Classification: Terrestrial technology (1940s era)

Creator: Unrevealed

User/Possessors: U.S. military; Captain America (Steve Rogers)

First Appearance: Captain America I#247 (July, 1980)

Powers/Abilities/Functions: A large tunnel-like enclosure constructed from numerous unspecified electrical devices, this apparatus provided a non-surgical method of implanting false memories into the sub-conscious minds of individuals subjected to it, possibly by using some advanced form of hypnosis and/or subliminal conditioning,.  The memories were so vivid that the individual would believe them to be true.    


History: (Captain America I#247 (fb) - BTS) - The U.S. military developed the "False Memory Chamber" under unknown circumstances (see comments).

(Captain America I#247 (fb)) - On December 24th, 1941, Pvt. Steve Rogers reported to General Phillips' office.  He learned that he would be given a false set of memories to confuse the enemy in the event he was captured and tortured.  Steve was introduced to Walter Rogers (presumably no relation) of the State Department, whose sons--Mike and Grant--died at Pearl Harbor.  Phillips told Steve that the elder Rogers' family would serve as the basis for the fictitious past that would be implanted in Steve's mind (see comments).

Steve Rogers was seated in the chamber (which he thought looked like something from the writings of  H.G. Wells); he spent three days undergoing the procedure (see comments), and the false memories were successfully implanted into his mind.  Although Steve didn't know how many false memories were programmed into him (and he prayed he never found out), some of them included the personal "facts" that his middle name was Grant (he actually didn't have a middle name), his father Walter was a diplomat, his mother was named Elizabeth, and his brother Mike died at Pearl Harbor.

At some point afterward, Steve wrote an account of his experience in the "false memory chamber" in his war journal.

(Captain America I#247) - In present times, a troubled Captain America felt the memories of his youth were muddled following an earlier mind-probe (see comments), so he went to SHIELD headquarters for help.  Dum Dum Dugan took Cap to a Ft. Dix, New Jersey storage depot, where Cap recovered his journal from his wartime footlocker.  Cap read about his experience in the "false memory chamber," which unleashed a flood of memories about his true past that restored his self-assurance.


Comments: Created by Roger Stern (writer) and John Byrne (artist)

In regards to "false memory chamber": This gizmo was never officially named in this story, but it was referred to as such in the Official Index to the Marvel Universe.

Steve Rogers wrote in his journal that he had spent three days in the "false memory chamber," but he didn't appear to have any intravenous-feeding lines in his arms, so I'm assuming he didn't spend all those days continuously undergoing the process--he may have been given some time off for eating, sleeping, stretching his legs, and "personal breaks".

Maybe the "false memory chamber" was the American military's version of the Nazis' "nullatron".  The "nullatron" was once used by the Red Skull to place Captain America and his fellow Invaders under hypnotic control (@ Invaders I#6) ; later, the plans for the nullatron were adapted by the Ringmaster (Maynard Tiboldt) for his "hypnotic hat" (@ Incredible Hulk I#3).

Captain America I#215 (November, 1977) began the sub-plot of Steve Rogers on a quest to discover his forgotten pre-war past.  This sub-plot culminated in Captain America I#225 (September, 1978), wherein Cap was subjected to a mind-probe device by Dr. Mason Harding (creator of the Madbomb) to unlock the memories of his early family life.  In a flashback sequence, it was revealed to Cap (and the readers) that Steve Rogers came from a wealthy upbringing in Maryland, with his parents Elizabeth and Walter (a diplomat with the State Department) and his brother Mike--Steve, the weaker and more sensitive of the two sons, was a disappointment to his father.  Steve later attended art school in New York, and learned of his brother's death at Pearl Harbor, then tried to enlist in the armed forces.  But the story in Captain America I#247 discounted that flashback and relegated it as fictitious.  We now know that during the Great Depression, Steve Rogers (an only-child) was born into an impoverished life on Manhattan's lower east side.  Steve's father Joseph Rogers (an often-unemployed chronic drinker) died when Steve was still a child; in his late teens, Steve's mother Sarah died of pneumonia, leaving him an orphan.

Although the "false memory chamber" did serve the purpose of conveniently wiping out the earlier flashback, I couldn't follow the reasoning for the whole implanted memories plot--Steve Rogers had no apparent living relatives who might have been threatened by enemy retaliation, so what purpose did it serve to tie Captain America to Walter Rogers and his family, and thus  potentially jeopardize their lives?

Timely Comics was still publishing the adventures of Captain America and Bucky into the late-1940s, with the characters referred to as "Steve" and "Bucky" in their civilian identities.  But modern Marvel continuity has established that Cap (Steve Rogers) and Bucky (Jim Barnes) were lost and presumed killed-in-action in April, 1945, and their costumed identities were assumed by replacements (@ What If? I#4).  Cap was replaced first by William Nasland (formerly the Spirit of '76), and later (following the death of Nasland at the hands of Adam-II's android) by Jeff Mace (formerly the Patriot), while Fred Davis filled in as Bucky.  Since this retcon occurred after the publication of the late-1940s stories, maybe they could explain the later "Steve" and "Bucky" references by revealing that Nasland, Mace, and Davis also underwent the same false memory procedure to temporarily cover their true identities--maybe they had living relatives they wanted to protect from enemy reprisal, so making them think they were "Steve Rogers" and "Bucky Barnes" (two "dead" men with no known living family members) would seem to be the perfect "hiding place" should the secret of their alter-egos ever be compromised (Of course, this is not an issue for William Burnside, the Atlas Comics Captain America of the 1950s, since he was using the "Steve Rogers" identity anyway.)

And maybe there's one other continuity glitch for which the "false memory chamber" could be used.  References were made in the past to both Reed Richards and Ben Grimm serving in the military during World War II (as early as Fantastic Four I#11), and they both had memories of encountering Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos (e.g. Reed in Sgt. Fury#3 (and mentioned in Fantastic Four I#21), Ben in Marvel Two-In-One#77). 
While these flashback memories were feasible in the stories published in the 1960s, and even into the 1970s, they were later ignored, because in order to have fought in the war, Reed and Ben would have been senior citizens by the 1980s.  So the "sliding time-line" came into effect, and the Fantastic Four have only been around for 10-15 years (Marvel-time), even though their comic-book has been published since 1961 (real-time), thus Reed Richards and Ben Grimm are now considered too young to be WWII veterans (Of course the aging issue is not a problem for Nick Fury, who stays relatively young because of  Dr. Berthold Sternberg's Infinity Formula).

But that still leaves the quandary of explaining those previous mentions by Reed and Ben about serving in World War II and fighting alongside Sgt. Fury, so here's an idea for a solution: Maybe there's an untold pre-Fantastic Four tale wherein Reed and Ben assisted CIA agent Col. Nick Fury on a case involving the "false memory chamber".  At some point, they were all simultaneously exposed to that device, which created a mental-link among the three, with Fury's memories as the matrix, and this experience left the trio with shared delusional memories that they had met in the 1940s (Sure, it's convoluted, but it's a lot simpler than explaining it through time-travel).

And THANK YOU! to Norvo for providing me with the scans!

Profile by Ron Fredricks

The "false memory chamber" has no known connections to:

  • Walter Rogers has no known connections to:

    Walter Rogers

    A diplomat with the U.S. State Department in the 1940s, he and his wife Elizabeth had two sons, Mike and Grant.  After their sons were killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Rogers volunteered to have his family's life used for the basis of false memories that would be implanted into the mind of Captain America (Pvt. Steve Rogers (presumably no relation)).  Walter assured Steve that he would still be himself after the procedure was over, but in the event that he were ever interrogated by the enemy, he would give them an entirely different background story (based on Walter Rogers' family life) that even Steve would believe was true.  Although Steve warned him of the grave danger in which he could be placing his family, Walter Rogers let him know that after losing their two sons, it was the least he and his wife could do.

    The fate of Walter Rogers in present times is unknown.

    --Captain America I#247

    images: (without ads)
    Captain America I#247 p10 pan6 (main image, Captain America sitting in "false memory chamber" in 1941)
    Captain America I#247 p11 pan1 (Captain America learning about "false memory chamber" after reading his war journal, as Dum Dum Dugan stands by him; present times)
    Captain America I#247 p11 pan2 (Captain America feeling self-assured after learning his past memories were false, Dum Dum Dugan in background; present times)
    Captain America I#247 p10 pan4 (Gen. Phillips and Pvt. Steve Rogers meet Walter Rogers in 1941)
    Captain America I#247 p10 pan5 (Pvt. Steve Rogers warns Walter Rogers of the risks in 1941)

    Captain America I#247 (July, 1980) - Roger Stern (writer), John Byrne (co-plot, penciler), Josef Rubinstein (inker)

    Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

    First Posted: 05/22/2016
    Last Updated: 05/21/2016

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