The defense forces of the United States have been crushed by the powerful war machine of Emperor Rudolph, Warlord of the World… From the Atlantic to the Mississippi the brutal conqueror is subjecting millions to his merciless, bloody reign of terror—and his ruthless gray-clad hordes are steadily sweeping westward, leaving a vast path of death and destruction in their wake… Faced with the surrender of America’s army, only Jimmy Christopher—known to the Intelligence Service as Operator 5—and a pitiful handful of desperate men stand between the Mad Emperor and his bloody conquest of the nation…
“Patriots' Death Battalion” is the twenty-seventh Operator 5 novel, originally published in August 1936. This novel is the second of Tepperman’s 13 Purple Invasion novels. For some reason, probably sales, Operator 5 is now a bi-monthly publication beginning with the last issue, but will return to a monthly for a short period in 1937.
At the end of the last novel, Jimmy Christopher, Operator 5, has been appointed the overall head of American forces. He ordered the pullback of American forces to the Mississippi River, using the same techniques as the Russians used against Napoleon’s invasion, per Tepperman. Now, the Americans are making a stand at the Mississippi River.
Meanwhile, Operator 5 has been taken captive by the top American general so that the President will agree to surrender to Central Empire. The President agrees, but then commits suicide. Operator 5 is in prison and wounded with an iron mask on his head to keep his identity from becoming known. With America’s surrender, the forces of the Central Empire surge forward.
Dire straits! But as in most Operator 5 novels, Operator 5 fights back. He escapes the iron mask and confinement, steals an airplane, and heads west. He establishes an ambush at a pass in the Rocky Mountains. He needs air cover so he steals a squadron of Central Empire planes and staffs them with pilots who have experience from mail delivery, barnstorming, World War I, and illegal flying of booze into the US.
Operator 5’s defenses stop the advance of the evil empire… and as the novel ends, he is heading east to begin organizing the 60 or 70 million Americans behind enemy lines. His first act is to save Diane Elliott who is to be the next hanging victim on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
Could the Central Empire have achieve the victories in this novel? If we are given what happened in the first Purple Invasion novel, it would be easy for their achievements to occur as dramatized in this story.
Could Operator 5 have successfully employed the countermeasures in this novel? Improbable, but not impossible, given that he has surprise and subterfuge on his side. However, if at any time he fails just once to overcome the huge odds set against him, he would have total failure and would be dead. Perhaps, this last statement could hold for him in most Purple Invasion novels.
Overall a good story and fast action. It is perhaps more of a chapter from the much longer Purple Invasion sage than a standalone novel, but that is to be expected. For anyone reading the Purple Invasion, this one should not be skipped but rather read with glee.
Note on skips in our story: Last month, the magazine went to a bi-monthly presentation. The first novel appears to have skipped several months, and much has happened in the current one since the previous issue. One might speculate that there was zeroth novel and perhaps another between the first and second… which would explain these skips. Perhaps someday they will be found.