The First Team (novel)
The First Team is a 1971 thriller by John Ball
John Ball (American author)
John Dudley Ball , writing as John Ball, was an American writer best known for mystery novels involving the African-American police detective Virgil Tibbs. He was introduced in the 1965 In the Heat of the Night where he solves a murder in a racist Southern small town...

. The book is set in a future history
Future history
A future history is a postulated history of the future and is used by authors in the subgenre of speculative fiction to construct a common background for fiction...

 of a United States living under a brutal Soviet occupation, at a date which is not specified but seems to be the late 1970's, and can retroactively be considered a kind of alternate history.

Ball is best known for having created the character of the African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 detective Virgil Tibbs
Virgil Tibbs
Virgil Tibbs is a fictional character who is one of the two leading male characters in John Ball's 1965 novel In the Heat of the Night. He is also the protagonist in six sequels to that novel, the Oscar-winning 1967 film of the same name based on the original novel, the sequel films They Call Me...

, who successfully challenges the racist society of the 1960's racist South in the novel In the Heat of the Night (novel)
In the Heat of the Night (novel)
In the Heat of the Night is a 1965 novel by John Ball set in the fictional community of Wells, North Carolina. The main character is a black police detective named Virgil Tibbs passing through the small town during a time of bigotry and the civil rights movement.The novel is the basis of the 1967...

 which established for this writer a solid liberal
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 reputation quite at variance with the present book.

The First Teams themes reflect the atmosphere at the time of writing, with the realization seeping in of the US having lost the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. In the book, this was extrapolated into a far more crucial loss - namely, the Soviets succeeding in taking over the US without a shot being fired. Fictional depiction of the society under occupation clearly shows what the writer thought of various people and phenomena in the actual 1971.


The book begins with a Soviet governor already securely ensconced in the White House, and a young Air Force officer who tried to resist the occupiers being summarily executed on the White House lawn - without explaining exactly how things got to that dire pass. The reader is, however, made to understand that the Soviet takeover was made possible because of widespread cultural malaise. Undermined by Hippies and anti-war protesters, corrupt military-industrial complex
Military-industrial complex
Military–industrial complex , or Military–industrial-congressional complex is a concept commonly used to refer to policy and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them...

 producers who created faulty military hardware, weak-willed US Senators, and the super-power that was the USSR's propaganda machine (not to mention the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

's hangover), the USA was unable to defend against Soviet power. The country finds itself under an iron-willed Soviet bureaucrat, backed up by a vicious Soviet Colonel.

The Soviets embark on blatantly anti-Semitic policies, making no effort to reconcile them with Marxist ideology, and drive hundreds of thousands of American Jews
American Jews
American Jews, also known as Jewish Americans, are American citizens of the Jewish faith or Jewish ethnicity. The Jewish community in the United States is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe, and their U.S.-born descendants...

 into Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, where they are housed in makeshift tent camps.

Small-time criminals soon turn into paid informers for the new regime. An unpaid collaborator is a hitherto popular singer, who openly welcomes the occupiers and tells his audience that "things could have been far worse" - whereupon attendance at his performances plummets. Rather than making use of him, the Soviets just ignore him and finally he is killed "by mistake" by a Soviet army unit that misunderstood his wish to welcome them on American soil.

Another character at whose misfortune the reader is invited to smile is an imprisoned radical Black leader, who expects to be set free by the Soviet invaders, only to find that they have no intention to lose such a trouble-maker as himself, and that in fact the new warden (a Russian woman) is far tougher than her American predecessor.

American students try to voice their protest but find the Soviet occupiers' response far more brutal than anything they encountered in the years of the anti-war movement. And a trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

 official in an (unnamed) East Coast port, who tries to obstruct the occupiers, is summarily shot.

However, hope is not lost. The main protagonist - US White House interpreter Raleigh Hewitt, kept at his post by the invaders - comes to be recruited into a secret underground resistance organization, "The First Team" of the title.

It turns out that the fall of the United States wasn't altogether unforeseen, and that a very resourceful band of patriots was already in place, with considerable material resources - such as a well-equipped secret control centre - prepared for them carefully in advance.

There are months of careful preparatory work, secret manoeuvrings and counter-manoeuvrings, using especially the classic spying device of a small private brothel sited in a Washington. D.C. suburb - before the brave conspirators are ready to strike. This work includes the political conversion of a formerly liberal Senator, whose son had been a patriot, killed by the Soviets during a planning session.

Key to ending the Soviet occupation is the USS Ramon Magsaysay, a fully armed and fueled nuclear
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 ballistic missile submarine
Ballistic missile submarine
A ballistic missile submarine is a submarine equipped to launch ballistic missiles .-Description:Ballistic missile submarines are larger than any other type of submarine, in order to accommodate SLBMs such as the Russian R-29 or the American Trident...

 at a Navy yard in the San Francisco Bay
San Francisco Bay
San Francisco Bay is a shallow, productive estuary through which water draining from approximately forty percent of California, flowing in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers from the Sierra Nevada mountains, enters the Pacific Ocean...

. The Magsaysay is critical because all other US Navy subs had obeyed orders to put into foreign ports and be taken over by the Soviets, while the Magsaysay is readily accessible.

The patriots put a team aboard during a false "reactor emergency" (a subplot later used in Tom Clancy
Tom Clancy
Thomas Leo "Tom" Clancy, Jr. is an American author, best known for his technically detailed espionage, military science, and techno thriller storylines set during and in the aftermath of the Cold War, along with video games on which he did not work, but which bear his name for licensing and...

's The Hunt for Red October
The Hunt for Red October
The Hunt for Red October is a 1984 novel by Tom Clancy. The story follows the intertwined adventures of Soviet submarine captain Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius and CIA analyst Jack Ryan.The novel was originally published by the U.S...

) and manage to steal the sub -- without provisions aboard. The last part of the book involves the pressure of both sides not knowing whether the sub and its possibly starving skeleton crew has successfully escaped Soviet forces and reached a place where the missiles could be fired.

Similar Books

The First Team appeared more or less simultaneously with Vandenberg by Oliver Lange, dealing with the same theme of a Soviet-occupied United States, but far more pessimistically - with resistance (at least as mentioned in the book) restricted to a small group of oddballs in a corner of New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

. It is unclear which of the two influenced the other or if they were written independently of each other. They both are clearly part of the genre of Invasion literature
Invasion literature
Invasion literature was a historical literary genre most notable between 1871 and the First World War . The genre first became recognizable starting in Britain in 1871 with The Battle of Dorking, a fictional account of an invasion of England by Germany...

, like The Battle of Dorking in 19th Century Britain.
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