Captain America: The Winter Soldier co-director Anthony Russo confirmed to CinemaBlend recently on their podcast titled ReelBlend that they did indeed originally want to include an opening sequence in the film taking Steve Rogers back to WWII with a massive battle, but was ultimately removed two months before shooting the film.
ANTHONY RUSSO: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier actually opened with a battle during World War II, in one of the drafts. That was a massive battle that ended with a significant moment for Cap, that then fed into the story. And then we ended up cutting back about two months before shooting.”
This keyframe artwork from Ryan Meinerding which would have seen Steve Rogers having a flashback to his time with Bucky and The Howling Commandos conducting missions before other events in Captain America: The First Avenger leading to Bucky’s “death”.
This snowy battle sequence seemingly made it to the storyboard stage as seen in this video below (spotted by MCU Direct) and reveals that Steve is woken up during the middle of things by his alarm clock, as he was dreaming.
In the Smithsonian concept artwork, the mission is called Operation: Zemo, and we eventually see Bucky visit the Smithsonian exhibit himself at the end of the film. I have to assume that the original idea was to connect the battle to this end credit scene.
It’s always interesting to see what makes the final cut of one of these Marvel films and what gets scrapped in the end. I’m also kind of curious if we’ll be exploring more WWII stuff in The Falcon & The Winter Soldier or another Marvel project in the future as the Howling Commandos weren’t the only folks fighting during WWII. Characters like Wolverine, Namor, and others have a history fighting during the war which could be explored with their MCU origins.