The term "Hero Brigade" was originally used by the U.S. military during World War II in reference to organized military units that consisted primarily of super-powered soldiers. The 1st Hero Brigade, inaugurated in Paragon City, was organized and trained specifically for combat against Axis forces.
During World War II, both the Axis and Allied forces began using super powered soldiers to gain an edge in the conflict. In the United States, Paragon City became the primary recruiting center for such soldiers. The US Army set up a special training facility in the city and amended the recruitment laws to allow costumed and anonymous heroes to enlist in the war effort. Heroes from across the country and throughout the Western Hemisphere came to the city and learned to not only use their powers and abilities but also how to fight as part of an army. Fighting mobsters and costumed maniacs in the streets was one thing, but fighting thousands of armed troops led by trained, super soldiers was quite another. By 1942 the first group of new recruits was formed into the 1st Hero Brigade and was ready to ship off to England.
As the 1st Hero Brigade gathered for its send off in Liberty Plaza, the ground shook with a tremendous roar and a preternatural blackness blocked out the sun. Up from beneath the city streets came Nazi Super soldiers wearing the red and black uniforms that would soon become feared up and down the Eastern seaboard: the Fifth Column had made itself known. The Nazi troops had been in hiding ever since the December 7th attacks [on Paragon City's harbor], waiting for a chance to strike again. The fighting 1st Brigade rose to the occasion and won the first of many epic battles against Nazi forces both at home and abroad. Beaten but not defeated, the Fifth Column fled back into hiding, only to return time and again over the next four years. As for the 1st Hero Brigade, they shipped off to Europe to take the fight straight to the enemy.
America's super powered elite forces, the 1st Hero Brigade, saw their first action overseas in the deserts of North Africa. Tragically, it became immediately apparent that heroes could die in war almost as easily as normal soldiers. In the first engagement, the Hero Brigade took the German panzers head on and got the worst of it. Costume clad men and women who were used to dodging through street toughs and gangsters found that an exploding tank shell was often much tougher to dodge. Even the more powerful heroes, those capable of taking on a tank or two on their own, found that three or four panzers often proved two too many. Scores died in those early battles, but the Hero Brigade's leaders learned much from those costly mistakes.
The Americans decided that heroes could better serve the cause by performing special operations and surgical strikes rather than working in large, military style units. The 1st Hero Brigade separated into dozens of small strike teams and spread out across North Africa. Among the most successful of these new teams was a group that called itself the Sand Kings. Made up entirely of heroes from Paragon City, the Sand Kings were street level heroes headed by the mysterious Dream Doctor. With the help of the Doctor's mind control and illusion powers they became the new model for how heroes could be most effective in the war.
The 1st Hero Brigade was likely heavily-involved in the D-Day invasions, following behind the Statesman and the members of the Freedom Phalanx as they entered France. Despite violent opposition from the Nazi Storm Korps, the heroes proved victorious, allowing Allied forces to turn the tide of the war. During the following year of savage and costly battles across Europe, heroes served much as they had in North Africa: as aides and adjuncts to the main job being done by the soldiers. The Storm Korps took too long to recover from the blow they'd been dealt on D-Day. By the time the dreaded Nazi hero legion had reformed the war was all but over. The Storm Korps retreated to its secret Black Forest fastness, hoping to negotiate their freedom and escape to South America. The surviving members of the 1st Hero Brigade would have none of that. Although too injured to fight, the Statesman planned the final assault against the Storm Korps stronghold. Hitler had shot himself the night before, but for the 1st Hero Brigade, there was one last battle.
The Battle of the Black Forest was a dirty, nasty, brutal conflict, fought over five days and almost entirely within the sprawling underground labyrinth the Storm Korps called home. The remaining super powered Nazis had holed up behind reinforced steel doors, maniacal deathtraps, and cunningly designed fortifications. Each fought to the last breath as the Allied heroes dug them out of the ground with pure force and tenacity. In the final showdown the last few Storm Korps members suffered their final humiliating defeat by being captured alive.
After WWII, the original Hero Brigade and all of its splinter groups seemingly disbanded. Many of the surviving members were so disturbed by the horrors of war that they retired. The rest returned to their original superhero teams or continued to adventure as solo crime fighters. The concept of the Hero Brigade transformed during the Cold War. In 1956, Congress passed the Might for Right Act. This law proclaimed super-powered individuals and vigilante heroes a valuable national resource subject to draft without notice into the service of the United States government. For the next decade the CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense routinely pressed heroes into service, both at home and abroad. Most were only too happy to help, but there were undoubtedly many, many abuses of the law. Heroes with unpopular politics found themselves sent on suicide missions into Eastern Europe. Minority heroes suffered particular discrimination during this period, often being forced into secret duty for months or years at a time, with no contact with family and loved ones.
From 1956 to 1966, the vast majority of those heroes pressed into service were used to fight a covert war against the Soviet Union. While public hero organizations like the Freedom Phalanx and the Dawn Patrol carried on their seemingly never ending war against costume-clad villains, many of America’s 'lesser known' heroes found themselves fighting and dying behind the Iron Curtain or in the jungles of South America and Southeast Asia. These battles, waged with ferocity by each side, did little more than maintain the status quo, often at the expense of local populations and governments. It is highly unlikely that these suicide squads were identified as divisions of the famous 1st Hero Brigade, which had helped to save the world.
The Might for Right Act finally met its demise in 1967 when a case brought to trial by three African-American superheroes went before the Supreme Court. The high court ruled the law entirely unconstitutional and ordered the immediate cessation of all Might For Right draftee operations. In reality, it took close to three years for the last draftee to be freed from duty, as many were deeply entrenched in covert operations that the government was reluctant to close in a timely manner. Despite the repeal of the Might for Right Act, it's believed that the United States military continues to use super soldiers, albeit only those who volunteer for service. It's unknown whether such soldiers are assembled into "Hero Brigades," as they were during WWII, although it is highly likely that they are organized in some similar fashion.
The complete roster for the entire 1st Hero Brigade likely comprised every American superhero (and perhaps those of other national origin) who volunteered for the war against the Axis forces, including the Statesman and the rest of the Freedom Phalanx. The heroes listed below have been confirmed as members of the 1st Hero Brigade or one of the subsequent splinter groups, such as the Sand Kings.