It was inconceivable that America should ever bow beneath the heel of the invading tyrant, the self-styled Emperor Rudolph I—yet two-thirds of the nation had been seized and laid waste. A courageous but deluded people had muttered, “It can’t happen here!”—even when the purple hordes had swept over Europe and Asia. Now these people were retreating before the bloody battalions of the conqueror. And finally, when even the women of the nation had hurled themselves against the enemy in a last desperate effort to stay his irresistible progress, America staggered under the most paralyzing blow of all—the devastating barrage of the cholera bombs… What could one man—even though he be the veteran Jimmy Christopher, Operator 5—do against such odds?
“America’s Plague Battalions” is the twenty-ninth Operator 5 novel, originally published in December 1936. This novel is the fourth chapter of Tepperman’s 13 Purple Invasion novels. With this issue, the magazine returns to a monthly publication for a short period.
The novel’s foreword paints a dire picture for the Americans. The eastern two-thirds of the US are occupied. Operator 5 has superior planes, but is running out of gas; the Californian oil fields have been destroyed, and Operator 5 must use oil from Mexico. A new type of cholera plague for which existing serums have no effect has been released on Americans. The Purple Empire is fomenting rebellion in Mexico to install a puppet government there. Nan Christopher is in Denver where she is attempting to steal an antitoxin for the plague. Phoenix is under attack with bombardment and plague; Diane Elliott has organized a medical relief effort with 100 women and Tim Donovan bringing aid to the beleaguered city.
In fighting to support stricken Phoenix, Operator 5 is successful in obtaining a sample of the empire’s antitoxin. It is analyzed and duplicated giving the US a reprieve from the horrible disease.
Shortly after liberating the cure, Operator 5 intercepts Emperor Rudolph’s Mexican revolutionaries who he intends to make his puppet masters of their country in support of him. Operator 5 takes the place of the main Mexican.
Meanwhile, Nan Christopher has been captured in her failed attempt at getting the cure. Operator 5 heads to Denver in disguise as the head Mexican to save her from the emperor who is intending to pour liquid silver on her. He saves Nan only with the assistance of Baroness Anita Manfred, the emperor’s cousin and love interest… who tells Operator 5 that she loves him and that he must give himself to her. Operator agrees, saves Nan, and takes Anita with him, destroying the germ lab which prepared the cholera variant and is working on even worse diseases. One wonders at what Diane Elliott will say about Anita and Operator 5. (Note: The Baroness’ love is apparently not returned by Operator 5 who will be engaged to Diane Elliott before the end of the invasion. The Baroness will be seeking revenge eventually as well.)
On the way home, Anita tells Operator 5 that a new and improved naval fleet is on the way from Asia with the intent to make mincemeat of the American west coast.
While the action is entertaining, this is undoubtedly the worse of the Purple Invasion chapters so far. First its plot is propped up with too many coincidences. For example, Operator 5 meets up with the Mexican revolutionaries totally unexpectedly. Baron Flexner unexpectedly intercepts Nan’s carrier pigeon telling her where she is hiding in Denver. While un-expectant events actually do occur in real life, the probability of either of these events is infinitesimally small.
Also, the Purple Empire is painted as not having adequate oil supplies because oil fields in Texas and Oklahoma have been destroyed. While such a lost might have been painful, presumably it would still have the oil reserves of the Old World to support it. While US had about 70% of oil production in the world in the mid-1930s, this still left a lot of oil under the control of the Purple Empire.
Could the Purple Empire have accomplished what it did in this novel? As with the last story, the empire comes across as a rather blundering one. So, yes, if it was incompetent enough, it could have accomplished what it did in this novel!
Could Operator 5’s countermeasures have worked? Except for intercepting the Mexican revolutionaries and Baroness Anita proclaiming her love for him giving up her place in the Purple Empire court, most of what Operator 5 did was possible.
Again, not the best chapter, but if you are reading the Purple Invasion novels, you would not want to skip this one.