The Howling Commandos are an elite special squadron formed during World War II to fight against Nazis, Axis powers, and terrorist threats. With Sergeant Nick Fury as field leader, they howl their way through the trenches of war.
Elite Special Squadron
“The Howling Commandos” is the nickname given to the First Attack Squad of Able Company, a ranger squadron formed in WWII under Captain Samuel “Happy Sam” Sawyer’s command, and granted the rank of Commandos in the British Armed Forces by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Prior to United States involvement in the war, Sawyer had operated on behalf of the British, but a combat injury in North Africa removed him from the field in early 1942. Sawyer chose Sgt. Nick Fury to serve as the squad’s field leader, having worked with Fury earlier in the war. Fury leads a group of courageous company men to battle often throughout WWII and go up against Nazis and Nazi agents.
During WWII, the British government sanctions the elite ranger squadron, the Howling Commandos to fight against the Nazis. They serve under Captain Samuel Sawyer’s command, with Sgt. Nick Fury as the squad’s field leader. Corporal Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan, a former circus strongman who served under Sawyer in North Africa, is Fury’s second-in-command.
The squad’s other founding members were Isadore “Izzy” Cohen, a mechanical genius from Brooklyn; Gabe Jones, a former jazz trumpeter who carried his bugle with him to lead the squad into battle; Dino Manelli, a former Hollywood film star who had changed his name; the youthful but courageous Jonathan “Junior” Juniper; and Kentucky-born Robert “Reb” Ralston, who often carried a lariat. On the squad’s first field mission Ralston taught his fellow soldiers the “rebel yell,” which they used to frighten their enemies by amplifying their voices, making it sound like there was more than the single squadron present. When Sawyer learned of this, he christened them the Howling Commandos.
Tragically, Juniper dies in one of the Howlers’ earliest missions. When Manelli is subsequently injured and temporarily relieved, George Stonewell is assigned to the squad for a mission in North Africa, which pits them against Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The racist Stonewell is bigoted against Cohen for being a Jew and Gabe for being African-American, but regrets his beliefs after the two Howlers save his life. Stonewell is transferred out of the Howlers when Manelli returns to duty. Soon after, the Howlers finally receive a permanent replacement for Juniper: Upper-class Englishman Percival “Pinky” Pinkerton, who is fond of wielding his umbrella like a sword.
Command of the Howlers is briefly turned over to Captain Richard Flint while Sawyer is on detached service. Although Flint felt that the Howlers were a soft unit and insisted on leading them into battle personally, he learns to admire them by the time he returns command to Sawyer. Shortly afterward, the Howlers ally with costumed heroes Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America,, and James Buchanan Barnes, AKA Bucky (later Winter Soldier).
Hold Your Ground, Howlers
Sgt. Fury’s Howlers’ most dogged opponent was Wolfgang von Strucker, AKA Baron Strucker, an aristocratic Nazi who eventually devised his Blitzkrieg Squad to mimic many of the Howlers’ talents; however, the Blitzkrieg Squad never claimed a victory over the Howlers. Perhaps the Howlers’ most unusual foe was Colonel Fritz Klaue, a Nazi agent with a bionic hand who later assumed command of the Blitzkrieg Squad from Strucker. The Howlers were also menaced by the Agent of 1000 Faces, a masterful disguise artist, and by Captain America’s greatest foe, Johann Shmidt, AKA the Red Skull, once traveling into the mystical Dark Dimension alongside Captain America and Bucky to prevent the Skull from gaining the support of Dormammu.
The Howlers’ missions during WWII even brought them into direct conflict with Adolf Hitler himself; they seemingly captured the dictator on one assignment, only to find that they had caught one of his numerous impersonators instead. In one instance they formed an unlikely alliance of convenience with the vampire lord Dracula, but also clashed with the Nazi vampire agent John Falsworth, AKA Baron Blood.
Sawyer’s Second Attack Squad, the Maulers, were frequent brawling partners of Sgt. Fury’s Howlers and the two squads vied for notoriety throughout the war. Submarine commander Captain Simon Savage often ferried the Howlers to and from Europe aboard his vessel the USS Sea Wolf; later, Savage’s Marine squad the Leatherneck Raiders became valued allies of the Howlers.
During WWII, the Howlers meet the costumed hero Captain America and his sidekick Bucky, while they were all assigned to destroy an attempted German tunnel into England. Captain America and Bucky were occasional allies of the Howlers from then on.
In the Netherlands, the Howlers made an ally of resistance leader Andries Rooten, AKA Agent X, who sent his son Hans to England with the Howlers for safety. Hans became the Howlers’ mascot for a while, until he was sent to the U.S. to live with Ralston’s family for the remainder of the war.
After the Germans captured all of the Howlers except Fury, he led a rescue mission alongside the Maulers and Eric Koenig, a German expatriate. Manelli was wounded in the rescue, which led to Koenig being offered Manelli’s place. Although Koenig had to earn his fellow Howlers’ trust, he quickly proved invaluable to the squad thanks to his knowledge of the German military machine and his piloting skills. When Manelli finally rejoined the Howlers, Koenig remained in the squad.
The Howlers developed a close alliance with Jacques Dernier, a member of the French Resistance who repeatedly aided them in local assignments. They also befriended Eric’s sister Ilsa, who eventually came to England and romanced Manelli. Some other squadrons the Howling Commandos fought alongside included the Missouri Marauders and Jim Morita’s Nisei Squadron.
The Howlers were primarily active in the European theater of the war, but on a few occasions fought in the Pacific Theater against Imperial Japan. While on a mission to the island of Tarawa, Cohen was captured by the Japanese and spent some months in a prison camp until he was finally rescued by the Leatherneck Raiders and returned to the Howlers.
Manelli’s friend Jerry Larkin joined the squad for one mission, but unfortunately perished in battle. At one point Koenig seemed to betray the Howlers and returned to Germany. The seemingly fearless Duane Wilson replaced Koenig, but after turning AWOL in his first combat assignment he was tried and executed. Another German expatriate, Sgt. Hans Klaus took Koenig’s place, but it was eventually revealed that Koenig was on a secret assignment from Sawyer to infiltrate the German command. Sgt. Klaus died during the mission to return Koenig to England. Soon after Koenig’s return, former All-American quarterback Fred Jones joined the squad, but lost most of his right leg in combat, ending his career as a soldier and football player.
For a time, Dugan, Manelli and Pinkerton were transferred by Sawyer to the Deadly Dozen, a squad comprised primarily of ex-convicts. Each of the three soon returned to the Howlers; tragically, most of the Deadly Dozen were killed soon after.
The Howling Commandos participated in many of the war’s significant latter-day skirmishes, including D-Day (June 6, 1944), the Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944-January 25, 1945) and the Battle of Berlin (April-May, 1945).
Toward the war’s end Fury became involved in the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.), an WWII wartime agency that preceded the CIA. With the O.S.S. he conducted intelligence work and joined the CIA when the war concluded. Many of the other Howlers returned to civilian life, but during the Korean War (1950-1953) Sawyer returned to service, leading Fury, Dugan, Cohen, Jones, Manelli, Pinkerton and Ralston in the field, during which Fury was finally promoted to lieutenant.
Despite the passage of years, the surviving Howlers remained remarkably fit and vital, perhaps because minute and repeated exposure to Fury’s blood (metabolically altered by the age-retarding Infinity Formula) slowed their aging somewhat. In recent years, Fury became the public director of the international intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and quickly brought Gabe and Dugan into the organization.
For a special S.H.I.E.L.D. mission in Southeast Asia, the Howling Commandos were unofficially reunited by General Sawyer; Fury, Dugan, Cohen, Jones, Koenig, Manelli, Pinkerton and Ralston were joined by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell. Soon after this, Koenig also joined S.H.I.E.L.D. At a reunion gathering of the Howlers, Hydra kidnapped General Sawyer, planning to use his authorization to confiscate nuclear arsenals from the U.S. Air Force. The former Howlers teamed with Captain America to save their one-time commanding officer, but Sawyer ultimately sacrificed his life to stop Hydra.
Fury, Dugan, Jones and Koenig have primarily remained active in S.H.I.E.L.D. since then, while Cohen became a garage mechanic, Manelli returned to the entertainment industry, Pinkerton opened a gentlemen’s club and Ralston became a U.S. senator.
Fury later gathered two more iterations of the team with differing purposes: First, the Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D., a monster squad led by Dugan, though a Life Model Decoy (LMD) of the original Dugan. Second, the Howling Commandos, AKA Secret Warriors, which was a team of elite yet obscure heroes including S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, mercenaries, and children of gods. This team's purpose was to defend Earth from the Skrull invasion.