U.S. Jones Cadets
One of the most sought after club kits today actually stemmed from a comic book that really never took off. The U.S. Jones Cadets, a club that "pledged to uphold the principles of Democracy in the All-American way," first surfaced just a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, an eerie premonition that makes fans and collectors wonder: exactly who was behind the character U.S. Jones and what inspired him to stir patriotism in children before the U.S. even knew they'd soon be involved in one of the most horrific wars in their history?
U.S. Jones first appeared in Wonderland Comics #28 in August of 1941, then again in his own title, U.S. Jones Comics, for a mere two issues in November of 1941 and January of 1942. All in all, not too impressive. The artwork was also less than spectacular, and, though he was a very different breed of hero, U.S. Jones already had some tough competition in patriots such as Captain America and The Shield. Nevertheless, the November '41 issue of U.S. Jones Comics introduced the club that would certainly make up for the comics' lack of popularity, a club that was also featured in V-Comics. In fact, many advanced collectors look past the fact that the character didn't catch on so well and regard the "U.S. Jones Cadets Membership Kit" the Action Comics #1 of club kits, because of its historical significance and everything that it foreshadowed. This is furthered by the fact that there are less than five known examples of the kit existing in complete condition today. And while Captain America and The Shield also had kid's clubs, The Sentinels of Liberty and The Shield G-Man Club, for all their American pride and desire to uphold justice, never did they so boldly call children to arms the way that U.S. Jones did.
His National Emergency Kit included a membership card, a series of instructions on how to organize an air-raid courier service, a secret decoder book and an official pin back, a pin back that is now one of the most actively sought comic premium among the world's most sophisticated collectors. As a matter of fact, one of these pinbacks sold for $6,785 at a MastroNet Auction in 2001, a record price for a superhero pinback.
Kids could become Cadets by sending ten cents, a three-cent stamp and the special coupon found in U.S. Jones #1. Once they pledged to defend democracy at all costs and to uphold the Constitution and, interestingly, the Ten Commandments, they became full-fledged members and received coded instructions on how to proceed with the fight. But remember, this was all just a short month before America became involved in World War II. So whoever it was behind the persona of U.S. Jones had some very serious ideas about war and the future of America, and saw the club as an opportunity to spread these ideas to the children the war would affect before it was too late.
Take for example, the introduction to the list of rules he devised for Cadets. It hardly reads like the club materials for the other popular American superheroes. Where Captain America and others encouraged patriotism in children through their own heroic feats, U.S. Jones encouraged it with a blatant call for children to get up and prepare for battle themselves. He didn't put kids in a fantasy world where defending honor and justice was left to the superheroes, but rather suggested that defending honor and justice would be left to them. And he did it with complete seriousness. He stated, "In these times of stress, when catastrophe strikes like lightening from the skies, we all of us must do our utmost to work together and keep our democracy intact." Pretty dramatic words for a kid's club. He went on to expound on the necessity of "Civilian Defense", entreating children to act upon their patriotic duties and begin preparations for the day when the government would need them.
This led to the introduction of the 10 rules to which children should adhere, which were as follows:
1. Keep Fit: Physical and mental fitness was crucial for anyone in order to "withstand the strain of any emergency." Good health would provide members with endurance, strength and "determination to refuse to surrender to the enemy's war of nerves and bombs."
2. Prevent Accidents: Because the United States couldn't afford to lose anyone to an avoidable accident, this rule encouraged Cadets to exercise the utmost caution, particularly when crossing the streets.
3. Know Your Neighborhood: This rule encouraged Cadets to become familiar with their surroundings in order to better protect them, from streets and landmarks to subway and bus stops top where potential air raid shelters could be found.
4. Learn First Aid: This also included fire prevention, so that danger could be avoided and people could be rescued.
5. Keep Your Town Sanitary: Because, maintained U.S. Jones, proper sanitation led to a healthy population. Although, he pointed out, rubbish discarded in the streets during an enemy attack could help to slow their advances.
6. Conserve: Cadets were instructed to waste nothing and to recycle aluminum at the police station.
7. Know Your Neighbors: This could aid Cadets in helping those they know and trust as well as in identifying suspicious strangers.
8. Learn To Use Your Code: Codes would be used in the event that communication wires should fail, therefore it was crucial that every Cadet knew how to use Code.
9. Speak Up For Democracy: Cadets were encouraged to speak out against "filthy propaganda" and to support the country their forefathers had built.
10. Buy Defense Stamps From The Government: Lastly, Cadets were asked to put a few pennies aside to support the government's "mighty task."
Following these rules, U.S. Jones promised, would force "the black hatred of fascism to break against the red-blooded freedom of...America!"
This was all very heavy, especially coming from a comic book character! And U.S. Jones clearly stated his mission with a no-nonsense passion. It was as if he knew that America's fathers would be called to offensively fight the war and America's mothers would be needed to enter the workforce, so he tapped into the framework of the children. And if events occurring in Asia and Europe gave him reason to suspect America would soon be called upon to defend its liberty, he wanted to make sure the children were prepared. He even pointed out, in his Outline for Civilian Defense, the strides English boys were making in protecting their country. He emphasized what a huge help these boys had been in "the defense of that bomb-shattered island," and then declared that American boys also had "every bit of the will, determination and stamina required for participation in National Defense" before outlining the 10 rules that would contribute to their proper training, all with an odd certainty in his tone, as if he knew the U.S. would soon be at war and that he really wanted the children to understand the importance of defending their country.
And he was onto something. Using comic books and kid's clubs as the means of spreading patriotism turned out to be quite a trend once the U.S. became heavily involved in the War, but it was the trend toward civil defense of the homeland that was started by the anonymous person behind U.S. Jones. Though many likely saw what was happening in the rest of the world in the early '40s and knew it was time to start stirring realistic feelings of nationalism in America's youth, U.S. Jones was the one to take what he noticed a step further, and put a club into motion that stands as a powerful historical document of America on the brink of war.