Australians remember Captain America

“Tell the truth, we all thought it was another silly rumour.  Bad enough the Yanks sit out the first three years of war, but then, right when it’s getting hairy, they go out and spend money on a super soldier project?  Well, we knew they were [CENSORED], but who’d have believed it?”
– Bruce Leonards, Private, 7th Division of the Second Australian Imperial Force, WWII

“Just bloody typical, isn’t it?”
– Police Inspector Charles Price

Two white men in US military police uniforms pose for the cameras. They look outrageously arrogant, conforming to stereotypes about Americans.
American MPs pose outside the Central Hotel, Brisbane, Australia. Early 1942.

“It seemed rather silly to spend all that money when our boys were dying in Burma and New Guinea.  But that’s Americans for you.  Well, he was rather handsome, I’ll give them that.  Didn’t he die?”
– Beryl Montgomery, Australian Army Nursing Service

“Bad enough that Brisbane was practically an armed camp — girls falling over themselves to go to nightclubs with American soldiers, couldn’t say no to a bit of chocolate and a pair of nylons — then the Yanks went and put a silly costume on a male model.  Bet the girls will be going silly for him, next, too.”
– Leading Aircraftman Keith Avard, Royal Australian Air Force

[No Award notes that the legendary appeal of American soldiers to Australian women had as much to do with their coming from a culture where women were, you know, considered worth talking to, as their material advantages.]

[The Waifs – Bridal Train]

[Also, what’s up with this thing where YouTube doesn’t let us get the old embed code anymore?  DOES THE NEW ONE WORK FOR ANYONE AT ALL?]

Using no less than three primary documents, discuss the effect of the Captain America mythos on the Australian experience of World War II.  
– year twelve Modern History exam question, Bongoola State High School, Queensland, 1997

“Of course they needed to build a super soldier.  Everyone knows the US Armed Forces were [CENSORED].”
– Private Clyde Cotterill

Nazi propaganda leaflets aimed at Australian troops in El Alamain.
Nazi propaganda leaflets aimed at Australian troops in El Alamain.

“What a [censored]. Those seppos need us more than we need them. We don’t need a super soldier when we have true blue Aussies.”
– Billy Sampson, farmer (father of Private William Sampson)

Angered by the slurs cast towards Captain America and the Howling Commandos, American soldiers Harold Hicks, William Edward Arford and Terje Brekka began an all out brawl that drew in all American naval staff, all New Zealand naval staff, and a number of Australian boys present in the National Hotel at the time. Although initially uninvolved, Stanley Reginald Hooper (26) and Ned Rako Kelly (21), Maori soldiers unwinding in the bar, were soon drawn into the brawl, and were the only fatalities. The Coroner at the time ruled these deaths as caused by self-defence, but later testimony by Australians and New Zealanders present reveals the ongoing antipathy towards the Americans over constant boasting of the role of the Howling Commandos, and the lack of stamina of the Antipodean boys…
– excerpt, Captain America and the Boys and Girls of Australia, David Tiller, Penguin Books, 1966

Patriotic window display, Melbourne.
Patriotic window display, Melbourne.

“We used to love the boys coming through, but they’ve all come up skiting since this all went down. Really, the Battle of Perth was inevitable.”
– Helena Cook, Pub Owner, Fremantle

“MacArthur was already neglecting Australian and New Zealand troops. We knew, without a doubt, that once they started producing super soldiers, we were right out of it. No chance of a look in after that.”
– Captain Charles Hardy, 9th Division, 2nd Australian Imperial Force

Australian Prime Minister John Howard again refused to apologise for experiments conducted on young Aboriginal men in the 1950s in an attempt to reproduce America’s super-soldier serum.

“These terrible experiments are in the past,” said the Prime Minister.  “It’s time for Australia to move on.” 

Until 1995, the Australian and British governments denied that Project Albion existed.  Four men died and eight suffered permanent disability as a result of the experiments.
Transcript, ABC News, 12 April 2000

“Saw him on a newsreel.  Big bloke, eh?  Reckon he’d go in for Aussie rules?  Melbourne could use a player like him.  Provided we ever get the MCG back from the Marines.”
– Betty Fraser, nurse, Melbourne, 1944 (as remembered by her daughter, Adele Brunton, in 2012)

[Historical note: for part of WWII, the US Marines were housed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.]

Colebatch argues that American unions were so inspired by Captain America that they refused to strike during the war.  Australian dock workers, he suggests, lacking such a powerfully patriotic motivator, fell prey to the manipulation of Communists, fifth columnists and traitors.  What we needed was not just a superhero, but a conservative superhero.

Colebatch writes of Steve Rogers as a sepia-toned historical figure.  The fact that Captain America is alive and well, exposing SHIELD corruption and talking up universal health care, is as insignificant as any of the other facts he mangles.
– J. M. Caudwell, review of Australia’s Secret War: How Unions Sabotaged Our Troops in World War II in The New Left, October 2014.

“Bloody Yanks.”
– Private Jim White

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