite soldiers. Stories featuring the Suicide Squadron can draw from these for verisimilitudeMaking a story feel credible..
The clearest equivalent was the 5307th Composite Unit a.k.a. Merrill’s Marauders. This special operations unit became a Rangers unit.
The Marauders did include unruly men selected for their expertise in jungle warfare, as well as volunteers from the stockades. However, the importance these guys had seems over-emphasised in some accounts.
Like most units serving under Gen. Stillwell during the Burma campaign , the Marauders experienced severe casualties.
The Filthy Thirteen
Another famous example is the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment , from the 101st Airborne Division.
The “Filthy Thirteen” had a less dramatic background than the characters in the movie they loosely inspired – The Dirty Dozen. Yet :
- Some of the men went through an endless litany of unreasonable discipline issues.
- They prided themselves on their reputation for getting things done without regards toward regulations.
- A famous photo where two pathfinders wear mohawks and war paints gave them a mythologised (and racist) image as dirty, savage killers.
Though these units inspired movies, there were undoubtedly others.
“Unconventional officer rubs his superiors the wrong way, gets assigned people with a poor track record as a result, and obtains good results nevertheless as the unit develops a sense of pride after having been written off as losers “ is something that happens in real-world militaries.
And every company has its dead-end squad. If only because there always will be soldiers who like to present themselves as irredeemable hard cases.
The French connection
In one vintage Suicide Squadron story, the unit is repeatedly presented as “the French Foreign Legion, American-style”.
It could be interpreted somewhat literally. Perhaps Flag got clearance to draft men irrespective of their criminal record (within reason).
He would then have built his unit of expendable hardarses with the help of American soldiers who had served in the French Foreign Legion during the 1930s. Joining the Legion in search of action of adventures was a trope back then, especially in pulpsCheap, often lurid novels in the US during the 1920s and 1930s. fiction.
If so the Squad may have been run using a mix of Rangers and Legion customs and regulation. Plus those from another French military tradition, the disciplinary companies of the Bat’ d’af’ (Light Infantry African Battalions).
(Here “African” means colonising troops that are deployed *in* Africa, not colonised troops that are *from* Africa).
The Bat’ d’af’ were also made up of criminals and headcases. They were kept at arm’s-length from conventional troops and detailed to punishing environments. Several such units had a track record of uncommon valour, others were worse than useless.
The Marine Raiders
Drawing from foreign military practices has precedents. Frex, the Marine Raiders were created because President Roosevelt wanted his own version of the British Commandos.
The men who build and led the Raiders were given broad powers. They often had different procedures and ethics than the USMC, based on their personal experiences and beliefs. The Raiders were “an army within an army within an army”, to riff off a saying about the Marines.
In this light, having another charismatic officer given broad discretionary powers to build an American version of the French Légion Étrangère and Bat’ d’af’ in an obscure corner of the Pacific sounds possible.
History (part 5)
The retrained Squadron S still called itself the Suicide Squadron. But this now meant that they were such hardened fighters that they’d take on nearly suicidal missions. Those that nobody else would touch.
Suicide Squad missions were usually conducted in small, non-standard units – from 2 to 6 men. The reason presumably was stealth. Sending just a pair of men was common practice on Dinosaur Island, to evade predators.
A casualty rate of 50% per mission was reported. Surviving two or more missions was considered a proof of exceptional toughness
We don’t need no steenkin’ MOS
Another striking characteristic was the breadth of training Flag’s men received. It far exceeded even Rangers standards.
Physical training sufficient to climb up or down the colossal cliffs of Dinosaur Island, jungle and maritime survival, demolition, radio operation, first aid, small boats training, bazooka operation, and the like were known to most men.
The best Squad troopers were qualified as both infantry and pilots, or as infantry and tankers – with some men being all three (!).
As more men went through this unique training program, Squadron troopers were said to be qualified for “anything with wheels, fins or wings.”
Some men were trained as combat divers and underwater demolition swimmers on top of everything else.
Between Flag’s pull, working in the Top Secret Mission X area, and their vehicular skills, Suicide Squadron troopers often tested special equipment.
Examples included :
- Two experimental transport aeroplanes with jet engines.
- Super-tank prototypes based on a M4 Sherman chassis. Most takes on this were parachute-capable and fully submersible.
- More powerful hand grenades filled with plastic explosives. These were great against dinosaurs and light Japanese armour.
- At least two generations of G.I. Robot.
- The much less successful robo-tanker nicknamed “Nuts and Bolts”.
(In the New Frontier continuity, the Suicide Squadron became the OSS’ tactical force. These stories depict King Faraday as the Squadron’s main intelligence contact).
In 1945, men interested in serving in the toughest missions, or who liked the Squadron’s emphasis on results rather than procedure, were volunteering to join from other units. Even though only 20% lived to return to their unit.
The first known man to transfer to the Squad was an Army Ranger named Mac. Mac became the handler of the first documented G.I. Robot. Later on, Rick Flag set up a transfer board to review volunteers from other units.
Fine Japanese engineering
Dinosaur Island has previously been occupied by Imperial Japanese forces testing special weapons. These soldiers were wiped out when the monsters suddenly emerged, but multiple automated weapon systems remained active.
One of the Suicide Squadron’s jobs was to make it possible for Navy vessels to quickly cross the Dinosaur Island area without losses. Automated Japanese artillery therefore had to be neutralised.
Squadron S raids targeted the following :
- An automated, long-range surface-to-air missiles nest. It was destroyed by the Flying Boots.
- A gigantic humanoid robot. It was taken down by a G.I. Robot.
- An automated battery of anti-ship rockets hidden on a mountainside. The thick cloud cover of Dinosaur Island made it impossible to locate until a reconnaissance plane got a lucky break and photographed it.
Two men who hate each other worse than the enemy !
One of Flag’s men, Private Mace, could cross the snow-covered peak to destroy these rockets. But Mace was reviled. During the previous Winter Olympics, he infamously appeared to panick and accidentally killed his partner.
The brother of the dead athlete, Sgt. Morgan, also served with the Squad. War That Time Forgot stories were full of such coincidences. Flag sent Mace with a toboggan full of demolition charges… plus Morgan, to make sure Mace wouldn’t flip out.
Hating Mace, Morgan kept him covered with his .45 at all times. He was certain that the man whom he viewed as an abject coward would fumble the mission. The strike narrowly succeeded and both men survived… though they still hated each other.
(The published story takes place “somewhere in the frozen North”, rather than on Dinosaur Island).
Mace and Morgan return
Perhaps because he still distrusted Mace (actually an excellent soldier), Flag kept Sgt. Morgan paired with him.
One team was lost while testing an experimental jet aeroplane. Flag sent Morgan and Mace to investigate, using the second such prototype.
The jet was soon forced to the ground by the inexplicable bubble of vacuum which had also claimed the first plane. This time, however, the crew survived by boarding the Sherman tank in the bay. Though Morgan still hated Mace with a passion, the two soldiers survived the trek back to the base.
On their way, they ran into a hatching mega-pterosaur just as it hatched. See Dino’s writeups.org profile for more.
Mace, Morgan and Dino would later make another unusual ally, a young local human nicknamed the G.I. Caveboy.
Star-Spangled War Stories
Another team was killed by dinosaurs. They had been establishing a coast-watching station in an area that still was under Japanese control.
Flag sent another pair of men who hated each other, the Sheriff and the outlaw Wild One, to survey what had happened. Whether they made it back is unchronicled.
Soon after that, a Suicide Squadron attempt at storming Japanese turf was derailed by dinosaur attacks. The four Hickey brothers were among the few survivors.
The Suicide Squadron fared better when ex-policeman Corporal Stoner helped defend a Navy sub beleaguered by giant monsters. He received the help of a Navy frogman… who turned out to be his wanted brother.
Another mission was to locate a Catalina that had crashed at sea while carrying an experimental bomb sight. Despite 75% casualties, Squadron S frogmen narrowly managed to destroy the sight.
The two Squad troopers distracted the reptile by shooting it in the face with a flare gun. The white gorilla then repaid them by killing an attacking dinosaur. Whether these two men made it out alive to report is unrevealed.
The Suicide Squadron lost another LST boat to a dinosaur attack days later. Only one man, named Art, survived. He was apparently insane, claiming that his buddy Vic had been transformed into a giant were-allosaurus and the last survivors had to gun him down.
Another man went insane during attempts to destroy the Kuruna, an Imperial Japanese battleship carrying an experimental nerve gas. The Kuruna was using the thick cloud cover of the Mission X area to fend off attacks.
The Suicide Squadron sent a squad to sink her. They were all killed, so Flag then sent in a pair of underwater demolition commandos. One of the commandos was driven mad after he was swallowed by a prehistoric fish and had to blow his way out using TNT charges.
Nevertheless, and thanks to an angry leviathan well into the 10,000+ tonnes range, the Kuruna and its deadly payload were sunk.
Squadron S’s Lt. Grey located a major Japanese hidden bomber base, then snuck away in a mini-submarine. But he ran into his opposite number – a Japanese mini-sub carrying a senior Japanese spy who had mapped out the few safe US shipping lanes in the “Mission X” area.
As the two subs fought, they were attacked by a mega-crab. This left but two survivors.
Both Lt. Grey and the Japanese commander held critical intelligence. But it soon became obvious that they had to work together to survive Dinosaur Island. Though they knew that one of them had to die, they collaborated until the very end.
It was the luck of the draw that decided who lived. A mega-mosasaur attacked the Japanese inflatable boat rather than the American one. Lt. Grey was picked by a PBY some days later, and the Imperial Japanese hidden bomber base was blitzed.
(In the published story there’s no mention of the Squadron, and the subs are full-sized ones.)
The Suicide Squadron apparently remained stationed on or near Dinosaur Island for the rest of the war.
However, Captain Flag conducted missions outside of this perimeter. To do so, he drew elite troopers from his unit to form his personal commando team.
Though Richard M. Flag survived every mission, this commando unit — often called the “Suicide Squad” — underwent significant attrition.
The only documented mission was a raid on the Jotunheim Nazi fortress in Qurac. The Squad stole a prototype tank (commandeered by Flag’s friend J.E.B. Stuart, who had been sent as an armour expert) then buried prototype Nazi atomic bombs under thousands of tons of rubble.
The Suicide Squadron was disbanded after the war. Perhaps during the sweeping demobilisation of 1947 – there’s no data.
The New Frontier continuity has more elements, which you might choose to use.
New Frontier elements
- Flag and his hand-picked squad were still active during the final weeks of the war.
- They captured a Nazi scientist and flew him to the US, as part of Operation Paperclip .
- However, they crashed whilst crossing the Pacific. The team soon realised that they were back on Dinosaur Island.
- Only Flag narrowly survived this. Another specops unit, the Losers, rescued him. The Nazi was dead, but his notes proved a boon for the US space program.
In the NF continuity, the Suicide Squadron was by then working for the OSS . As it happens, there was a mess from 1945 to 1947 as the OSS was disbanded and short-lived successor agencies took its place. The Central Intelligence Agency eventually emerged from this bitter infighting for resources and influence.
We know that, in the DCU, OSS director Control was ousted during these struggles. So it’s easy to imagine that the Suicide Squadron was disbanded for being Control loyalists, to clear the way for the CIA.
Keep an eye on it
The US Navy maintained some presence at the periphery of the Mission X area after the war.
Stray jet-stream-like air currents occasionally caused accidents even there. One such case downed the plane of war hero and alpha male Ace Waller.
Waller was narrowly rescued by an unnamed helicopter pilot, who fought off a number of mega-predators using improvised means. Since the helicopter seemed to be a Bell 47 variant, the story presumably took place circa 1948.
This article continues in its final third.
Source of Character: DC Universe. This article covers the 1960s stories in Star-Spangled War Stories, but doesn’t yet include later material from later stories such as Weird War Tales which could be rewoven into Ostrander’s Suicide Squadron framework. The material reviewed so far is the relevant Star-Spangled War Stories era (#90-137) plus the Ostrander material.
Helper(s): The list of appearances in Star-Spangled War Stories found at cosmicteams.com helped with the earliest research. Also Taschoene, Cessna, Per Andersson, Darci.