The adventures of Captain Midnight graced the airwaves between 1938 and 1942. It wasn’t science fiction, but it was fantasy, and featured a title character, originally Captain Jim “Red” Albright, was a World War I U.S. Army pilot. His Captain Midnight code name was given by a general who sent him on a high-risk mission from which he returned at the stroke of 12.
When the show began in 1938, Albright was a private aviator who helped people, but his situation changed in 1940. When the show was taken over by Ovaltine, the origin story explained how Albright was recruited to head the Secret Squadron, an aviation-oriented paramilitary organization fighting sabotage and espionage during the period prior to the United States’ entry into World War II. The Secret Squadron acted both within and outside the United States.
The show was extremely popular, with an audience in the millions. Just under half the listeners were adult, and it was a favorite of WWII U.S Army Air Corps (U.S. Air Force) crews when they were stationed in the U.S. Radio premiums offered by the series (usually marked with Midnight’s personal symbol of a winged clock with the hands pointing to midnight) included decoders. These Code-O-Graphs were used by listeners to decipher encrypted messages previewing the next day’s episode, usually broadcast once a week. Other premiums included rings, telescopes, and WWII items. (The broadcast messages were encrypted with relatively trivial monoalphabetic substitution ciphers with word division.)
The scripts depicted women who were treated as equals, not just characters waiting to be rescued. Both Joyce Ryan of the Secret Squadron and Fury Shark, daughter of villain Ivan Shark, pulled their own weight in the adventures. Joyce went on commando raids and became involved in aerial dogfights during World War II.
Listen to Captain Midnight every Monday at 11 pm Pacific. Only about 78 episodes survive to this day, and we’re playing all of them, a new episode each week. It’s a slice of yesteryear, and a window into our past that you won’t be able to resist.