USS America Keeps Captain America Theme Going With Custom Painted Tractor

The amphibious assault ship's crew continues to use Captain America and his iconic symbols to express their pride in their vessel and its namesake.

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Last month, The War Zone highlighted how the first-in-class amphibious assault ship USS America has been flying a huge flag adorned with the symbol found on Marvel Comics' Captain America's iconic shield. The crew of the ship is clearly leaning into the theme more and more, and recently unveiled a new custom paint job on one of the tow tractors personnel use to move aircraft around the flight deck that also features the famous superhero.

Sailors from America's Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department revealed the specially painted tractor in a small ceremony on Mar. 27, 2020, with the ship's commanding officer, Captain Luke Frost, in attendance. Frost was given the chance to sign a plaque to go onto the small vehicle. Beyond the tractor and the Captain America flag, the ship already features other American flag-themed art, such as on its Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile launchers and island superstructure, which you can read about more in our previous piece.

The tractor's right-side panel shows Captain America with his shield crouching on the flight deck in front of an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. In a way, 'Cap almost looks like an Aircraft Launch and Recovery Officer about to signal to the jet's pilot to take off. There is also what looks to be a CH-53E Sea Stallion flying in the background. 

The top of the vehicle is painted like a flight deck, with "USS America" written in the middle and the number six at the front. America has a six on its actual flight deck that reflects its hull number, LHA-6. The word "Whiskey" is also written at the back, but it's not immediately clear what this is in reference to.

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USS America's commanding officer, Captain Luke Frost, at right, helps unveil the custom-painted tow tractor.

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Captain Frost signs a plaque to go on the vehicle.

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is presently embarked aboard America, which is operating in the Western Pacific. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) forms the core of the 31st MEU aviation component for this cruise. While VMM-265 is an MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor squadron that, for this deployment, it has attached F-35Bs and CH-53Es. At least one Navy MH-60S Sea Hawk is also on board.

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An aerial view of USS America sailing in the South China Sea in March 2020. Left to right, six MV-22Bs, three CH-53Es, a single MH-60S, and a pair of F-35Bs are seen in the flight deck.

Last year, the ship was seen carrying a particularly large complement of F-35Bs. This air component configuration reflected new aviation concepts of operation that the Marines, together with the Navy, which you can read about more in these past War Zone pieces.

America, and her still-under-construction sister ship the future USS Tripoli, are unique among U.S. Navy 'big-deck' amphibious assault ships in that they are aviation focused and lack a well deck to launch and recover hovercraft, landing craft, and other small boats. The third ship in the class, the future USS Bougainville, which you can read about more in this past War Zone piece, will be of its own unique sub-class that will feature a well deck.

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One of America's tow tractors in the Navy's standard and much less patriotic white paint scheme.

The present USS America is also just one of a number of Navy ships to have carried that name. Its immediate successor was a Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier, which the Navy sunk in 2005 in an unprecedented test after its retirement. The name, obviously, carries immensely important meaning and symbolism in of itself.

So, it's perhaps not surprising that the crew has adopted Captain America, perhaps the most patriotic superhero in American comics canon, and one with a military background, as a mascot of sorts. The first Captain America character, Steve Rogers, emerged right at the beginning of World War II and the early issues of the comic were heavily focused on 'Cap's adventures fighting the Axis Powers. The cover of the very first issue of the comic famously featured him punching Hitler in the face.

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A view from USS America's flight deck with the Captain America flag flying high.

Jack Kirby and Joe Simon actually created the character shortly before the United States officially entered World War II. Simon later said that he had specifically crafted Captain America as both an anti-Nazi symbol, as well as one opposed to isolationists in the United States who argued for not getting involved in growing global conflict.

Captain America, and his circular shield with its American flag motif, which he first used in the third issue of the comics, has continued to be a part of Marvel's superhero roster ever since. At times other characters have taken up the hero's mantle in Rogers' place. The Steve Rogers version of Captain America, however, has very much returned to the public consciousness in recent years thanks to the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

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The cover of Captain America Comics #1, at left, and a poster for the movie Captain America: The First Avenger, at right.

The crew of USS America is certainly continuing to use Captain America and the well-known symbols associated with his character to express their own pride in their ship and their country.

Contact the author: joe@thedrive.com