In 1941, jai alai-loving hillbillies were America's future weapon against Hitler

In Captain America, a patriotic beanpole is buffed up with super-steroids and battles the Third Reich using his unconventional star-spangled shield. The following article from the December 1941 issue of the science and engineering magazine Mechanix Illustrated foresaw a similar destiny for real soldiers.

This piece predicted that "super shock troops" juiced up on powerful vitamins would manhandle the Axis powers using brute force and cestas, or curved jai alai baskets. The author begins by describing these "Captain Marvels of America" in a hypothetical combat situation. And yes, that tagline is a reference to the superhero:

Each of them had the strength of ten men. Into each, scientists had instilled the cold, fighting ferocity of a black jaguar. They were "made to order" fighting men, the culmination of all of mankind's laboratory research [...] Slots in belts held extra ammunition; waterproof containers for tools, flares-and three tubes of pale, concentrated vitamins!

A special squad of eight men carried an even more unusual weapon, shaped like a monstrous claw but made of rattan woven to form a long, narrow, curving basket. This weapon was an adaptation of the cesta-the throwing device used in the Basque game of Jai Alai. These eight men with cestas constituted the super-grenade throwing squadron of the patrol [...]


The article then hops back to reality, where it extols the virtues of vitamins and delves into an actual military experiment to transform "shiftless, lazy, lackadaisical" "hill billies" into "go-getters."

After insulting people from rural zip codes for a few paragraphs, we then veer back to the thrilling adventures of America's superpowered ex-rednecks:

Jim dropped a round pellet into the pod of the cesta. His arm swung. The ball-like bomb left the basket with a swish and creak of the rattan. The terrific snap of the throw tripped a firing device inside as the super bomb hurtled toward the flying boat beyond the breakers.

The first bomb touched off the fireworks. It blasted a wingtip off the invader.


And with that, I'm off to pen some alternate reality fiction about Uncle Sam's army of Vitamin-B12-drunk hayseed jai alai commandos. I will entertain any and all forthcoming book deals.

[Via Modern Mechanix]

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