Two days later, the British Chiefs of Staff approved the SOE proposal, with the Americans following suit on August 24 1943. By October, the SOE and the OSS each agreed to provide sufficient personnel to field 35 Jedburgh teams plus 15 reserve teams, a total of 300 men in 100 teams. SHAEF created a special forces (SF) detachment for each army and army group headquarters to coordinate these operations with the field army.

These detachments linked the field headquarters with the SOE/SO. Each detachment fielded about twelve officers and twenty men.

The senior OSS officer with the US 3-A described the organization as follows: the Special Force Detachment was an orthodox military staff organized to provide the Commanding General of the Army a direct means to exercise control over the organized resistance elements and to use these elements in connection with military operations.

The detachments, however, had no means of directly contacting those organized resistance groups and Jedburgh teams other than through the SOE/SO. That organization summarized agent and resistance group reports and dispatched those summaries to the SF detachments. To integrate this effort with the Allied invasion of France, the SOE/SO, on May 1, 1944, became the Special Forces Headquarters responsible to SHAEF’s G-3 Branch. Although the SOE had several sections running circuits in France, the most important were RF Section (circuits supporting Gen Charles de Gaulle) and F Section (which operated non-Gaullist circuits).

De Gaulle’s government in exile still remained at arm’s length, but on occasion, its intelligence branch, the Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’ Action (BCRA), cooperated with the SOE/SO.

One such occasion was January 25, 1944, London meeting to discuss the reception of Jedburgh teams in France. The SOE, the OSS, and the BCRA agreed to finance a mission for the BCRA and the F Section to establish reception committees and safe houses for Jedburgh teams.

Through herculean efforts, de Gaulle’s government managed to largely unify the many diverse French resistance groups, in March 1944 announcing the creation of the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur (FFI). The FFI included the Franc Tireurs et the Partisans (leftist resistance organization), the largest and most active resistance organization. It remained difficult, however, for the many diverse French resistance organizations to cooperate without considering postwar political dilemmas.

In July 1944, SHAEF directed de Gaulle’s subordinate and personal friend, Pierre Koenig, commander of the FFI, to gradually assume command over SFHQ operations in France.

The transfer did not occur until August 21. In any case, this was largely a political and cosmetic measure, because Koenig’s deputies from the SOE and the OSS maintained the mechanisms of command, communication, and supply. Most of the eleven Jedburgh teams examined here operated in eastern France, known as Region C to the FFI, commanded by District Military Representative Planète.

Region C consisted of the Ardennes, Marne, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Vosges, Bas-Rhin, and Haute-Rhin Departments. This had been a difficult area in which to operate from the beginning, but in August 1944, it became even more difficult, as the Vichy police, the Milice, and its supporters fled east with the remnants of the defeated German Army.
In mid-September 1943, with the Allied invasion of France just around the corner, no Jedburgh force existed. Over the next three months, the SOE and the OSS each recruited officers and non commissioned officers (NCO) with French language skills – all volunteers. The NCOs would serve as radio operators, the officers as either Jedburghs or staff officers of the SF detachments. Little is known of the SOE selection process, but the OSS qualifications for Jedburgh officers were as follows:

Officers recruited as leaders and seconds in command should be picked for qualities of leadership and daring, ability to speak and understand French, and all-around physical condition. They should be experienced in handling men, preferably in an active theater of operations, and be prepared to be parachuted in uniform behind enemy lines and operate on their own for some time. They must have had the basic military training and preferably have the aptitude for small arms..

Qualifications for the NCO radio operators were less stringent, requiring only a working knowledge of French and the ability to attain a speed of fifteen words per minute before leaving the United States. They, too, had to be in top physical condition. It would appear that the screening procedures were quite rigorous. Of the fifty-five officers selected for further Jedburgh training in Great Britain, only thirty-five became Jedburghs. This signified that the OSS was forced to secure additional volunteers from the US Army units in Great Britain. Several of those volunteers did not join their colleagues until February, a good month after basic training had already begun. Although the SOE and the OSS were theoretically coequals in the SOE/SO (and later in the SFHQ), the SOE remained dominant. The SOE provided the training sites and most of the instructors. The American volunteers arrived in Great Britain in late December 1943, with the officers spending two weeks going through psychological tests near Peterfield, south of London.

The officers then split into three groups and rotated through the Special Training Schools (STS) No. 6 at Walsingham, No. 45 at Fairford, and No. 40 at Gumley Hall. The sixty-two American NCOs attended the SOE communications school at Henley-on-Thames. Like the officers, however, they also underwent the ubiquitous psychological tests and practiced marksmanship, self-defense (taught by former members of the Shanghai Police), and physical training. In late January, all the Americans attended the Bingway parachute school, a three-day course, where they trained on Parachuting through the small hole (Joe hole) of a Royal Air Force bomber. Lt Col Frank V. Spaoner of the British Army established the Jedburgh Training School at Milton Hall, a large estate four miles from Peterborough, England. Operational training for the Jedburghs began there in February 1944, emphasizing guerrilla warfare tactics and skills demolitions, use of enemy weapons, map reading, night navigation, agent circuit operations, intelligence, sabotage, escape and evasion, counterespionage, ambushes, security, the use of couriers, and hand-to-hand combat. The final seventy French volunteers did not arrive at Milton Hall until March 1944, after the SOE/SO had conducted a recruitment drive through the Middle East. From May 21 to June 8, any Jedburgh teams participated in Lash, the last large-scale exercise. In the Leicestershire’s Charnwood Forest, the teams rehearsed receiving orders, linking up with resistance groups, and later leading attacks against targets designated by a radio message.

Almost all the Jedburgh members practiced French, Morse code, and long marches. The Jedburghs also received briefings on the history and organization of the resistance in France and other European countries.

The SOE/SO, or the SFHQ as it was now known, expressed pleasure with the exercise, although the simulated guerrillas had been observed moving during daylight in large groups.

The SFHQ concluded that the guerrillas should have approached their targets in smaller bands. In the category of minor criticisms, the guerrilla groups had received vague orders, which led to confusion. In addition, the groups had difficulty with their escape and evasion techniques. The Jedburghs formed their own teams in March and April, between the large-scale training exercises. In early April, Lt Col George R. Musgrave, British Army, became the new commandant at Milton Hall.

By April, training was largely complete, and on May 2, 1944, fifteen Jedburgh teams sailed for North Africa in preparation for insertion into southern France from Algiers. The teams remaining at Milton Hall continued to train while awaiting their alert or warning order. As a rule, upon receipt of their alert order, the team would be isolated and driven to a London safe house, where the SFHQ representatives from the SOE’s country sections briefed the officers on the particulars of the mission, local conditions, and background information. Although most Jedburghs entered France wearing military uniforms, several teams were informed at the briefing that they would be parachuted into France in civilian clothes. Needless to say, if they were caught wearing civilian clothes, the Germans would treat them as spies.

From there, the team was usually driven to Harrington or Tempsford Air Bases to await a flight that same evening. Other air bases were occasionally used, but Harrington fielded the modified black-painted bombers of the US 8-AAF’s 801st (Provisional) Bomb Group (Heavy), while the RAF’s 38th Group flew out of Tempsford. The SFHQ maintained its supply and packing area (known as Area H) some thirty-five miles from Harrington near the village of Holme.

Many of the Jedburghs heard of the D Day invasion while on Exercise Lash in Leicestershire. There was a general sense of disappointment upon the realization that they would not be deployed before but after the invasion. By the end of June, the SFHQ had dispatched thirteen Jedburgh teams to France (six from England and seven from North Africa). At the end of July, the number of teams in France increased to twenty-five, although none had been dropped north of the Seine River.

The Jedburgh concept had evolved considerably from Gubbins’ original 1942 proposal. The number of teams mushroomed from 70 to 100, of which 93 would deploy to France and another 6 to Holland in support of Operation Market Garden. From being a British force, the Jedburghs became an international one including Americans, French, Belgians, and Dutch. Basically, they constituted an unconventional warfare reserve in the theater to provide leadership, organization, training, weapons, supplies, and communication links to the FFI resistance groups. They would be inserted at least forty miles behind enemy lines and hence would not usually be in a position to provide tactical assistance to conventional forces. The teams would conduct unconventional warfare against German lines of communication, but not until told to do so by the SFHQ.

When Gen Frederick Morgan approved the Jedburgh concept in 1943, it was with the understanding that the special forces detachments at army and army group headquarters would control the organized resistance groups behind German lines. Furthermore, he believed it was the job of his army commander to exercise that control. The teams would conduct unconventional warfare against German lines of communication, but not until told to do so by the SFHQ. Modern professional officer corps, as a rule, have very little interest in unconventional warfare. That was certainly the case for the senior commanders and staff officers of World War II, trained in the branch schools and staff colleges of the 1920s and 1930s. Robin Brook, a senior SOE adviser to SHAEF, observed that the regular officers he served with had little knowledge of or interest in unconventional warfare. The SF detachments began to see similar patterns upon taking the field in France.

As early as July 12, when the commanders of the #10 and #11 SF Detachments met, one observed: it appears from his experience and ours here that Armies working under Army Groups are not very strategically minded.

The first response of the US 3-A upon breaking out of the Normandy bridgehead was to disarm the FFI. It took a directive from the 12-AG to establish that the FFI were allies and not enemies. Basically, there was little interest in the SF detachments on what was happening 100 kilometers in the enemy’s rear. To complicate the situation further, the SF detachments could only contact Jedburgh teams and resistance groups through the SFHQ. Another possible cloud on the horizon was the efficiency of communications between resistance groups, the SFHQ, and the SF detachments. With more and more Allied special operations teams and resistance groups operating behind German lines, would the SFHQ be capable of receiving and analyzing the increasing radio traffic and giving the SF detachments sufficient information to act upon?

Jedburgh teams were but one special operations instrument available to SHAEF in the summer of 1944. Current military doctrine emphasizes a rational construct of Special Operations Forces, an umbrella concept encompassing numerous organizations and functions ranging from psychological warfare and civil affairs all the way to elite special forces teams conducting direct-action missions deep behind enemy lines. In 1944, however, there was no such concept. Theoretically; SHAEF and its SFHQ provided the umbrella to encompass the many special-operations-type forces.

But as we have seen, the Allied special operations effort was marked by different organizations competing for funds, personnel, and missions. Although pledged to support SHAEF in the invasion of western Europe, a number of organizations remained independent, the most conspicuous being British Intelligence and the Special Air Service Regiment. A number of Jedburgh teams in the field, when confronted with a mission beyond their means, specifically requested reinforcement by SAS parties. Unfortunately, the SFHQ did not control the operational use of those forces. The modern concept of deconfliction (ensuring that simultaneous special or intelligence operations do not conflict or compromise each other) did not exist.

The experience and skills of the FFI groups (and the SOE agents inserted to work with the resistance) varied considerably. Some groups were rather familiar with the reception procedures (flash-light identification signals and two lines of bonfires) and had even used the procedures once or twice.

Other groups would form their first reception committee to meet a Jedburgh team. A coded BBC message (known as a blind transmission broadcast) informed each FFI group of the impending arrival of a Jedburgh team. Some Jedburghs trained to receive a small aircraft in the field to evacuate the severely wounded.

Jedburghs, however, were expected to remain in the field until they linked up with advancing Allied ground forces. This event was called being overrun and required no special procedures other than a Jedburgh showing his SFHQ identification paper. The Jedburghs who would parachute into northern France followed the progress of Operation Overlord in the newspapers and BBC newscasts. Until they received their warning order and briefing in London, however, they did not know where they would be inserted. Of the 12-AG and its operations, they knew next to nothing.

The Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, succeeded at all points, and Allied control of the sea and air ensured the rapid buildup of follow-on forces. The German High Command erroneously believed the main invasion would come farther north, in the Calais area. This misconception, along with Allied air interdiction, slowed the arrival of German reinforcements. The feared German counterattack never took place. Instead, a battle of attrition developed – a battle the Germans could not afford to fight.

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