In the far reaches of High Asia, the Purple Empire had set up its factories and its smelters, to forge the most powerful weapon yet devised in military history. That weapon was a fleet of super-dreadnoughts equipped with a strange secret device to render our Defense Force helpless… In this gripping novel of the historic Purple Invasion, giant guns ashore and turret magic at sea hurl death at America’s crumbling bulwarks as intrigue knifes the stout defenders. And Operator 5, Secret Service ace, becomes a man without a country, with death and disgrace as his only reward.
“Liberty’s Suicide Legions” is the thirtieth Operator 5 novel, originally published in January 1937. This novel is the fifth chapter of Tepperman’s 13 Purple Invasion novels.
At the beginning of the book, America is hanging on by its fingernails… only the indomitable spirit of Operator 5 magnified by the efforts of like-minded Americans are keeping the country in the fight against the invading Purple Empire… but the situation is getting worse. In last issue, the invaders controlled two-thirds of the country, but in this one, it is three-quarters. A huge flotilla is coming from Asia to destroy the west coast, and it has a secret weapon to aid it. The empire has broken through the Rockies in some places and are crossing the Imperial Valley nearly at the doorstep of San Francisco. A spy is in place in San Francisco reporting to the empire the Americans plans. The acting governors of the western states have decided to oust Z-7 and Operator 5, and take over leadership themselves.
The novel is aptly named with “suicide legions.” The plural is the operative term as more than one suicide legion is involved. The first one, for example, are fighters who delay the surging Purple Army from taking out a convoy of trucks carrying needed gasoline so that Operator 5’s airplane fleet can fight the Purple naval flotilla before it reaches the west coast. This suicide legion, knowing that they would die, force Operator 5 to leave them so that he might live.
The Board of Governors relieves Operator 5 of leadership, and at first he is relieved emotionally as well. However, as the incompetence of the new leadership is shown by throwing the American air force against the Purple navy with its secret weapon, resulting in half being destroyed by the secret weapon and the other half surviving only because of mutiny of its leader after having seen how easily the first half was destroyed, Operator 5 must act.
Against orders and now as an outlaw once more, Operator 5 leads a crew of six hundred men to take over a Purple navy vessel. He learns the secret of fleet’s weapon… infra-red rays…. and rigs it so that the rays from his captured vessel will disrupt the rays from the rest of the fleet. He calls on the surviving American pilots to attack again the fleet in violation of the governors’ orders and even as they surround unconditionally to the Purple Empire. Of course, Operator 5’s plan works, and the Purple Navy is destroyed.
As the novel ends, the US continues to fight with an ever continuing lesser hold. Even that has been possible only by the sacrifice of dedicated Americans. By the end, the Purple Empire has captured much of Southern California despite the failure of the fleet. How will Operator 5 respond to that and to his many other problems?
Could the empire have done what it did in this novel? The breakthrough in California shows some empire competence in this novel; with its overwhelming force, that advance was certainly possible. The infra-red weapon probably goes beyond scientific possibilities even today, but in a science-fiction world, it is not that great of a jump. The empire could have done what it did in this chapter?
Could Operator 5 have provided the countermeasures in this one? Rigging the rays on one ship to disrupt those on many ships sounds a little far-fetched, but might be possible. He is everywhere in this one again, but that is typical for Operator 5.
A good, engaging chapter. It might standalone acceptably without the rest of the saga, but would certainly read best as the fifth of thirteen installments.