Oracle of History

Guiding you through the ages

Archive for the tag “Military History”

From Zero to Hero: The Birth of Superheroes

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In the era of the superhero franchise, many don’t seem to know the historical backdrop that led to the stardom of some of the world’s most iconic characters.

Prepare for your minds to be blown!

The truth is that some of these guys became superhero giants for a reason. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether it’s due to content or just good timing.

Holding Out For A Hero

Let me take you back to 1933, a year many high schoolers may know as the year of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. It was also the year the character of Superman was created by two young men from Cleveland Ohio, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

What do these two events have to do with each other?

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Well, this may surprise you, but I can make a direct connection between the rise of Hitler and the popularization of Superman. The main ingredient? The need for hope!

Picture the scene – Adolf Hitler, practically a nobody, blitzes through Europe and manages to create an entire doctrine based on fear…successfully.

By the time 1939 came around, no one had managed to stop him. He was the ultimate villain who had yet to face his superhero arch nemesis. A fact which may have been troubling to the children of the U.S.A whose only interaction with the man was through the radio news bulletins.

In fact, some may argue that if Hitler had successfully taken over Europe that his next stop would have been the U.S.

BONUS : If you want an idea of what a Nazi controlled U.S. would have looked like then I would definitely check out the mini series “The Triangle.” It’s about the Bermuda Triangle and although it is a mediocre show I would watch it for the one scene with the alternate universe of Nazi America – Super trippy and scary!

Thankfully, Superman comes onto the scene as a comic book in 1938. A natural superhero, his mighty powers and caring heart make him the perfect specimen of American creativity to defeat the evil Hitler – well, the idea of him at least!

Thus hope was born once again!

Although it is not said explicitly, I truly believe that the reason why Superman became as popular as he did was because he managed to bring hope to children and adults alike during a dark time in world history.

Captain America 

Much like Superman, quite a few people dislike Captain. His backstory isn’t dark and he gains his strength in hope – not in revenge.

Once again I will shatter your illusions and tell you that he is a dirScreen Shot 2014-04-17 at 13.45.32ect response to World War 2. When the character first appeared in 1941, he was an instant success. Mostly because he symbolized the troops still fighting.

If Captain America could defeat the Axis villains then so could the fathers/brothers/husbands out there now.

To prove my point, check out this great cartoon from Dorkly that could say it better than I ever could.

This is all to say that there is more to these “bland” characters than meets the eye – at least from a historical perspective.

The Aftermath

So what happened after World War 2?

Well, people got more cynical. They were disillusioned by their government through easily accessible information via television and a propaganda free press. The Vietnam War changed the way Americans saw warfare forever.

Children and Adults were no longer looking for their perfect warrior. They wanted heroes that were more like them – with flaws and all.

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This paves the way for characters like Batman, Spiderman and even Iron Man. These were superheroes they could relate to. “Normal” guys who had to rise from the ashes after great tragedy. There is also a moral ambiguity to these characters that show that they’re human.

Except for the fact that both Batman and Iron Man were billionaires, I see their point.  I think one of the reasons Batman is still so popular today is that he lives in a world that’s not so different from our own, but with gadgets and crazy villains!

In the same way, Spiderman is about a teenage boy who gets bitten by a radioactive spider. His story is the fantasy of every bored high school student. Thus the popularity of spidey grew!

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Bottom line, we like to feel connected to fictional characters, and after World War 2 we no longer aspired to the super soldier.

We were looking for the hero we deserve 😉

Do you think we’ve found it?

Bonus

Battleships: Better than the movie

And arguably slightly better than the board game. What I mean to say is that although many of us have played Battleship ….

Battleship Board Game

Slightly sexist cover for much loved board game

…. very few of us take the time to actually look at these monster contraptions used for wars in the last 200 years.

The truth is that they really revolutionized naval warfare. The term was originally used in 1794, referring to the wooden warships during the Age of Sail .

Over the years it just became the description for the most powerful type of ship in any fleet. What we consider a battleship today is based off the Dreadnought model, which kicked things up a notch during World War 1.

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Although what we see today is much better armed.

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to see two different types of ships, both from the WW2/Cold War era that proves that burial at sea will never be a defunct term.

HMS Belfast 

HMS Belfast

The HMS Belfast is a WW2/Cold War era battleship that has been turned into a museum in the heart of London. I actually volunteered there in the conservation department for over a year and so I got to know the ship quite well.

It was originally built in 1939, just in time for WW2 and then was re-equipped  for the Cold War.

I personally helped maintain and restore Bofors anti-aircraft machine guns and one of the 4-inch guns. On my last day of volunteering I was lucky enough to be able to fire one of the 4-inch guns already restored.

If you have a spare afternoon in London one day I would definitely suggest you check it out. They really do a good job at keeping the history alive.

U.S.S Intrepid 

Over on the other side of the Atlantic lies a ship that is also a museum. The U.S.S. Intrepid is an aircraft carrier, docked on a pier in New York City.

Not only did it serve in WW2 and the Vietnam War – it also was the recovery ship for the Gemini and Mercury space missions.

I decided to visit it while I was living in New York City and so recorded my journey through the ship, comparing it to my experience on the smaller HMS Belfast.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience on the U.S.S. Intrepid because you understood what role naval power truly had in the last century.

The Napoleon At Toulon in 1852 by Lauvergne

The Napoleon At Toulon in 1852 by Lauvergne

In conclusion, don’t believe everything you read.

Old Battleships are cool too because they show how our society has progressed over the centuries with technology.

Think of it this way – 100 years ago we could only travel by boat!

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