When I think of “Green Eggs and Ham” I think not only of St. Patrick’s Day, but I think of the interesting meals I had when I was in country with the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines, hopefully to again rejoin my Air Force Unit, and just maybe get back to mail call and receive a comic or two about one of my favorite characters, Beetle Bailey.

“G.I. Joe”, “Our Army at War,” “Star Spangled War Stories,” “Captain America,” “Frontline Combat,” “Sgt. Rock,” “Weird War Tales,” and “Don Lomax’s Vietnam Journal” are but just a few of the titles of “War Comic Books” that have been published since the mid-to late 1930’s. What started us all reminiscing about the military/war comic books the other day over the coffee and conversation table at Veteran Advocates, was a lady that came in and asked if we took donations of books and magazines for the veterans. Of course we said yes and asked if we could help her bring them in. When we were looking at the stack, there was an old “G.I. Joe” comic!

Fascinating is the history and popularity of the war comics genre, for even prior to the U.S/ involvement in World War II, comics such as the “Captain America Comics” depicted the superheroes fighting Adolph Hitler and the Nazis among others. Marvel Comics with cartoonists Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created that Captain America superhero series, featuring the alter ego of Steve Rogers, who was a frail young man enhanced to a peak-human perfection through an experimental serum administered to aid the government’s success in the war. The first “Captain America Comic” was published in March of 1941. Captain America was also the first Marvel Comics character to appear in the media outside of comic books. The character was a very successful movie series started in 1944.

Also interesting to note that the fictional character Steven Rogers was born on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1920, to poor Irish immigrants, (we of course are struck by the apparent relationship to St. Patrick’s Day).

Another famous series that appeared in “Military Comics #1,” was first published in August 1941. The series was called “Blackhawk,” published by Quality Comics and then by DC Comics. Flying in Grumman XF5F Skyrocket Planes, the Blackhawk Squadron was led by a mysterious man known as Blackhawk and was a team of 8 WWII ace-pilots. They operated from a hidden Base known as Blackhawk Island and fought against tyranny and oppression. During the height of their popularity in the early 1940’s the Blackhawk titles were constantly second to Superman.

In 1987, Marvel debuted a new series based on the writers actual experiences while deployed to Vietnam. The series was called “the Nam,” and the writer, Doug Murray relayed his experiences through fictional character Ed Marks. Another Vietnam War comic book was from 1987 to 1991 and was “Don Lomax’s Vietnam Journal” published by Apple Comics.

Speaking of Vietnam, we had quite a few folks contact me from all around our Western Treasure Valley area regarding our article in The Argus Observer on March 3 regarding the “Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” One contact I would like to mention here is about a local boy who still has family and friends here in our area. Mjr. Joseph Ygnacio Echanis, U.S. Air Force. The location of his name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall is at: Panel W16, Line 33. Major Echanis was born in 1937, the incident date is Nov. 5, 1969 as follows: flying in the 497th Tactical Squadron at Ubon RTAFB was a pair of Navy strike aircraft against a target in Laos, Ban Kari pass area. A fireball was seen on the ground and contact was lost with the crew, Major Joseph Y. Echanis and Major Douglas LeFever, and they were classed MIA (Missing in Action). The Secretary of the Air Force approved presumptive findings and approved their death as follows: “Major Echanis 01/21/1975, Major LeFever 06/29/1978.”

“We have long honored those who gave their lives during the unfortunate reality of War.” — Michael Castle

Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, help@veteranadvocates.org or 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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