"Secret codes were the hallmark of the radio show and with coded messages being worked into storylines that only members could figure out, decoders soon became all the rage.
"Kids would listen to the program for a Master Code Combination, set their dials accordingly, and then keep track of each code number given by the announcer. Then, they could find the code numbers on their badge, and write down the corresponding letters. Pretty soon, the message would be revealed."
FLYING ACES: PART II, Captain Midnight
Captain Midnight was a a 1940s super hero, a fictional character written as mortal who, from just before the beginning of World War II into the deepest throes of the war's battles to it's decisive end, that, using the medium of regular radio programing, comic books, and movie serials, took on all the proportions of real life, giving hope, strength, and inspiration to thousands and thousands of war weary families and kids, as loved ones fought, were wounded, and died for our freedom in the air, the seas, and the farflung battlefields of distant lands.
Captain Midnight, like my own Mentor who in real life was a pilot in World War I, was also, as written, a pilot in World War I, with many of their exploits, both the factual and the fictional, paralleling. At least that's how I discovered it to be after reading Captain Midnight's biography which was so adroitly put together by author Stephen A. Kallis Jr. The author, following hours-and-hours of researching and sifting through piles and piles of background material, notes, and archived original radio scripts, combined all he gathered into a book he titled Radio's Captain Midnight: The Wartime Biography (2000).(see)
In parallel, both Captain Midnight and my mentor were Americans, about the same age, and loved flying. They went to Europe as not much more than kids to fight well before the U.S. entered the war. My mentor was a pilot for the Royal Flying Corps, having joined by going through Canada, flying for the British while Captain Midnight flew for the French under the branching umbrella of the Lafayette Flying Corps. My mentor's aircraft was the venerable British made Sopwith Camel while Midnight's was said to be a French built Nieuport 17, the same type of aircraft as flown by Charles Nungesser, France's third leading ace with 45 victories, and of whom my mentor knew personally in real life.
Parallels notwithstanding, unlike my mentor who remained within the ranks of the Royal Flying Corps when the U.S. entered the war, Captain Midnight, whose last name was said to be Albright before he became Captain Midnight, like a large portion of the Americans fighting with the French, shifted to the American forces, being commissioned an officer and receiving the rank of Captain. My mentor, a front line fighter pilot, nearly always flew in multiple plane squadron-like groups and was wounded twice. Captain Midnight's time in the air was spent basically flying unescorted, often unarmed and alone, participating in dangerous low and high level observations, scouting, and photo reconnaissance. Cumulatively his abilities eventually morphed, because of his extraordinary flying skills and knowledge of the lay of the land, especially behind the lines, into solo secret missions.
That was their World War I backgrounds. After World War I Captain Midnight went on to participate in World War II as a civilian, and it was World War II with his Secret Squadron that he gained his fame. I was way too young to have fought in either of those wars. Years passed before I served in uniform, and by then it was a much different time and a much different war. The following, telling of my early childhood during the Second World War, is from the source so cited:
"Even though my home was thousands of miles away from the raging turmoil of the battlefronts, living practically on the beach along the Pacific coast we were constant hostage to attack. Although most people don't know it or they don't remember it, the hostilities of the war visited our shores more than once, and sometimes so close it was like it was in our front yard. Japanese submarines prowled the waters all up and down the coast with shipping being hit, torpedoed, damaged and sunk. The mainland being hit with shells, bombs, and by air attacks. Sure, it was nothing like what was happening in either of the two major theaters, but happening none the less."(source)
When I was a young boy growing up during that period, like most of my male peers, I was thoroughly enamored with the wartime super heroes. Even though I liked most of them in one fashion or the other, for me, mostly because of the Code-O-Graphs, Captain Midnight and his wartime exploits saving America and the rest of the free world from total domination by the Axis Powers provided a welcome respite from dangers actual or perceived. However, I had no clue, until well along the way into my adult years that Captain Midnight and my mentor's early experiences paralleled so closely. Although their paths veered dramatically following the war I still find it amazing to this day that as a teenager, well after the war, I sought out and became friends with a person whose real life early background paralleled so closely with that of one of my foremost childhood heroes. The following, from the source so cited, exemplifies the high regard I carried for it all during my childhood:
"Up until the START of high school the only real possessions I dragged about with me in a continuing fashion throughout my childhood and in good order, other than the U-235 Atomic Pistol, was a collection of Ovaltine jar-top offers called Captain Midnight decoders, or more officially, Code-O-Graphs. For those who may not be familiar with Code-O-Graphs, they were a 1940s-era, small, usually badge-like handheld device made of metal, sometimes with plastic parts, and invariably with a knob or dial of some sort that would allow the user to create, cypher, and decipher secret messages --- messages primarily emanating from and related to the Captain Midnight daily radio broadcasts and his Secret Squadron members.
"Although I eventually collected all of them up through 1949, my favorite was the 1942-1944 Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph. As a promotional item Code-O-Graphs were designed to be replaced one after the other year after year to keep the user buying Ovaltine. However, during the war, because of the shortage of metal, after the initial release of the Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph, instead of being replaced by a new one within a year, their use was extended over the entire duration of the war, the only one of the Code-O-Graphs that was, and just at the time I was being impacted by them. Thus, for most of my childhood Code-O-Graph life, as fate or karma would have it, I just needed to own and learn the use of only one single type --- something I became very, very adept at."(source)
Although there is an overall arc that spans Captain Midnight's background, when it comes to the specifics not all the various media, radio, comic strips, and movie serials, are in agreement. While most of us have a tendency to lump them together, myself included, Kallis in writing the biography, concentrated exclusively on the wartime radio scripts, believing that the content of those scripts were the only true, reliable, or 'real' source of Captain Midnight's background --- an opinion that is not easy to disregard. If one goes beyond those early radio scripts, which tread a fairly solid path in regards to Captain Midnight's early years, there is a total of at least three other incarnations of Captain Midnight. In the June 2005 bimonthly journal, Radio Recall, Kallis provided a brief thumbnail sketch of the differences between the various media versions. He begins by saying the original was a radio serial that started in 1938 as a syndicated program from Skelly Oil. The story line revealed that the character was an aviator who became something of an amateur 'crime' fighter. After Ovaltine picked up the sponsorship in the Fall of 1940, Kallis then goes on to say:
"The show changed, with the title character recruited to head a Government-supported paramilitary organization known as the Secret Squadron. The organization was formed to fight sabotage and espionage, of which there was plenty before Pearl Harbor. The program produced a yearly cryptological premium called the Code-O-Graph, that identified the owner as a member of the Secret Squadron. [Materials shortages prevented manufacture of 1943 and 1944 models.]
"At least once a week, the show's announcer broadcast a cipher message that gave a slight preview to the following show. The program ran as a serial until the Spring of 1949. In the Fall of that year, a few half-hour, complete-story, program aired, but it was dumbed down and lasted through the middle of December.
"In 1942, a Captain Midnight newspaper comic strip was introduced. It was drawn in a Caniff-like style, and was extremely close to the radio show, though with different stories. Also, in 1942, Fawcett Comics introduced a comic-book Captain Midnight. This version was significantly different from the radio or comic-strip versions. The Fawcett hero traded his uniform for a standard superhero costume (skin-tight uniform with logo, etc.), was 'an inventor,' and had no Secret Squadron. It wasn't even close to the radio show. The Fawcett 'Captain Midnight' was a retread of another Fawcett character, Spy Smasher.(see) The Fawcett Captain Midnight had a 'gliderchute' built into his costume rather than a parachute, that enabled him to 'fly' much like a Flying Squirrel."(source)
Kallis, in his background research into Captain Midnight, originally cited the person who would grow up to be Captain Midnight as being born in North Carolina at the turn of the century under the name Charles J. Albright (my mentor, also a World War I pilot, was born in the fall of 1899, making him age-wise, just at the lower limits to have been able to have participated in the war). However, although the place and time for Captain Midnight remain the same, after review of sound information by fellow researcher Tom Tumbusch, the author of Illustrated Radio Premium Catalog and Price Guide, who, in his findings provided convincing evidence of a different name, Kallis has since acknowledged Tumbusch's findings. The name now agreed upon by most Captain Midnight aficionados is Stuart James ('Jim') Albright, nicknamed Red, who, under the code name, Captain Midnight, was the leader of the Secret Squadron.
How Albright came to be called Captain Midnight in the first place is based on the most notorious of his secret missions --- and of which, because of its successful completion, saved the allied armies from destruction and world's population from near total annihilation, in turn escalating Albright, AKA Captain Midnight, into super hero status.
Throughout his career Captain Midnight's main nemesis, protagonist, and arch foe was a master criminal named Ivan Shark. According to Kallis, toward the close of World War I Albright was dispatched by an American general on a secret mission known only by Albright, the general, and the general's immediate superior in Washington. The completion of the mission was given only a 100 to 1 chance of being successful. He did though, tell the general when asked, how he, the general, would know the mission was successful. Albright said that if the mission was successful he would be back that night by the stroke of 12. Looking all the same that he wouldn't return, at exactly the stroke of 12 Albright returned and the general, relieved that the mission had been accomplished, called him Captain Midnight.(see)
Not much is known about Albright/Captain Midnight during the years between the wars. He barnstormed, worked in the movies as a stunt pilot, and took on as a ward the son of his best friend killed in an aviation accident. However, with all the military expansion and goings on by the Germans and Japanese in the late 1930s, even though the U.S. vowed to say neutral, it was clear something had to be done on an official albeit not military level. In 1940 Albright was called in from retirement, he was given the code name Captain Midnight and put in command of the Secret Squadron. Because the Secret Squadron operated outside the scrutiny and authority of the government and other agencies, they maintained their own secret communication system known only to Secret Squadron operatives or members. Hence the rise and use of the Code-O-Graphs.
In the above main text I write that up until the start of high school the only real possessions I dragged about with me throughout my childhood in good order, other than my collection of Captain Midnight decoders, was a Buck Rogers U-235 Atomic Pistol. Buck Rogers, like both Captain Midnight and my mentor, was himself, as written by the author that created him, a pilot in World War I. He, like Stuart James ('Jim') Albright, nicknamed Red and code named Captain Midnight, is also credited to have risen to the rank of captain. Rogers, however fell into a deep state of suspended animation not awakening for 500 years, hence Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. For more please see:
HIS HISTORY AND EVOLUTION
1941 MYSTERY DIAL CODE-O-GRAPH
1942-1944 PHOTO-MATIC CODE-O-GRAPH
Due to the shortage of metal during the war no new decoders were issued between 1942-1944
1945 MAGNI-MATIC CODE-O-GRAPH
1946 MIRRO-FLASH CODE-O-GRAPH
1947 WHISTLE CODE-O-GRAPH
1948 MIRRO-MAGIC CODE-O-GRAPH
1949 KEY-O-MATIC CODE-O-GRAPH
HOW CODE-O-GRAPHS WORK:
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT DECODER- BADGES
USED NUMBERS ON ONE OF THE RINGS
The coding-encoding ability of Captain Midnight decoders is based on what is called a substitution cipher. The substitution cipher as used by Captain Midnight in his decoders has two concentric wheels one inside the other, with one circle stationary the other able to turn completely around inside or outside the other. One circle has all 26 letters of the alphabet spaced one after the other evenly around it, while the other circle, at least in the case of the Captain Midnight decoders, has one number for each letter starting 1 through 26 or 0 through 25. By rotating the moveable ring and lining it up with the other ring it is possible to cross substitute letters used in a message with the numbers directly opposite it on the other ring. In order to ensure the message is encoded and decoded properly the two rings are lined up first using what is called a "Master Code." That is done by aligning the rings initially with one preselected letter and one preselected number. Once the rings are aligned with the master code then every letter in the un-coded message is substituted then by the corresponding number in the second ring. There is a complete online PDF version of the manual that accompanied the 1948 decoder that explains fully on one of the pages how the codes were implemented. Please see:
After being drafted into the military and successfully completing eight weeks of primarily infantry-type basic training at Fort Ord, California, during which time I was also undergoing a thorough background check that once completed ended with me receiving a Top Secret Crypto Clearance. With that, the military powers-that-be were then able to put me into line for the next step.
That next step, as it related to me, and done so largely because of my early background and interest in codes generally and several years during my high school years using what was called a Western Union Standard Telegraph Set on a regular basis with a buddy, consisted of being sent to the U.S. Army Signal Corps School in Fort Gordon, Georgia.
At Fort Gordon I was trained in the use of and afterwards operated in the field a top secret code cipher machine called Adonis, otherwise known as the TSEC/KL-7 among others. If you go to the link below that describes how the KL-7 cipher machine operates and scroll down the page a little ways you will see while it is much more sophisticated, that in the end it is still not much more than a elaborate multi-disc version of a Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph:
ADONIS TSEC/KL-7 CIPHER MACHINE
In order to not remake the wheel, except for minor editing for our purposes here, the below paragraphs regarding the background and history of each of the Code-O-Graphs, which has proved to be quite accurate under my own investigations, has been researched from a number or sources including Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, which in turn a good portion of their original research --- as well as mine --- stemming from an article by Stephen A. Kallis Jr., appearing in Old Radio Times (July 2007), available in PDF format by clicking HERE. I have also drawn a great deal of additional research from the following article:
CODE-O-GRAPHS OF THE SECRET SQUADRON
1941 MYSTERY DIAL CODE-O-GRAPH
The first Code-O-Graph, called the "Mystery Dial" unit, was introduced in 1941, as a device to enable Secret Squadron agents in the field to send and receive secure messages. It was in badge form, as were the next three models. The front of the badge displayed the number and cipher alphabet scales. The reverse had two windows, one labeled "Master Code"; the other, "Super Code." each window was used for cipher key settings. As an example, if the cipher was designated as "Master Code 3," it meant that the movable rotor was to spun so that the number 3 would appear in the window labeled "Master Code." This setting would align the number and cipher alphabet scales correctly to decipher a message.
NOTE: It was the 1941 Mystery Dial Code-O-Graph that figured so predominantly in the Secret Squadron's back-and-forth codes in the weeks well prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.(see)
The second Code-O-Graph was the "Photo-Matic" unit. The badge had a space for a picture of the owner, to make it a photo-ID badge.
The advent of World War II had an impact on the Code-O-Graph availability: the two previous models were made of brass, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, which propelled the United States into World War II, caused the U.S. Government to impose restrictions on manufacturing materials. Copper and brass were considered critical materials, and most of the materials were diverted to war activities. This precluded brass being used to manufacture novelties like radio premiums.
The Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph, although not distributed until 1942, was manufactured prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. Since it, and its predecessor, were undated, the newer Code-O-Graph was used for the 1943 and 1944 seasons as well as the 1942, making it the Code-O-Graph with the longest service life. The cipher setting scheme was similar to the 1941 Mystery Dial model, but there was only one cipher setting window, labeled "Master Code."
Over the years many readers of my works, because of my heavy emphasis on the importance of the Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph in my own personal life, from childhood to adult, combined with the wartime restrictions on the use of certain metals, many of which were used in the early Captain Midnight radio premium offers, and made them of such quality, want to know how the Photo-Matic itself was impacted. In that the first decoder, the Mystery Dial Code-O-Graph, had proven to be so popular, by pure happenstance Ovaltine had increased the amount of Photo-Matics to be produced, which in turn luckily ensured a significant number of units available throughout the war for new listeners. Secondly, many of those same readers, because of the wartime restrictions, want to know if there is any truth to the rumor that to fill in that gap in production, in lieu of the metal version of the Photo-Matic, that an official Captain Midnight punch out or cut out hard-stock paper version was distributed, some even seen in real life by a few of the readers.
(for more please click image)
By late 1944, Ovaltine scraped together enough material to manufacture another Code-O-Graph, the 1945 "Magni-Magic" Code-O-Graph. This unit used stamped sheet steel for the badge bodies, painted with "gold" paint to look similar to the earlier brass badges. The cipher disk element was made of injection-molded plastic, with the center of the disk knob in the form of a magnifying lens. The production was limited, and it was the only model of which supplies were completely exhausted.
The 1945 model altered the cipher-key setting scheme. The new method was to align one of the letters on the alphabet scale to a numeral on the number scale. For instance, the "Master Code X-15" setting meant that the letter X would be moved until it was next to the number 15 on the number scale. The advantage with the new scheme was that a total of 676 possible key setting combinations could be used. The disadvantage was that each key compromised one letter-number pair.
The 1946 model was the "Mirro-Flash" unit, the first postwar Code-O-Graph, and the last in badge form. Since the war had ended, the new badge was made of stamped sheet brass, and the plastic "dial" element had a small circular mirror for signaling by heliography. It used the same cipher-key setting methodology as its immediate predecessor. This practice was used for the 1947 and 1949 models as well.
The 1947 model was the first in non-badge form. It was in the shape of a police-style whistle, with the cipher elements along one side. It was called the "Whistle Code-O-Graph," possibly the least imaginative name of the series.
The 1948 model, the "Mirro-Magic" unit, was a circular product, manufactured of brass, aluminum, plastic, and steel. The cipher letters and numbers could only be seen one at a time through windows on the front. The design had the cipher alphabet and number disks coupled by friction, and there was often slippage when trying to decipher a message. Unlike any other Code-O-Graph, the cipher-key settings utilized a pointer on the back, and a number scale from 1 through 26. Each would increment the positioning of the two scales.
The last Code-O-Graph was the "Key-O-Matic" unit. Possibly to compensate for the slippage of the 1948 unit's elements, the cipher alphabet and number scales were placed on interlocking gears, preventing any slippage. Resetting the cipher elements utilized a small key that was inserted into slots over one of the gears, which could be disengaged, using the key and a leaf spring as a simple clutch mechanism.
CODE-O-GRAPHS AND THE DISAPPEARING DECODER RINGS:
Now that Captain Midnight's history and biography has been put forth fairly well, what follows is almost anything you would ever want to know about the Code-O-Graphs sometimes called decoder badges. However, before moving on, just to make things clear, borrowing from Kallis one more time, he writes:
"Regarding Captain Midnight and the so-called 'decoder rings' of the era... up front: there were no 'decoder rings' offered in the entire era of Old-Time radio."
THERE WERE NO DECODER RINGS
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT RADIO PREMIUMS: 1938 - 1949
AND NOW THIS:
Well before I started kindergarten my mother became very ill, eventually dying some months later. During the months leading up to her death my father, because of having to work so many hours to help cover medical expenses, made arrangements for me to live with a foster couple. No sooner had I been placed under their care than they left on an extended trip to India, taking me with them. In the process I ended up staying several months at or near the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man, the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai, south India. Prior to our departure the foster couple allowed me to select one, and one only, small easy to carry toy to take with me. I picked my hands-down all time favorite, my Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph that at the time, just like when I got it new, still had a picture of Captain Midnight mounted in it --- and was still in it when I arrived at the ashram.
I only bring it up because there is some controversy about the picture in the decoder. The decoder went missing for several years after my return, with most people just trying to convince me I left it behind. However, my uncle found it stored away in a box at his mother's in Pennsylvania after she died, and when he found it, it had a picture of me as a young boy in it. There is no doubt the photo was of Captain Midnight rather than of me as a kid when I went to India with the couple --- with the soonest such proof actually surfacing so early that my mother was still alive and my family intact. To wit:
One day during that period of time my father took my brothers and me to a giant outdoor amusement park in Long Beach called the Pike. While on the midway I came into contact with a flamboyant gypsy-like sideshow medium. The medium asked for my Captain Midnight decoder in order to tell my fortune only to faint when she took it into her hands, falling to the ground totally unconscious. She was then assisted by a man who stepped from the crowd with the following results:
"During the assist the man from the crowd had also picked up the decoder. The woman softly requested the man, who by now was talking to my dad as they seemed to know each other from the shipyards, to hand her the decoder, which he did. While just barely touching her performer-like bright red lips to my forehead in a kiss-like manner the medium placed the decoder in the palm of my hand and gently folded my fingers closed over the top. Then, using each of her hands and fingers from both, she formed little circles putting them to her face around her eyes creating finger goggles, mimicking all the same as those worn by Captain Midnight in photos that came with the badge. Bringing both hands down from her face she put one hand on mine still holding the decoder while using her other hand to place the hand of the man that assisted her on top of them all and, speaking to me, said, 'From man to boy to man, your future and past is already marked by what is held together here in our hands.'"
The above quote comes from Footnote  of Guy Hague who I met while I was a teenager in high school and told me what happened. Hague was the same man that knew my dad from the shipyards and had stepped up from the crowd that day to assist the medium. What I take from the story is, in that when the medium made finger goggles using her hands and fingers and put them around her eyes, she was actually mimicking what she saw in the photo in the decoder --- a picture of Captain Midnight wearing goggles --- and all done so while my mother was still alive and before I ever went to India taking the decoder with me.
Those of you who have got this far are at least semi-familiar enough with my background to know that Code-O-Graphs played a major role during my childhood. However, as odd as it may seem they continued to play a major role throughout my life right on into adulthood. It is my belief, and a belief I still hold to this day, that my early childhood interest and use of the Captain Midnight Code-O-Graphs instilled in me an almost innate ability with codes including an early expertise in sending and receiving Morse code, in turn setting the scene for my MOS assignments in the military.
(to increase size click image, then click again)
Even then, as an adult and within the military setting, Code-O-Graphs continued to impact my life --- especially so after my brother inadvertently sent me the Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph I owned as a kid while I was still in the Army. To see how Code-O-Graphs, the Army, and the past and future all tie together don't pass up a chance to read Restitching The Hole In The Fabric Of Space-time as found in the link below:
SECRET OF THE CODE-O-GRAPHS
RESTITCHING THE HOLE IN THE FABRIC OF SPACE-TIME
HOW ONE BOY'S FASCINATION WITH A TOY LED TO SHAMBHALA
THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE
THE BIG BANG TO THE PHOTO-MATIC CODE-O-GRAPH
THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER
SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN
TIME TRAVEL: MEETING YOURSELF
THE ZEN MASTER MISSES HIS MARK
DOT 'N DASH ELECTRIC TELEGRAPH SET
CONGO BILL JOINS THE FLYING TIGERS
(please click image)
JANE MARTIN, WAR NURSE MEETS THE FLYING TIGERS
(please click image)
CAPT. PAT PARKER, WWII WAR NURSE, GIRL COMMANDO
(please click image)
CAPT. MIDNIGHT, P-40 TOMAHAWK OVER PEARL HARBOR
(please click image)
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR
THE FLYING TIGERS
THE BOY IN THE MAN REMEMBERS THE LEGEND
(please click image)
THE BATMAN AND LEONARDO DA VINCI, BATMAN COMICS, APRIL-MAY 1948 ISSUE #46
(please click any image)
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
THE WANDERLING, GIRLS, FIREHAIR, AND LOTS
OF OTHER EARLY INFATUATION EXPERIENCES!
ON THE RAZOR'S
CODE-O-GRAPH GRAPHICS PROVIDED THROUGH THE GENEROSITY OF
HAKE'S AMERICANA & COLLECTIBLES
To access the source of the opening quote used at the top of the page, albeit paraphrased it a bit as I remember it, can be found by going to:
FLYING ACES: PART II, Captain Midnight.
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
JOUSTING WITH DRAGONS
(please click image)
The person that eventually became my mentor was a real-life fighter pilot during World War I as well as the role model British author and playwright William Somerset Maugham used for Larry Darrell, the spiritual traveler and main character in his novel The Razor's Edge. The air war in Europe in those days wasn't all dog fights and blowing 800 foot long Zeppelins returning from bombing runs over England out of the sky. For both sides, after leaving the aerodromes, much of the time was spent flying for miles and miles over farmland with no encounters with the enemy at all. Maugham has Darrell saying, repeating an almost direct quote from my mentor, the following:
"I loved flying. I couldn't describe the feeling it gave me, I only knew I felt proud and happy. In the air I felt that I was part of something very great and beautiful. I didn't know what it was all about, I only knew that I wasn't alone any more, but that I belonged. I felt that I was at home with the infinitude."
Feeling much the same about flying as my mentor did in the above quote, when I was around ten years old I built a glider-type airplane initially inspired from three primary sources, a 1947 black-and-white Tarzan movie titled Tarzan and the Huntress, the drawings of flying machines as found in the notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, as well as the actual machines made by early flight pioneers such as Otto Lilienthal.
One day I took the completed craft to the top of a nearby two story building and holding on for dear life, jumped off. At first the flying machine held fairly steady, maintaining altitude and covering a rather substantial distance. Then suddenly the craft stalled, I lost control and it dropped like a rock from a pretty good height, crashing into the front porch and through the windows of neighbor's house across the street. The machine escaped any real major damage and so did I.
Even though the flight ended not as smoothly as I hoped, primarily because of lack of experience on my part, or as the case may be, none at all, and as I discovered, perhaps the lack of any sort of actual flight control mechanisms as well, I considered my attempt a success --- especially so because of the distance covered before I lost control. I always felt my mentor and I were able to strengthen our bonds as friends initially because of his interest in flying and my early childhood attempt at manned-flight, re the following from the source so cited:
"Although I never attempted another similar human-powered flight after that, my mentor loved the story, and I think it was an early key to our initial philosophical bond."(source)
There is a slight caveat to my 'never attempted another similar human-powered flight after that' found in the above quote. That caveat circulates around what is called the 'Washoe Zephyr,' sometimes referred to as a 'devil wind.' The Washoe Zephyr occurs on a regular basis on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, with an extremely strong portion on the east side of the paralleling Virginia Range, most notedly around Virginia City. Unlike the typical thermally driven slope-flows which blow upslope during the day and downslope at night, the Washoe Zephyr winds blow down the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada in the afternoon against the local pressure gradient. The Washoe Zephyr figured prominently in my reconsideration of a second flight attempt. For more on that second attempt, please see:
THE WANDERLING'S JOURNEY
Let Me Travel Through the Air Like a Winged Bird
ZEPPELINS: HIGH ALTITUDE AIRSHIPS
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT'S WARTIME BIOGRAPHY
THE GLIDER CHUTE:
In issue #1 of the Fawcett Publication version of Captain Midnight dated September 30, 1942 it reveals that Captain Albright, soldier and inventor, is actually Captain Midnight. In the second of several stories appearing in that first issue, titled "Secret Sub" Captain Midnight is shown using his glider chute for the first time, it's invention thereof credited back to Albright it is presumed.
Some two-years-plus prior to the Captain Midnight glider chute appearance, a character given the name of Black Condor appeared in Crack Comics dated May 1940. The storyline regarding the Black Condor in that first issue was an origin story, that is, where he came from, how he came to be, etc. Although in later issues the the Black Condor's glider chute as well as his costume morphs into dark blue or black, the origin story clearly shows it in red as illustrated in the graphic below from the last page of the 1940 story --- being in a sense an exact duplicate of Captain Midnight's glider chute, albeit predating the use of Albright's invention by some two years.
As to glider-chutes and who did what first we could go on and on, Captain Midnight this, Black Condor that. However, one way or the other, it is quite clear that as early as 1938, in the black and white serial Flash Gordon Trip to Mars Flash Gordon is seen using a batwing like glider-cape in several chapters. The first such instance is in Chapter 6 Tree Men of Mars followed later in chapters 11, 12, and 13.
(please click image)
As for the Black Condor, according to the story line, the person who was to become the Black Condor, like Tarzan being found as an infant and being raised by Apes, the Black Condor as an infant, within hours of his parents being killed, was found and then raised through to young adulthood by a flock of mysterious giant birds that inhabited a remote section of the Himalayas in Tibet. Later, as a young man he was taken in and tutored by a hermit-like monk, learning spirituality and the ways of man and civilization.
Several 1940s superheroes other than the Black Condor gained or enhanced their powers by going to Tibet, Batman and the Shadow being the two most memorable. The Shadow worked his way up through the Siddhi-chart fairly high, being able to "cloud men's minds" and all. Batman to a lesser degree, mostly martial arts related with their accompanying attributes such as agility, endurance, discipline, etc. Neither of them as written refined the depth of their abilities to the point they could fly.
There was a superhero who DID refine his abilities to the point that he acquired not only the ability to fly, but also super strength and invulnerability --- even to having bullets bounce off him a la Superman and Captain Marvel. That superhero was the Green Lama. Captain Marvel had always been billed as the "World's Mightiest Mortal," however, as it was, the Green Lama was also a mortal, being one Jethro Dumont, a rich New York City resident and man about town, who, if necessity demanded it and he recited the Jewel Lotus Mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum", Dumont, not unlike Billy Batson saying Shazam and becoming Captain Marvel, underwent a startling and dramatic change after repeating the Mantra, becoming the Green Lama, gaining super strength, invulnerability, and the ability to fly. In the Green Lama origin story, Dumont, after ten years living and studying in Tibet, returns to the U.S. and witnesses a young girl and her parents being gunned down with the following results:
In what could be construed as a follow-up book, albeit by a different author, titled Captain-Midnight's-Post-War-Radio-Years (2012) by Leonard Zane, who just as adroitly and exhaustedly, if not more so, takes up where the Kallis' book leaves off. In the Preface Zane writes, as to Captain Midnight's identity:
"On 7 October 2007, Stephen A. Kallis, Jr. posted an Amazon.com review of the book Illustrated Radio Premium Catalog and Price Guide. This book was written by Tom Tumbusch and published in 1989. Kallis's review described it as 'a superior reference work,' and went on to say: 'Tom Tumbusch has been a scholar of radio and cereal premiums for at least 30 years. He has published a number of Tomart's Guides, the latest being in 1991.'
"On page 33 of his 1989 book, Tom Tumbusch said: 'Since readers of this book are privileged to know old radio's top secrets the true identity of Captain Midnight can be revealed. His name was Stuart 'Red' Albright.' ('Red' was a nickname given Captain Albright in the Skelly Oil Company's sponsoring of the Captain Midnight radio program, from 1938-1940, and dropped by the 1940-1949 Ovaltine-sponsored programs.) Leonard Zane emailed Tom Tumbusch about his sources of the first name, 'Stuart.' On 8 October 2007, Mr. Tumbusch emailed back: 'I wrote that Captain Midnight passage back in 1976 and had at least two references for whatever I included in the book. I used mainly old radio magazines for my research. I also used premium ads from the newspaper comic sections. I still have all my reference materials.'
"Since October 2007, Stephen A. Kallis, Jr. accepted Tumbusch's findings; and Kallis's short story 'The Case of the Disappearing Designer' begins with the words: 'Stuart James ('Jim') Albright, who, under the code name, Captain Midnight, was the leader of the Secret Squadron.' 'Jim' appeared in the Captain Midnight television series that ran from 9 September 1954 to 21 January 1956. In 1958, the TV series was syndicated as 'Jet Jackson, Flying Commando,' after Ovaltine ceased its sponsorship."(source)
INDEPENDENT HEROES FROM THE USA
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT MEETS THE SPY SMASHER
THE WANDERLING, BEGGARMAN, THIEF
CAPTAIN MARVEL: HIS ORIGINS
HOW HE BECAME A MOUNTIE
Two years before the Secret Squadron surfaced Captain Midnight initiated what was called the Flight Patrol. While the Secret Squadron leaned toward the wartime footing type climate that was looming on the horizon, the Flight Patrol, which was started before the swords of war were being rattled, was more-or-less civilian based. The Flight Patrol had a pledge or code of honor, albeit shorter and more concise but similar, nonetheless, to the Cowboy Code of the West that so many of the 1940s western movie stars promoted, that went like:
"As a Junior Pilot of the Captain Midnight Flight Patrol, I pledge myself to be Honest in all things, Fair to all others, Brave in the face of danger, Courteous to my superiors and elders and Alert at all times to the fine principles of our Flight Patrol."
Actually, the Flight Patrol pin was just one of many Captain Midnight Radio Premium Offers distributed under the Captain Midnight banner over the years. Skelly Oil Company was the early sponsor of the original Captain Midnight radio program starting in 1938 being taken over by Ovaltine in 1940. In all, well over 30 different radio premiums offers were given away over the years with Code-O-Graphs taking up about one third of them. Although other comic book and radio heroes had offers, many of which I specifically sought out, of the Captain Midnight offers, other than the Code-O-Graphs themselves, except for maybe two offers, I wasn't really big on most of them. Of the two one was fun and the other more practical. The fun one, offered as a premium in 1942, but unlike most offers, not integrated into the plots of any of the Captain Midnight stories, was called a Mystic Eye Detector Ring.
The Mystic Eye Detector Ring was what I would describe as being a sort of "look around" ring. It had a tiny stainless steel mirror mounted inside the crown, situated in such a position that if you brought the ring up to your eye, you could see almost 180 degrees directly behind you. How it worked I never figured out, but I really liked it.
The other radio premium offer that rated a high personal interest to me was called the Magic Blackout Lite-Ups. The offer was specifically designed for wartime blackouts, and since my dad was an Air Raid Warden and I had become a Junior Air Raid Warden through a comic book offer, consisted of two sheets of paper impregnated with glow-in-the-dark luminous chemicals. The idea was to glue a small strip of the material at light switches, stair steps, flashlights, etc. so they would be more readily seen during blackouts.
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT MAGIC BLACKOUT LITE-UPS
During my eight weeks of Basic Training I actually had a four week gap that required me to be a hold over for completion of training before being sent to Fort Gordon. Almost before I was able to break in my first pair of brand new combat boots or anything else I was called out of muster one morning and told to report to the First Sergeant. After quick introductions a man in a civilian suit said he heard I was highly versed in Morse code, could type, had a clearance, and was familiar with the U-2. I told him yes to all four. The man handed some papers to the sergeant and told him they were orders to "borrow" me. Which he did.
Before sundown of the next day, sporting brand new Sergeant E-6 stripes on my nearly as new, basically just issued fatigue shirt, the private slick sleeve that I was, without having even finishing Basic Training and with nobody knowing it but with almost VIP treatment, I was taken to where several 1st Infantry Division 121st Signal Battalion radio rigs were set up at McCoy Air Force Base, Florida after which we were sent down to Key West (or possibly Key Largo or Marathon Key) to provide communication between McCoy and the Key and between the Key and somewhere else.
THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS AND THE MOB
IN AS A BOY,- OUT AS A MAN
THE DRAFT, ACTIVE DUTY, ACTIVE RESERVE
ANGRY-26 RADIO RIG. MY HOME DURING CUBA CRISIS, KEY WEST 1962 AND FOR TRAINING
AT THE U.S. ARMY SOUTHEAST SIGNAL CORPS SCHOOL, FORT GORDON, GEORGIA, IN 1963
GMC M211 2 1/2 TON 6X6 WITH AN/GRC-26 RADIO RIG
121st SIGNAL BATTALION
THERE WERE NO DECODER RINGS:
The previously cited quote in the main text above by Stephen A. Kallis, as well as the full article it is cited from can be found by going to Captain Midnight and Decoder Rings linked below. Continuing into the investigation IF such items as Captain Midnight decoder 'rings' were offered, or it they did or did not exist, Tom Mason (1934-2003) of The Crimson Collector, in an article titled 'Collecting Radio and TV Premiums,' under the sub-section 'The Rings,' writes the following:
First of all, we should clear up the myth of a Captain Midnight decoder ring. Exhaustive research has proved that such an item was never offered by Ovaltine. They did come out with an Ovaltine Decoder Ring in the year 2000, but it had nothing to do with Captain Midnight. With that out of the way, I believe five rings were offered in all.
Skelley Oil may have brought out a Captain Midnight ring with what appears to be a red "V" or check mark on its crown. This ring is very rare and seldom seen. There are some premium photos showing the Captain brandishing a "secret ring." Pictures of the ring are shown in various collector bibles, some do not identify it as being from Captain Midnight, others do.
1940-1941 Brought us the Flight Commander Ring, and the Whirlwind Whistling Ring.
1942 Brought the Sliding Secret Compartment Ring and the Mystic Eye Detector Ring (the same ring as the Lone Ranger Defender and ROA Look-Around Ring.) This ring is sometimes called the Look-Around Ring as well.
1943-1944: No rings issued due to war effort.
1945: No rings issued.
1946 Was the year of the Mystic Sun God ring: the most prized of the Captain Midnight rings. It was a shiny gold with a bright red plastic stone that held its secret. The stone was hollow and you could slip it off a metal track and insert your secret message into it and then replace the stone. Whatever you had to hide had to be extremely small as that stone would not hold very much, but it was the idea that fascinated me. This ring is a sad memory for me. After waiting weeks for its arrival, it came and I immediately put it on. My mother took me shopping with her and I happened to glance at my new treasure and the bright red stone that was the secret compartment had slid off its track and disappeared. Back-tracking my steps brought no sign of that little piece of red plastic. I was heartbroken. Talking to quite a few collectors revealed that they had similar experiences with the ring. Today, that ring, complete with its stone, is one of the higher prized pieces of Captain Midnight memorabilia.
1947: No rings issued.
1948 Gave us the final ring: the Initial Printing Ring w/top. Here was another ring with parts to lose. You removed the top to reveal an inked stamp pad with your initial on it.
Besides the rings and decoders, a variety of items were offered over the years: manuals, medals, pins, autographed photos, books, plane detectors, games, patches, insignias, and transfers.(source)
For more regarding the controversy surrounding Captain Midnight and if there was or wasn't 'decoder rings' please see:
THE DISAPPEARING DECODER RING
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT AND THE DECODER RINGS
If your question is, was there ever an official Captain Midnight paper punch out version of the Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph made, the answer is yes. If your question is, was the punch out version made to fill in or supplement a shortage of "real" Photo-Matics during World War II because of the lack of metal, strategic materials, or any other reason, then the answer is no.
Either way, there WAS an official Captain Midnight paper punch out version of the Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph made.
In the early 1970's the Longines Symphonette Society produced a series of eight record player type vinyl discs under the marketing headline of Captain Midnight, apparently using content from old 1940's radio programs. For a paper product it was very well done and of high quality, the punch out Code-O-Graph replica actually having a slight bas-relief to it's surface giving it a dimensional feel. If you look carefully at the the graphics below you can see the one on the left shows the backside of the paper punch out Photo-Matic clearly showing the dimensional lift or relief produced on the front side. As an extra added bonus, the labels on each of the eight individual records had a different series of numbers similar to the secret codes from the old radio days that were meant to be deciphered using the hard-stock paper punch out, but non-adjustable static version of the original metal 1942 Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph, the paper punch out version being provided as a matter of course, with the record.
Produced and marketed for only a short time during the 1970's --- and long after the war was over --- it was the closest the Photo-Matic came to being an official paper punch out. An example of the Captain Midnight code intended to be deciphered using the paper punch-out Photo-Matic can be seen listed on the record label just underneath the center spindle hole on the record graphic below. Each of the eight records had a different code to be deciphered, albeit using the same Code-O-Graph setting as found on the paper punch out Photo-Matic that came with it.
For those of you who may be so interested, using my original all metal 1942 Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph from my collection of decoders, I deciphered the numbers so presented on the record label above. It reads:
BEWARE IVAN SHARK
The content/titles of the eight Longines Symphonette Society Captain Midnight records:
- # 1 "The Man of Midnight"
- # 2 "The Secret Squadron"
- # 3 "Assignment Under the Sea"
- # 4 "Destruction from the Sky"
- # 5 "Nazi U-boat Peril"
- # 6 "The Silver Dagger Strikes"
- # 7 "The Stolen Star"
- # 8 "Return of Ivan Shark"
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT RADIO PREMIUMS: 1938 - 1949
MEL RAMOS STUDIOS
5941 Ocean View Dr, Oakland, CA
At the 6 minutes and 31 second mark the glider-chute flying scene shows up:
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN LARRY DARRELL'S LIFE AS FOUND IN THE RAZOR'S EDGE:
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT: THE WARTIME BIOGRAPHY
1941 MYSTERY DIAL CODE-O-GRAPH
Why the emphasis of Captain Midnight and the attack on Pearl Harbor?
For one thing, and not everybody realizes it, but several weeks before the actual December 7, 1941 Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, in an incredible coming together of loose-knit coincidences, the writers of the Captain Midnight show, in the routine process of drafting the future continuous plot-line for the program by sifting back through the wide-ranging facts available to them as found in previously aired segments, when added together, led them to put together and present to the regular national radio listening audience the possibilities of that very same attack.
The problem was that the writers, in making the Captain Midnight program valuable, relevant, and up to date for it's listening audience, drew from everyday facts and events available to anybody. When they accumulated those bits and pieces of facts from here and there, for the writers, focused on Captain Midnight's adventures, drew the conclusion that there was a very good potential possibility in the works for an attack on Pearl Harbor. The intelligent community at large, having the same facts available to them, if they came to the same conclusion, never came forward with that conclusion, at least on a public level. The following, although not a script from the radio program, is a brief synopsis of the story as aired:
The Captain Midnight Pearl Harbor story unfolded with Major Barry Steele, a U.S. Army Intelligence officer along with two high ranking Secret Squadron members, both being Captain Midnight's wards, Chuck Ramsey and Joyce Ryan, being captured and held prisoners by one of Captain Midnight's arch foes, the Asian-based criminal known as the Barracuda. Captain Midnight launched a raid against the Barracuda's prison stronghold to free them and of which he was able to do. The night and time picked for the raid found the Barracuda elsewhere, giving Captain Midnight and the three ex-prisoners time to search the place.
Captain Midnight noticed a teakwood table in the Barracuda's living quarters and remembered seeing a similar table previously in connection with the Barracuda. Thinking the table may have more importance than simple sentimental nostalgia, Captain Midnight began examining the table much closer soon discovering a triggering device that once activated revealed a secret compartment. In the compartment was a light-sealed metal container similar ones that contained film or microfilm. Not wanting to open the container for fear of any possible film being in an undeveloped stage Captain Midnight, with Major Steele's help, took it to British Intelligence in Hong Kong to be developed.
The contents of the container was a small short-length of microfilm with no writing or words but very intricate drawings of a naval base. Captain Midnight immediately recognized the configurations of the docks and locations of the ships as being Pearl Harbor. In the past the Barracuda had always been known as a freelance criminal, however for sale to the highest bidder. Captain Midnight figured if the Barracuda was working for the Japanese military then surely the plans would indicate a possible attack on Hawaii. Before Captain Midnight was able to reach Hawaii from Hong Kong, and possibly confirm such an action between parties, his plane having been sabotaged, was forced down in the Pacific and he and all of his crew were captured by pirates.
TAKING OUT THE FIRST MEATBALL
KENNETH M. TAYLOR, PEARL HARBOR, AND THE P-40
PEARL HARBOR P-40 GHOST SHIP
PEARL HARBOR SURVIVOR