Thundering across a ravished America comes a loot laden train bearing twenty million dollars in gold, hurtling toward the despoiled metropolis of New York, where the dread foreign conqueror, Emperor Rudolph I, has established headquarters. Suddenly the train trembles to a stop. A desperate little band of American patriots, who refuse to bow to the conqueror’s yoke, make a bold attack. Their leader, Jimmy Christopher, known as Operator 5, realizes that with that trainload of gold he can flood the skies with a thousand fighting planes, the only chance for America to repel the brutal invaders! Already they have ravished the Eastern seaboard. Even now they are hammering at the surviving citadel of American freedom—the Rocky Mountain stronghold of the brave men who will not yield.
“The Bloody Forty-Five Days” is the twenty-eighth Operator 5 novel, originally published in October 1936. This novel is the third chapter of Tepperman’s 13 Purple Invasion novels.
Most of the novel details the events associated with getting air power for the US. At the beginning of the Purple Invasion, US air power had been destroyed. So Operator 5 contracted to have a 1000 planes built in South America using a newer, faster, more powerful, more lethal design than the planes used by the Central or Purple Empire, a design created by Operator 5. The cost is $40,000,000 in gold.
With the Purple Empire having conquered the eastern two-thirds of the nation all the way from the east coast to the Rocky Mountains, Fort Knox is in enemy hands, and the South Americans will not release the planes until they are paid. Fortunately, the bad guys decide to ship $40,000,000 in gold from the Fort Knox facility eastward, just the amount that Operator 5 needs.
They use a train, and Operator 5 leads an army of Americans to take it over, rescuing his sister, Nan, who also happens to be on the train. The gold is transferred into trucks which are driven across New Jersey fighting off airplanes until they get to the coast, where the gold is loaded onto boats that must then run the Purple Navy. Along the way the representative for the company making the planes in South America comes to New York City where he is captured by the enemy and must be rescued by Operator 5.
The money is delivered to South American contacts, and the planes are immediately pressed into service to halt an intended invasion of the west coast by the Purple Empire. Frustrated that it cannot overcome Americans entrenched in the Rocky Mountains, the empire decides to attack San Francisco and open a second front. The ships must go through the Panama Canal, where Operator 5’s newly acquired fleet of planes meet them and sinks most of the empire’s navy… the first American victory of the war.
As with all these Purple Invasion stories, there are several other tidbits or subplots throughout, such as:
- Canadian resistance meeting up with the American counterpart for the first time.
- Americans everywhere joining the fight, even inmates from prisons such as Alcatraz who would rather fight the Purple Empire and die rather than wait in prison for the empire to overrun them.
- Massacres of Americans in many locations.
Despite the victories, the odds against America grows longer and longer. The new air force offers hope even as the empire starts to use bacteria warfare against the west, but that is a story for the next issue.
Could the Central Empire achieved what it did in this one? Actually the empire achieves little in this novel except being defeated at every turn by Operator 5. So, the only question is: “Could an empire that has conquered Europe and most of Asia be as inept as depicted in this novel?”
Could Operator 5 have provided the countermeasures as shown in the novel? As has been stated in earlier review, it is possible if he was entirely lucky… all the time. To this incredible luck, the ineptness of the empire must be added to allow for him to succeed.
Another good entry! Again, it is more of a chapter than a standalone novel. On finishing one of these stories, a reader feels compelled to immediately pick up and start reading the next installment.
Two other asides:
- The novel starts with perhaps the most interesting misprint in pulp history. Operator 5’s name is stated to be Jimmy Wentworth in the little paragraph at the beginning describing the story that are typically present in pulp hero magazines. The error seems a natural connection to Richard Wentworth who was the alter ego of the Spider. Both The Spider and Operator 5 were published by the same company. (Note: Jimmy Wentworth was also a pulp star during 1931-1934, with a final story in 1936. I like the Spider connection, but the connection to a real pulp hero with this name cannot be discarded.)
- New York City is the center of pulp magazines. Yet, it is odd that Rudolph, the emperor of the Central Empire, chooses to live in NYC. Most rulers would want to stay at home where revolts are more likely to occur if they are absent and where the emperor can be better protected… which would be especially so for Rudolph since his father was assassinated in America. Also, South American representative comes to NYC to deal with Operator 5 where it would be just as advantageous for him to wait and meet Operator 5 when he arrives in South America with the gold.