1941-01 The Devil’s Playground

Cover Date: January 1941
Volume 16 # 5             
Copyright Date: December 20, 1940
Author: Alan Hathway
Editor: John Nanovic
Story Length:  42,307 words
Cover: Emery Clarke
WHMC: There are no folders in the collection for this story.
Recurring Characters. The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.

The Devil’s Playground by Kenneth Robeson
Caldron of Confucius by Joseph H. Hernandez
Doc Savage Club
Editor’s Page
Letters from Readers

This mysterious death gimmick in this story is an idea recycled from “The Crimson Serpent” in the April 1939 issue of Doc Savage Magazine.  

Mental Telepathy: The “telepathic” exchange between Monk and Ham in part of the story is ludicrous.  

Another untold adventure crops up.  Readers learn Dutch Scorvitch would like revenge for the part Doc played in solving an air-kidnapping case Dutch was involved with.   The incident with Dutch Scorvitch provides some strong clues to the location of the Fortress of Solitude.

“THE two unmarked bombers droned into the clear morning air of Canada. They roared over the low-lying Laurentian Mountains, into the subarctic area of Hudson Bay.”

Monk complains that he has been “jobbed”  or cheated because he was made to think Ham was dead.  I don’t recall seeing that word anywhere else except in a Little Orphan Annie comic strip of the same era. 

“The Devil’s Playground” was one of four Doc Savage stories written by Alan Hathway. This story, appearing in the January 1941 issue, played upon Hathway’s knowledge of current events and his prior experience as a newspaper editor.

The Need for Nickel

On August 23, 1939, Germany and Russia signed a non-aggression treaty named the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Nine days later, on September 1, Germany invaded Poland leading Britain and France to declare war on Germany two days later. In the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty Germany and Russia had divided up certain areas. Half of Poland was allocated to Russian with the Soviet Army invading Poland on September 16, 1939.

One of the consequences of these actions was an export restriction on certain strategic items by various countries, including the United States. One of these materials was nickel which was primarily used as an alloy in steel. The addition of nickel made steel harder and corrosion resistant.

Americans are probably most familiar with nickel through the five-cent coin. After the United States entered World War II, nickel was diverted from coin production and replaced with silver. From 1941 through 1945, the US Jefferson nickel was comprised of an alloy of copper, silver, and manganese.

“The Devil’s Playground” was published in January 1941. Nickel was one of the strategic materials often mentioned in newspaper articles during the prior year. The main concern was the exporting of nickel to neutral countries which would then be reexported to Germany or Russia. The treasure in this particular Doc Savage story is nickel which is being secretly exported in the guise of cast iron stoves.

The idea that nickel might be secretly exported to Germany was not something created for “The Devil’s Playground.”

November 1940

Germany and Russia remained allies until Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

The importance of nickel as a strategic metal vital for the national defense was quickly recognized by the United States after its entry into World War II. The metal used in the common five-cent pieces was replaced with an easily recognizable special silver alloy starting in 1942. This would continue until the war ended. All nickel would go to the war effort. These coins are easily recognizable by the large mint mark that appears of Monticello on the reverse. It was the first time the “P” designation appeared on a coin issued by the United States Mint.