Operator No. 5
| Operator #5|
Secret Service Operator #5
Cover of issue #26, Death's Ragged Army, which began the Purple Invasion story arc. ©Argosy Communiations
|Editor||Rogers Terrill with Henry Sperry|
|Frequency|| Monthly (April 1934 - April 1936)|
(Mostly) Bi-monthly (April 1936 - December 1939)
|First Issue||April 1934|
| Final Issue
Operator No. 5 was a pulp hero that appeared in his own ten cent pulp magazine, originally Operator #5 but soon renamed Secret Service Operator#5, which was published by Popular Publications between 1934 and 1939.
In the magazines America was still deep in the Great Depression and Jimmy Christopher was a secret agent, codename "Operator No. 5" for the United States Intelligence in a series of fast paced stories about America's enemies who pledged war, death and bloody destruction in their efforts to take over America. The enemies were many, but often from countries with fictional names.
Christopher had two trademarks: a skull ring and a rapier which was kept curled inside his belt. He was aided by a number of people in the various wars: Diane Elliot, his girlfriend; Tim Donovan, who quickly grew from a youngster to a two fisted young man; Nan Christopher, his twin sister; John Christopher, his father who was a retired operative known as Q-6; Chief of Intelligence Z-7; and friend "Slips" McGuire, among many others, some of whom gave their lives for America.
Writers and plotlines
The magazine ran for 48 issues, from April 1934 to November 1939. One final story was written but never published. Stories were credited to "Curtis Steele", which was a house name for writers Frederick Davis (#1-20), Emile C. Tepperman (#21-39), and Wayne Rogers (#40-48). Like other such pulps of the day, there were short backup stories by other authors.
Tepperman was responsible for the 13 interconnected novels (starting with #26) that make up The Purple Invasion, a series in which the Purple Empire (an unnamed European power which is a thinly veiled Germany) conquers the United States after conquering the rest of the world. Jimmy Christopher led the insurgency against them. The saga is often looked upon as the War and Peace of pulps. The entire Purple Invasion sequence was reprinted in the 1990s by Pulp Review/High Adventure.
In a rare bit of continuity for the pulp magazines, America did not find itself fully recovered in the first novel following the end of the Purple Invasion. Instead, America was still reeling from the bloody war, and found itself vulnerable to yet other would-be conquerors. A new serial dealt with the invasion of the US by an oriental power, obviously Japan, led by the "Yellow Vulture." This sequence started with issue #45, but was left unfinished with the magazine's cancellation.
In the 1960s, at the height of the camp craze and the success of the Doc Savage reprints, Corinth Press issued nine Operator 5 adventures in paperback. Their low distribution made them collector's items almost from the very first, but didn't generate enough sales to continue the series. Two later attempts were also made to reprint the stories.
List of stories
Operator #5 stories, giving volumes, numbers and dates
- The Masked Invasion: (Vol. 1,1; April 1934) The dread power of darkness is wielded throughout the nation and thousands flee the havoc and ruin that follows the Thirteenth Darkness.
- The Invisible Empire: (Vol. 1,2; May 1934) An airborne fortress, "The Atlantis" flies over the skies of America wreaking havoc on the country. Any planes which approach it are torn from the skies. The only chance is an undercover operator infiltrating it, in the form of Jimmy Christopher.
- The Yellow Scourge: (Vol. 1,3; June 1934) In this issue Christopher fought against "The Yellow Scourge". Everyone knew they meant the Chinese but names could not be mentioned for obvious reasons. One moment there was peace and the next shells screamed into America dealing death everywhere. Only Operator 5 guessed the terrible secret of the invasion from the Pacific.
- The Melting Death: (Vol. 1,4; July 1934) America found herself stripped of defenses as battleships, huge guns, skyscrapers, factories and transportation crumbled to dust before the voracious flame. An entire nation was paralyzed with panic, not knowing where it would strike next.
- The Cavern of the Damned: (Vol. 2,1; August 1934) Behind closed doors the black power of Zaava spread it's hidden terror throughout America. What made congregations vanish, what made men and women hurl themselves into white hot furnaces? Follow Operator 5 into a death trap as he looks for the answers.
- Master of the Broken Men: (Vol. 2,2; September 1934) The Black Menace snatches away the leaders of the nation and returns them as useless, broken and inept men. The population seethes towards open revolt as the Government of America crumbles before it's eyes.
- Invasion of the Dark Legions: (Vol. 2,3; October 1934) A foreign demagogue, mad-drunk with power, greed and lust hovers at America's borders armed with weapons of bacteria, plague and terrible diseases ready to slaughter millions to realise his twisted ambition.
- The Green Death Mists: (Vol. 2,4; November 1934) A mad Mongol Emperor has a weapon which from a thousand miles away poisons the atmosphere. Men, women, children and all living things gasp with seared lungs as they strangle to death from the very air they breathe.
- Legions of Starvation: (Vol. 3,1; December 1934) Apocryphos and his legions wreck the nation's food supplies and threaten America with slavery as it's people suffer the cruel pangs of hunger and famine on an unprecedented scale.
- The Red Invader: (Vol. 3,2; January 1935) A happy crowd is milling in Time Square at Christmas time when a huge shell suddenly fell from the sky killing, maiming, destroying. After that another shell fell every twelve hours somewhere in America causing more death and destruction. Two mighty powers are blamed and America teeters on the edge of war.
- League of War Monsters: (Vol. 3,3; February 1935) A group of bitter men the "League of War" plans to plunge the whole Earth into War starting with bloody and organized murder in the heart of Europe. Behind the carnage, a single man who plans to make himself Dictator of the World.
- The Army of the Dead: (Vol. 3,4; March 1935) Zombies marched, soulless storm troopers of a sinister madman's plot. Operator 5 battled the bloody tide that swirled on land and sea and into the Death's Temple itself where if he should die, he would become another mindless zombie recruit for the evil legions.
- March of the Flame Marauders: (Vol. 4,1; April 1935)
- Blood Reign of the Dictator: (Vol. 4,2; May 1935) America is in chaos, Diane Elliot is held captive as Operator 5 fights the tyrant's blade which hovers over America.
- Invasion of the Yellow Warlords: (Vol. 4,3; June 1935)
- Legions of the Death-Master: (Vol. 4,4; July 1935) Death strikes down the champions of law and order as mobs wander the street spreading hatred in an insidious scheme to decimate the nation from inside.
- Hosts of the Flaming Death: (Vol. 5,1; August 1935) A man in a gold mask is behind numerous acts of sabotage which are done in an effort to ruin the American economy. Operator#5 goes after the Ukrainian ambassador who is his only lead.
- Invasion of the Crimson Death-Cult: (Vol. 5,2; September 1935)
- Attack of the Blizzard-Men: (Vol. 5,3; October 1935) The greatest military genius of the time unleashed an invasion of tanks, submarines and armoured warriors on America as it suffers from a debilitating coldness.
- Scourge of the Invisible Death (Vol. 5,4; November 1935) In which Christopher fights against a British secret society which wanted to bring America down with the villain dressing like a War of Independence (British) redcoat. The man used machines which could open up holes in our atmosphere allowing deadly cosmic rays from space to carry out his threats.
- Raiders of the Red Death: (Vol. 6,1; December 1935) Featured Montezuma the Third who wanted to establish an Aztec empire using a weapon which caused people to explode. Captives were sacrificed to ancient gods and America seemed condemned to slavery.
- War Dogs of the Green Destroyer: (Vol. 6,2; January 1936) Featured a dictator from Etoria, a tiny Mediterranean nation armed with a green gas that causes everything it touches to burst into flame.
- Rockets from Hell: (Vol. 6,3; February 1936)
- War Master from the Orient: (Vol. 6,4; March 1936) A waterfront coolie from Hong Kong becomes the war master of Asia and Russia and armed with a new weapon which makes the bravest man a craven coward, he marches ruthlessly to conquer the world.
- Crime's Reign of Terror: (Vol. 7,1; April 1936)
- Death's Ragged Army: (Vol. 7,2; June 1936) Beginning of The Purple Invasion story arc. Where we see America on the twenty second day of an invasion by the Purple Empire under Emperor Maximilian I, who planned a reign of slaughter but was killed by a bomb thrown by Plugger Dugan. This however gave his even more bloodthirsty son, Rudolph a chance to take over in his stead, claiming that Operator#5 had killed Maximillian. As the story starts, the invaders from the Central Empire (Germany?) held all New England and most of the Eastern Seaboard. On the last page, with the President in a temporary HQ in Jacksonville, Florida appoints Jimmy Christopher in charge of all maneuvers against the Purple Army. This started an ongoing war that was to last till the end of issue 1938 as battles were fought through the towns of America, across country, in the sky and at sea. Christopher was a master of disguise and along with his friends would risk great danger to learn secrets from the invaders or to save friends or whole populations being massacred by vile people who chopped heads off, stuck swords into helpless women, bayoneted babies, gassed whole towns and so on. Against them was a brave rag-tag Army of Americans (never assisted by European allies) who fought as their frontiersmen ancestors had fought a century before them.
- Patriot's Death Battalion: (Vol. 7,3; August 1936) Emperor Rudolph has been upgraded to Warlord of the World and his grey clad hordes sweep westward across America and the issue ends with the American forces being bottled up and the Central Empire forces have marched down from Canada and is at their flank.
- The Bloody Forty-Five Days: (Vol. 7,4; October 1936) Has a loot-laden train thundering across America, bearing twenty million dollars in gold, something that Jimmy Christopher (called Jimmy Wentworth on the first page blurb, Richard Wentworth being The Spider's alias) needs to buy weapons with to fight the Purple hordes and ends with bacteria bombs being dropped on the American forces.
- America's Plague Battalions: (Vol. 8,1; December 1936) The Purple Forces have taken Europe and Asia as well as two thirds of America. As the women of America fought back, Rudolph released his devastating cholera bombs. When you think things cannot get worse, the story ends with an immense fleet of Purple ships heading towards San Francisco.
- Liberty's Suicide Legions: (Vol. 8,2; January 1937) Starts with the invasion of the west coast by super-dreadnoughts which are armed with a secret weapon, under the evil Admiral Baroda (who of course speaks with a thick guttural language. In issue 2, the best of both worlds. The Atlantis, a super-flying fortress is in the hands of Asiatics who speak in a guttural language) and ends with Marshal Kremer smashing through their defences and marching on San Bernadino.
- The Siege of the Thousand Patriots: (Vol. 8,3; February 1937) The Purple Emperor's forces smash their way east over the Rockies while Christopher tries a desperate raid deep into enemy territory to try and snatch victory from defeat. 31 ends with an enemy consignment of secret weapons heading for the Rockies and they have to head it off.
- Patriot's Death march: (Vol. 8,4; March 1937) America are all but beaten and now a desperate fight back begins but things do not go well.
- Revolt of the Lost Legions: (Vol. 9,1; May 1937) In which America is beaten and in chains, labouring for a blood maddened dictator and defiant patriots have their heads cut off but Christopher fights on, planning to snatch the Emperor's own weapons and use them against him.
- Drums of Destruction: (Vol. 9,2; July 1937) The goose-stepping armies of the Purple Emperor are massed in the passes of the Continental Divide and ready to swoop down on the American defenders but Operator#5 makes a dash into occupied territory where every hand is against him and his capture worth a whole providence to the captor. 1934 ends with Rudolph threatening the death of every eldest son in the occupied territoies if the Americans do not withdraw from the Continental Divide within days.
- The Army Without A Country: (Vol. 9,3; September 1937) Has America fighting back again but when they charge the Purple Army, they find them hiding behind a wall of helpless Americans but by the end of the issue, the Purple army are routed and have taken to the hills.
- The Bloody frontiers: (Vol. 9,4; November 1937) Where we find that the Purple forces are not defeated and a decimated America launches primitive warfare against them and on top of this, they must face the Goth warriors of Urslup the Strong. Christopher kills Urslup in mortal combat but the issue ends with news that Shah Hi Mung's Mongol troops, having invaded America has won a number of battles against American forces are now marching on New York, and worse, Charleston has been shelled, Purple soldiers landed and all residents put to the sword.
- The Coming of the Mongol Hordes: (Vol. 10,1; January 1938) Has the Mongol horde thundering through Pennsylvania, severed heads hanging from their saddles as they headed for New York with only a small band of gallant patriots waiting at Valley Forge to try and stop them. The thin line holds against the Mongols but the Purple fleet are now advancing on New York.
- The Siege That Brought the Black Death: (Vol. 10,2; March 1938) End of The Purple Invasion story arc. As the title of the issue tells us, this was where with harassed by the Mongol hordes on land and bombarded by the Purple fleet from sea, the Emperor releases the Black Death onto the American forces. The issue ends with the cowardly Purple Emperor, Rudolph at Jimmy Christopher's mercy, but he is shot by one of his own men who he had tortured for a mistake. The Purple invasion is ended as the defeated force sails off. Now it was back to single issue wars.
- Revolt of the Devil-Men: (Vol. 10,3; May 1938) As a ravaged America sought to rebuild itself, the evil Brown Shirts tried to enslave an exhausted America but were finally beaten with their leaders executed.
- The Suicide Battalion: (Vol. 10,4; July 1938) The first attack came from a force in Canada but Christopher and his friends traces the real menace to Europe and they go there to confront the three bandit nations of the Old World who are lined up against them. Germany and Italy were defeated but Japan is still to be reckoned with.
- The Day of the Damned: (Vol. 11,1; September 1938) In which Japan continues its war against America, using the Mexican people and armed with the latest in mechanical warfare and tropical diseases. The Japanese are beaten back and leave America and Mexico as Diane recovers from the fever that almost killed her.
- The Dawn That Shook the World: (Vol. 11,2; November 1938) England and France have already fallen under the Invasion of the "New Dawn" and now the deathless men are taking over America.
- When Hell Came to America: (Vol. 11,3; January 1939) Another dictator attacks America and small towns vanish before the onslaught of a new weapon.
- Invasion From the Sky: (Vol. 11,4; March 1939) Airships come from the sky and the invaders are armed with a fire that cannot be extinguished.
- Winged Hordes of the Yellow Vulture: (Vol. 12,1; May 1939) Began the invasion by the "Yellow Vulture" force (which would see out the series) with a huge air armada sweeping over America and releasing plague germs. They are of course Japs, led by Moto Taronago (who had been head of the Japanese Secret Police) and his puppet, King Enoch. South Americans are persuaded to join the Japs and the issue ends with Texas and Louisiana overwhelmed by them.
- War Tanks of the Yellow Vulture: (Vol. 12,2; July 1939) Much of middle America is now beaten and the Vulture's hordes advance on the remaining patriots in California. The story ends with the news that many of the steel producing plants in America have been destroyed, thus depriving them of ammunition.
- Corpse Cavalry of the Yellow Vulture: (Vol. 12,3; September 1939) Enemy tanks march across America and their new weapon is unleashed which turns day into darkest night. When Christopher finally triumphs comes the worst news of all: Washington DC has been totally oblitered. The President, his aides, and John Christopher are all gone.
- The Army From Underground: (Vol. 12,4; November 1939) Worst comes to worst. Tanks that can burrow under American lines, assassins firing at America's leaders, exploding corpses, Diane kidnapped by the Japs, a treacherous Japanese princess "She" who takes over, Nan Christopher in the path of tanks with giant blades fitted to them, designed to cut people to pieces, and the issue and series ends with the total destruction of Canada and the Japanese advancing on the small group of remaining American forces.
- Hell's Lost Battalion: (January 1940) Not published
- Download a free issue of Operator#5 to read
- Galactic Central Magazine Datafile for Operator #5
- Pulp Heroes: Operator #5
- The Hero Pulps!: Operator #5
- The Vintage Library@ Operator #5
- Operator #5 Covers