As suddenly as Death, the bitter cold came, and with it, the armored tanks, sleek submarines and mailed warriors of the invading legions! An international syndicate, fearing America’s greatness and strength in war, had unleashed savage war-dogs to win the conflict before it fairly began… The greatest military genius of modern times commanded the enemy, and Operator 5 of the United States Secret Service—known to his dearest friends as Jimmy Christopher—was America’s choice to oppose him… But with the Intelligence slaughtered, with Diane in the camp of the enemy, the federal government in hiding, Operator 5 faced the stiffest battle of his career, and the Gods tossed dice to determine the victory!
“Attack of the Blizzard Men” is the nineteenth Operator 5 novel, originally published in October 1935.
Despite the meager reprint history, Nick Carr in his small book, “America’s Secret Service Ace: The Operator 5 Story” writes: “If but one Operator 5 novel were to be read, this would be it.” Carr also believes that this is the last story which can be fully attributed without doubt to Frederick Davis as author, the next two being of unknown authorship.
The novel begins in a sweltering August day in New York City, which suddenly turns so cold that machinery does not work and where the Hudson River is filled with ice. Tanks, submarines, and men come out of hiding to attack the city defenses and conquer it. Hindered by the cold, despite greater American countermeasures, similar scenarios play out swiftly in Washington DC and Chicago. Soon even more cities fall.
America is now compromised with its greatest cities of finance, government administration, and trade in enemy hands. The problem is that the enemy has a cold ray that destroys the effectiveness of equipment and people attacking them. The weapon is so effective that the population of Washington DC is decimated… and presumably also the people of other subjugated cities.
Operator 5 is not inactive as all of this happens. He quickly finds that an alliance of several unnamed foreign powers has been formed to destroy the US so that it cannot rearm and be the decider of any future world war. They have tasked Commissar Evol Kran, apparently the greatest living military strategist according to the text, to lead the assault on the US.
With the US being unable to beat the alliance attacking the US conventionally, Operator 5 comes up with a plan to confront the attacking force’s dictatorial commander. Evol Kran’s son, an officer in the attacking forces is captured. Kran is then forced to send out a command ordering the alliance’s troops to shut down the equipment that causes the cold to keep his son from being executed. Then, after he conveys the command, all radio signals are jammed to keep counter commands from being sent. Without the cold-making machine, the US is quickly able to retake the lost cities and end the crisis.
Could the alliance have conquered the US? Doubtful! There are a number of difficulties with their attack including:
- Davis says that their equipment was sent to the US as “machine parts” and then assembled. Given the vast amount of equipment needed in each city, this defies reasonableness.
- As described by Davis, the mechanisms of the cold ray defy conservation of energy.
- The ability of all the great powers to work together and keep it secret is beyond the realm of reasonableness too.
- So the tale is based on highly improbable possibilities.
Could Operator 5 have saved the US as depicted in the novel assuming that the attack was as successful as stated? Again doubtful. While military men follow orders and particularly those from a ruthless dictator-type government, some would have kept their cold rays and used them again against the US forces even if they violated orders, especially if they were unable to confirm this odd command. The US might have taken some cities back as easily as described if the cold rays were turned off, but not the ones who refused to obey the shut-off order. The cities that kept the cold ray would continue to be as invulnerable as earlier
The novel is based on highly improbable premises, but is also one of the most suspenseful Operator 5 so far. It is almost impossible to put down after the third chapter or so. As such, it is easy to recommend this one.
With this perhaps being the last of Davis’ Operator 5, let’s consider his overall work in the series. Personally, I give him rave reviews for his work. It is true that he has some ongoing weaknesses, such as underplaying the size and planning needed for large-scale mobilization, the protections (especially in the 1930s) offered the US by its isolation from other powers separated by two oceans, and in offering the United Kingdom as a prime enemy of country. Sometimes, his invasions were so improbable as to be beyond reasonable, and Operator 5 appears to accomplish more than any human could possible accomplish. Having stated these weakness, the novels are always exciting and often raise interesting questions. His work represents wonderful pulp war examples.