New "Facts Page" for this issue
Lun Ming, an Olympic swimmer, fights the Japanese invaders in China by smuggling messages from his home island to the mainland.
Lun Ming, Chinese Olympic Swimming Champion, now is battling for his country against the Japanese. His swimming skills are very useful in getting messages past the guards on the water. However, his days are numbered: the Japanese have figured out that he must be delivering the messages. One night, he runs into Aquaman, who pledges help if it is ever needed.
And later, on a very stormy night, help is needed. Lun Ming can't make it through the storm, so Aquaman assists and not only helps him deliver the message, but also helps him get home before the Japanese miss him. The Japanese Colonel, Matsu, is still suspicious and has Lun Ming followed day and night. A few nights later they catch him in the act, but he has time to hide the message before being captured.
Aquaman, in the area, overhears Japanese guards talking about Lun Ming and realizes that he's been captured, so he uses trickery to free Lun Ming (and the other prisoners held by the Japanese). After retrieving Lun Ming's message Aquaman takes him to the mainland and safety.
If you do not look at this story in the context of the time it was written and set, you will do it a grave injustice. That said, it isn't a pleasant story from the modern point of view. The Japanese are definitely the bad guys, and all the negative stereotypes and insults are recollected by this story. But, surprisingly, they aren't portrayed as idiots, either. They are able to find out who is sneaking messages across, they manage to stop him in the act, and they also find the hidden message (after Aquaman switches it, though).
The art is probably the worst offender. Cazeneuve has a very blocky distinctive style, and his bad guys look bad. Lun Ming, when he wins an Olympic medal (for the US team, because he attended a US college), is good-looking and well proportioned. The Japanese athlete in the background is an insulting caricature. The same is true of the Japanese soldiers throughout the story.
Aquaman, who isn't really the hero of this story, is the best drawn character by a nose. He's all-American, and acts it throughout the story. He charts channels for US Submarines and searches for the US Fleet. His assistance to Lun Ming is offered as an ally. In these stories, Aquaman wasn't from some distant Atlantis, he was American and acted the part. He also uses the help of fish infrequently during the story. He relies more heavily on his quick thinking and skills.
Remember that this story was written before D-Day, and long before Hiroshima was imaginable. Pearl Harbor was still a strong memory, and the war in Europe was a nightmare that was barely understood. On the home front, the war touched every aspect of life, and that may be the reason that war stories didn't show up in every Aquaman story.
A fascinating look into the past.