1940-10 Devils of the Deep

Cover Date: October 1940
Volume 16 # 2
Copyright Date: Friday, September 20, 1940
Author: Harold A. Davis
Editor: John Nanovic
Story Length:  35,171 words
Cover by Emory Clarke
WHMC: There is no material available on this story in the archives.
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story. Monk, Ham, and Long Tom are there at the beginning.  Later, Renny comes from California while Johnny arrives from Mexico.

Devils of the Deep by Kenneth Robeson
The Crimson Terror by George L. Eaton
The Vengeance of Metisk by Harold F. Cruickshank

Doc Savage Club
Editor’s Page
Letters from Readers

The gimmick is an antisubmarine device that is anchored to the bottom and which traps and holds a submarine underwater.  Criminals use the device to capture a submarine, kill the crew, and use to commit piracy.  The theft of valuable cargo is their objective.  The war in Europe had been going on for a year when this story was published.  Papers in the United States were filled with reports of mystery submarines attacking ships at sea.  The United States is officially neutral but unofficially helping Britain as much as it possibly can.  In less than three months from the date this story was printed, the United States would be fighting a world war against the Axis powers.

The story reports that a sinking ship sent the “SSSS” in addition to the standard “SOS” signal.  The signal “SSS” was used during World War II as a distress code for attack by submarine.  Other distress were also established.

  • “RRR” – attack by surface raider
  • “AAA” – attack by aircraft
  • “QQQ” – attack by unknown

Doc returns to New York City after a secret mission for the government in Central America.

Monk’s pet pig, Habeas Corpus, appears in the story opening but is not mentioned again.  There is nothing said about Ham’s pet ape, Chemistry.  The absence of Chemistry is odd as Davis frequently wrote the pet into his stories.

The story moves between three locations: New York City, New Orleans, and an unnamed Caribbean island.

The story also refers to the United States Neutrality Zone.  This was an area established by the Panama Conference held on September 25, 1939.  In theory, this zone was to be free from any hostile actions by warring parties.

Monk attempts to trick Doc but ends up on the other end of the trick when Doc disguises himself as their pilot and accompanies them to New Orleans.

Doc Savage uses the “hotfoot” to summon all his aids.  The oversized watches used for communication devices are also mentioned.  These watches first appeared in the July 1939 story “Merchants of Disaster.” They were being used by an enemy organization.  Doc Savage recognized a clever idea when he saw it and adopted the watches for his own use.  The oxygen generating pills that were introduced in “The Mystery Under the Sea” also appear in this story.

Several landmark items appear in the story. 
– Doc Savage makes his signature trilling sound. 
– The paralyzing nerve pinch is used.  Mayan is spoken. 
– The Hidalgo Trading Company appears. 
– Supermachine pistols appear along with mercy bullets.  It is noted that the pistols can also use explosive rounds.

A familiar sounding submarine is used by Doc Savage and his men.  Readers are told that it is not a military vessel and that it was originally designed  for work under the polar ice cap.  It has some oddly shaped fenders along its deck to protect the boat when traveling under the ice.  There are divided feelings about whether this is the Helldiver which was first seen in “The Polar Treasure.”  The submarine was last mentioned in “Death in Silver” where it was supposedly destroyed by criminals.  The submarine description in this story closely matches the original description as told in “The Polar Treasure.”

The thing looked like a razor-backed cigar of steel. The hull was fitted with lengthwise runners resembling railway rails. As a matter of fact, these actually were such rails, converted to the purpose of ice runners. They were supposed to enable the underseas craft to slide along beneath the arctic ice pack.

Doc Savage uses klystron rays to illuminate the mystery submarine while it is underwater.  This idea may have been inspired by some passages in the June 3, 1940, issue of Life Magazine.  A passage on page 34 refers to the German Army using klystron rays to “heat and distort metal” from a distance.

Harold Davis was fond of giving Doc Savage “gold-flecked” eyes.  He uses the term thirteen times in this story.

The million-dollar reward gimmick first appeared in “The Lost Oasis” back in September 1933.  It would appear for a third time in the December 1942 story, “The Devil’s Black Rock.”

Doc’s vessel is equipped with Degaussing gear to protect against magnetic mines.

Lloyd’s Register and “Jane’s Fighting Ships” are used to identify unknown vessels.  Lloyd’s Register is primarily known as an insurer of ships, but it is much more involved in standards regulations.  “Jane’s Fighting Ships” first appeared in 1916 as a naval reference book.  The book was named for its first editor, Fred T. Jane.

Doc Savage uses his sonic listening equipment to identify the unique propellor sounds that every ship makes.

The mystery submarine turns out to be or German origin.  The original crew  is listed at one hundred which about double the number of men needed to crew a U-boat.  

Gadberry plans to retire to an unnamed South American country that will give him refuge.

There are some strange things going on in this story.   Harold Davis seems to have forgotten about Johnny’s eye operation some years earlier.  He had Johnny walking around wearing a monocle.   The leader of the gang is named but his name is meaningless.

The police detective investigating Gadberry’s murder made a comment about one of the man’s inventions: “Wasn’t there a story about him in the paper recently, about him bein’ down here to get treasure of some kind out of the Gulf water?” he asked excitedly.  This was just tossed in there without any additional information or follow-up.

The moral status of Alice Dawn is a bit murky.  On the one hand, it certainly appears she shot and killed the German spy named Hahln in Gadberry’s office in New Orleans.  She also aided Gadberry by passing off Hahln’s dead body as that of Gadberry to the police.  She ends up helping Monk and Ham later in the story but that may have been purely in her own self-interest.