– Larry, CPL in the Marine Raiders.
We have a series of Suicide Squad/Suicide Squadron profiles that cover a huge amount of history in smaller chapters.
Therefore, please pretty please first check our Suicide Squad orientation page as a table of content.
For chronological atmosphere we’ll start with a 1943 hit, then a 1944 and a 1945 one.
Let’s have “I had the craziest dream” as the first one. As an homage to every other character in War That Time Forgot stories exclaiming that this must be a nightmare.
Some assembly required
That’s the part where you start focusing, stardust.
The war that time forgot
During the 1960s, DC Comics published the War That Time Forgot stories. The title referenced E.R. Burroughs
These did not form a continuity. They were just short comics features reusing the same themes. The main gimmick being “World War Two G.I.s vs. giant dinosaurs”.
The name of recurrent characters could change from one story to the next. The same story with minor variation could and did occur several times. The characters often seemed to be the first ones discovering the existence of giant dinosaurs. Etc..
The war that time reframed
However, two decades later (Secret Origins vol. 2 #14), John Ostrander creates a framework around these features.
He uses an element found in several stories (the “Suicide Squadron”) so that War That Time Forgot tales :
- Can form a coherent story.
- Can have occurred in the DC Universe.
However, Mr. Ostrander does not quote the War That Time Forgot features. He evokes them. It is never stated which exact stories he’s referring to, though the allusions are clear.
So we know that these disparate stories happened in a coherent manner in the DCU. But we do not know *how*.
What do we do, lieutenant ?
We’ll therefore fit the old War That Time Forgot features into a coherent DCU continuity, one by one. Thus filling the blanks of the Ostrander framework.
Which means that, if you want to feature the Suicide Squadron in a DC Universe story, all the grunt work has already been done in this here article.
This also means that the stories described below aren’t quite the stories as published. But most of our modifications are too small to matter, and the important ones will be noted as they come up.
The two main changes are :
- The characters who inspired Richard Montgomery Flag as he appears in Secret Origins vol. 2 #14 all get “merged” into Richard Montgomery Flag.
- The soldiers in these stories are assumed to be Suicide Squadron members — the unit described in Secret Origins vol. 2 #14 — whenever possible.
More continuity matters
A few quick details.
The Suicide Squad’s timeline is a recondite matterSomething obscure and complicated. This wording is a reference to HG Wells’ The Time Traveller..
*But* that doesn’t really impact the Suicide Squadron stories set during the 1940s and 1950s. So we’ll only briefly discuss that near the end.
The best appearances of the wartime Suicide Squadron occur in a different continuity. Namely, the New Frontier one.
But almost everything in these appearances could have occurred in the DCU. So we will use that material here.
The New Frontier events are kept in separate paragraphs and in italics.
More than meets the eye
For now, this article covers the relevant material in Star-Spangled Stories from #90 (cover-date May, 1960) to #137 (cover-dated February, 1968).
There were later stories that fit in this framework. Plus a later War That Time Forgot mini-series. But we have to start somewhere.
Size matters !
“Suicide Squadron” and “Suicide Squad” are both used to designate the unit in the stories. But these are two very different things.
- An infantry squad is about 10 guys.
- A cavalry squadron can be a hundred times that size, and has numerous armoured vehicles. Plus the means to deploy and support them.
In the 1980s flashback that forms the spinal column of this entry, the unit seems squad-sized. However, having a reputed Navy Captain sent to command a single Army squad, and having the wartime Joint Chiefs Of Staff so focused on less than a dozen troopers, seems impossible.
The casualties management also implies a larger unit. A mere squad losing most of its members would just be broken up to replenish other squads.
Yet none of the fighting actions of the Suicide Squadron takes place on a multiple companies scale. That is, hundreds of men and a lot of gear.
So the Suicide Squad/Squadron doesn’t seem to be either a squad, or a squadron. Oops.
Our suggested approach is that the Suicide Squadron was Squadron S, a hollow cavalry squadron of the US Army. A “hollow unit” is a military unit that was mostly disbanded, but retains a skeleton crew for some reason.
However, undesirable soldiers started being transferred there. Eventually, it had two companies, though these functionally were infantry units.
Perhaps an eccentric, forceful and influential senior General — say, Patton — discovered the existence of the hollow Squadron S, and started using it as a trash bin.
The first company within Squadron S (which back then would be called Able Company) is made up of active troops. The second (Baker Company) is the training company that replaces Able’s casualties.
In practice, Able would never be at full strength. 70% strength would be a good day.
One squad in Able is the hand-picked team working directly with the Commanding Officer. This squad is often called the Suicide Squad, and sometimes the “Suicide Club”. Which explains part of the confusion around the name.
(Again, this isn’t canon – since there’s no canon. But that’s the most coherent framework that comes to mind when reading the stories).
History (part 1)
It is unlikely that Squadron S had much of an existence before mid-1942. In early 1940 the US Army had less than 200,000 men serving.
Drafting efforts began in September, 1940. At this point, FDR struggled against isolationists to bring the United States to a war footing.
In December, the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. That removed most obstacles to massive conscription and a powerful industrial mobilisation.
The U.S. Army’s Squadron S was operating in the Pacific theatre. It was a dumping ground for the worst men other units needed to get rid of. The alienated, the disaffected, the psychotic, the uncontrollable.
That their command considered them expendable wasn’t much of a secret. Being assigned to Squadron S was close to a death sentence. Thus, the “S” was said to stand for “Suicide”.
Squadron S had a high casualty rate even when not in combat. The men hated each other as much as they hated the enemy. They frequently fought each other with fists or knives.
(One flashback implies that Squadron S was also issued the bottom of the barrel when it came to equipment. Several men are seen going into action with… a knife. Presumably their guns were so old, ill-maintained and fed such lousy ammunition that a blade may have sometimes been preferable.)
(The same page shows a darker-skinned soldier, perhaps Puerto Rican, serving in Squadron S. This is historically correct. While discriminated against, Hispanics were considered White for segregation purposes).
History (part 2)
In late 1942, American forces in the South Pacific discovered one of the strangest theatres of the war.
Several submarines and recon teams, plus aeroplanes and a paratroopers platoon, vanished in a specific area around an uncharted island. It was code-named X Island.
An elite Marine Raiders team, the Question Mark patrol, went in. Two men got out alive. They reported that the area was rife with deadly dinosaurs. And that many of those were more than a match for military vehicles.
X Island was renamed Dinosaur Island. The smaller volcanic islands nearby were called Lava Island, Red Island One and Fireworks Island.
Island of armoured giants !
Meanwhile, Army men recovered a shellshocked survivor of the lost paratroopers platoon. The soldier no longer could talk, and the Army did not believe the Marine Raiders report.
Another US Airborne platoon was therefore sent in to investigate.
Their plane was wrecked by a mega-pterosaur, but about half the men had the time to jump out. Four troopers survived the local sea life long enough to be rescued, and confirmed the Marines’ report.
After losing more ships and subs in 1942 and 1943, the Navy also reluctantly came to admit the existence of the monsters.
Knowing is half the battle
Based on the discoveries of the Marine Raiders and US Airborne men, it was assumed that an earthquake had awakened a number of dinosaurs.
The hypothesis was that these somehow had been in suspended animation underground. And that more dinosaurs were gradually emerging from underneath the island.
From the remains of Imperial Japanese forces that used to control the island, it was obvious that the dinosaurs’ appearance had been sudden.
It was also theorised that the earthquakes were what had destroyed US submarines in the area.
Let’s do the time warp again
During the 1980s, scholars theorised about an interface between Dinosaur Island and the dimensionOther realms of existence that are not our universe. of SkartarisA pulp fantasy world in the DC Comics Multiverse..
But it was eventually determined that space-time itself behaved in an unique, chaotic manner around Dinosaur Island. So both the suspended animation and the Skartaris hypotheses were retired.
This approach also explains why the Island’s size seemed to vary, and why it was sometimes much larger than it seemed from the outside. At some points Dinosaur Island could be crossed within a dozen hours of vigorous trekking, at others it held at least one snow-covered mountain range.
The area infamously sported a thick cloud cover. That made aerial observation impossible most of the time. It was therefore feasible to hide entire fleets within the area – though of course at the risk of dinosaur attacks.
Many soldiers couldn’t shake the impression that the clouds themselves were the time warp. It was the 1940s above the cloud cover, and a strange prehistory beneath.
During WW2, there were at least two “Mission X”-like encounters by other American units operating in the Arctic. They ran into mega-dinosaurs similar to those found on Dinosaur Island.
Where these monsters were coming from, and whether their presence was related to all the activity on Dinosaur Island, remains unknown.
The Skartaris bridge hypothesis once advanced for Dinosaur Island may have been true for these Arctic encounters.
The fauna of Dinosaur Island and nearby waters was not quite composed of beasts from Earth’s past.
Many animals were much, *much* larger versions of modern animals rather than prehistoric beasts. These included :
- One titanic chimpanzee.
- Colossal forms of sea animals such as eels, turtles and crabs.
- At least two white-furred gorillas, significantly larger than most depictions of King Kong.
Many dinosaurs looked more or less like beasts from Earth’s past as pictured in popular imagination. But they were incomparably larger, often to a physically impossible extent.
For instance, one common type of aggressive pterosaur seemed about six times as wide as a B-26 Marauder bomber . Meaning a wingspan of more than 120 metres (400 feet).
Many sea-going animals could easily handle US submarines in their jaws, hands or coils. Said submarines seemed to be Sargo-Class boats, meaning they were about 90 metres (300 feet) long and 1,700+ tonnes in displacement – though they were not usually drawn that large.
The flora also seemed exotic. Some plants were generically-prehistoric-looking, and gargantuan forms of past or present plants also abounded.
A good example was a sort of palm tree about 200 metres (650 feet) tall — possibly more — which grew coconuts the size of a PT boat .
A killer plant with tentacle-like vines was also encountered (and set ablaze).
Some “dinosaurs” could exist in Arctic conditions. A few even laid in ambush under the snow present on the Island’s peaks. Manifestly, these weren’t cold-blooded !
Another remarkable feature of these animals is that most seemed to be mindlessly aggressive, immediately attacking anything that looked like a quick meal. Even some animals looking like herbivorous dinosaurs behaved in this way.
Yet several specimens were tools-users. They could use a tree trunk as a club, or even lay a tree as a bridge across a ravine then wait in ambush.
Several incidents implied that some “dinosaurs” were intelligent and/or able to communicate with each other in a precise manner even across species. They might even have been telepathic.
Bullets were often described as passing right through some monsters, without harming them any. The most striking example was a pair of full-sized torpedoes passing through a giant eel without encountering enough resistance to detonate.
Authorial intent is unclear, but this may be interpreted as the beasts not being quite material in the usual sense.
This wasn’t the case with all mega-fauna, though. In many cases sustained small arms and machinegun fire could bring down targets normally.
Small explosives (such as hand grenades) were weirdly efficient against many giant “dinosaurs”.
History (part 3)
Dinosaur Island occupied a strategic position. It remained contested between Imperial Japanese and United States forces throughout the war.
Since operating there was hideously dangerous, the US military tended to either send elite troops or expendable ones.
The former chiefly included US Army Rangers volunteering for Mission X detail. “Mission X” was the code name for Rangers assignments near or on “X Island”, even after it was renamed Dinosaur Island.
It seems that Mission X assignments were conducted by men who had completed their Ranger training months ahead of their unit. They presumably had prior experience allowing them to skip part of the training.
The Rangers squad that conducted the first Mission X reconnaissance had two survivors, Marty and “Professor” Jesse.
The team of Rangers who conducted the greatest number of Mission X assignments was the Flying Boots. This unique patrol was made up of three brothers who were former circus acrobats.
The last battles of the dinosaur age !
A Mission X platoon attempted to take Red Island One. It was much smaller than Dinosaur Island, and held a large Imperial Japanese ammunition dump.
Though the platoon went in strong with four Shermans and a dozen bazookas, they were torn apart. The survivors had to exfiltrate in small teams after losing all their tanks.
One surviving Ranger, a palaeontologistA person who studies fossils. nicknamed “Bones”, made attempts at exfiltrating with the corpse of a mega-dinosaur. He and the other two survivors of his squad ended up towing one as they paddled away in an inflatable boat.
However, the corpse was blown to bits by a TBF Avenger who mistook it for a submarine.
In a way, the Rangers were successful. A sudden lava explosion blew up a large chunk of the island, destroying all known Japanese depots. Perhaps this eruption was triggered off-panel by other survivors of the platoon, using explosives.
Dinosaur Island also saw the exploits of the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team 8.
UDT-8 was escorting a submarine, using an experimental undersea sled and special weaponry. They were to destroy a pack of Imperial Japanese submarines in an area rife with aquatic dinosaurs. The elite UDT-8 swimmers handled this nearly impossible detail with gusto.
One early example of disposable troops was the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team 13. Unlucky 13 was composed of the worst graduates of the latest US Navy UDT class.
Since they couldn’t be sent on high-stakes missions, UDT-13 was detailed to clear Imperial mines. The goal was to allow the Marines to storm Lava Island.
Two enormous marine beasts battered US attack submarines aside like bathtub toys. Nevertheless, the two most inept-seeming frogmen and their war hero Lieutenant did a superb job.
Gunnery and salvaging
The three-man crew of a 155mm “Long Tom” cannon ended up on Dinosaur Island when the tow line of their glider snapped. Though they lost their Long Tom, all three men survived.
Later on, a “snafu squad” was left to clear a battlefield in the area. Their usual job was to scavenge for abandoned weapons and ammo.
(SNAFU is an old joke military acronym for “Situation Normal, All Fucked Up”. A “snafu squad” usually is a non-standard and/or substandard team given a stopgap detail to prevent a bad situation from getting worse).
When attacked by dinosaurs who had boarded landing boats (!), they fought them off using abandoned weapons they could scrounge as they retreated. That even included flintstones.
This article continues in its second 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.