Spoiler: The Winter Soldier is actually

Bucky Barnes.

WARNING: This individual is named in the answers below. For now, let us call him "the subject".

Assuming that the subject is simply a normal, superpower-less, human soldier, why would Captain America's enemies, Hydra, waste time converting him into the "Winter Soldier", especially as he is/was severely injured and not a natural supporter of their regime (hence having to brainwash him)?

Would it not have been easier to simply recruit from within their own ranks (those of Hydra) and find somebody much more willing and aligned with their cause?

The subject does not possess Cap's super power(s) and is brainwashed, so, presumedly, he can't remember anything that might be useful against Shield/America/Captain America?

So why bother with him???

  • 7
    The film isn't even out in the USA yet! I saw it in the UK last week so I don't mind, but I have edited your question title to remove a significant plot spoiler. Apr 1, 2014 at 15:28
  • You should probably edit the tags on this, as it's a somewhat different situation as to how he becomes the Winter Soldier in the comics. This pertains to the Winter Soldier of the Cinematic Universe.
    – Monty129
    Apr 1, 2014 at 17:15
  • 2
    Apologies about the spoiler, I'm a bit of a newbie here. I'm also in the UK myself, I haven't seen the movie yet, but the background story intrigued me.
    – Big Rich
    Apr 1, 2014 at 17:31
  • @BigRich: No worries, welcome to the site! :-) Apr 1, 2014 at 19:49

4 Answers 4


If I was to think of reasons we can probably chalk this up to a number of reasons:

  1. The subject was in the Howling Commando's, he probably has a lot of experience then compared to the average Hydra grunt.
  2. Why waste perfectly good man power on experimenting when you can just use it on POWs?
  3. Having a war hero be turned into a champion of Hydra would be a huge blow to U.S morale after his identity is outed.
  4. The subject would be the perfect opponent for Captain America as he would know how Steve fights and the best way to fight him.
  5. He also could have a detrimental effect on Rogers morale, as seen in the movie.
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    The initial experiments come before there is any link to Captain America.
    – Dan Kelly
    Apr 2, 2014 at 9:54
  • They all seem like valid points, thanks for your answers ;-)
    – Big Rich
    Apr 2, 2014 at 13:39
  • 1
    @Dan Kelly But there was a long link with Steve Rogers.
    – Ihor Sypko
    Apr 16, 2014 at 13:39

@Valten1992 has kinda nailed this, but just to clarify:

why would Captain America's enemies, Hydra, waste time converting him into the "Winter Soldier", especially as he is/was severely injured

In Captain America: The First Avenger, when Cap rescues


and the other POWs from the camp behind enemy lines, he’s already being experimented on by Arnim Zola, prior to

falling from the speeding train on which they capture Zola.

So, when they fully convert him into the Winter Soldier, he’s already been the subject of previous experiments by a scientist who’s now in the custody of the Allies. He may, in the absence of Zola, have been their only viable subject.

  • Good catch, i forgot a lot of details from the first movie.
    – Valten1992
    Apr 1, 2014 at 21:46

@paul-d-waite Has it right.

The initial experimentation comes from before The Subject has any obvious links to Captain America - the rescue of his platoon is the first action that Cap undertakes after being used purely as a Propaganda tool.

There's another wrinkle in the development in that the further development of the soldier (arm, brainwashing, etc) have to take place after Zola has been captured on the train

Yet in flashback we see Zola appears to be present during these developments - Once Zola was already in SHIELD, under project paperclip

  • Ah, I forgot about the flashbacks. You think they’re flashing back to The Subject’s time in the POW camp, before Cap’s rescue? Apr 2, 2014 at 13:13
  • 1
    Some of them are - but there are a couple that seemed to relate to what happens to him later... and that would have implications as to exactly who does it to him. I'll need to pay it more attention next time I see it!
    – Dan Kelly
    Apr 2, 2014 at 15:17
  • 1
    Perhaps Zola wasn't under constant surveillance, he did after all create a massive "data-center" of his own "mind"... He would have needed some freedom to be able to do that.
    – Möoz
    Apr 7, 2014 at 21:16
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    @BorhanMooz Zola wasn't taking advantage of available freedom; he was operating under the direction of Hydra agents in SHEILD.Only in New Jersey's Pine Barrens do such conspiratorial mysteries remain hidden.
    – Ihor Sypko
    Apr 16, 2014 at 13:47

In Addition to the answer prior to mine future experiments could have still been preformed on the subject even after Zola's capture. It is reasonable to assume that they used him to try to duplicate the super soldier serum. That does not mean he is an expert at brain washing or that he had anything to do with his indoctrination. That could have been anyone else.

With regards to why they chose him to become the Winter Soldier. It was because of his ties to Cap initially. When they were experimenting on him the first time he was captured Hydra could not have had prior knowledge of his relationship so at the time they were just experimenting on prisoners to attempt to duplicate in some capacity Caps power. The Subject was rescued by Cap before any results of the experiments could be seen. When the train was attacked and destroyed ( Presumably Hydra but maybe not) would have investigated the wreckage and attempt to salvage what they could. When they discover the Subject still alive they would then realize that the experiments are what allowed this, or if it wasn't Hydra that discovered him and lets say it was Shield, they would want to find how what allowed him to survive. After a physical which would probably include a blood test they would discover why. Then due to the fact that Cap was taking a very cold nap they would then turn him into the Winter Soldier to make up for the lack of their Super Soldier. This would also make sense as to why you see flash backs of Zola post the first POW camp.

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