Operation Jedburgh (1944)
Jedburgh was an
operation in World War II in which men from the British Special Operations
Executive, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services joined with men from the Free
French Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action (“Intelligence and
operations central bureau”), and the Dutch or Belgian Army to parachute into
Nazi occupied France, Holland, or Belgium to conduct sabotage and guerilla
warfare, and to lead the local resistance forces against the Germans.
operation took its name, probably assigned at random from a list of
pre-approved code names, from the town Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders. After
about two weeks of paramilitary training at commando training bases in the
Scottish highlands, the Jeds moved to Milton Hall, which
was much closer to London and Special Forces Headquarters.
The Jedburgh teams comprised
three men: a leader, an executive officer, and a non-commissioned radio
operator. One of the officers would be British or American while the other
would hail from the country to which the team deployed. The Type
B Mark II radio, more commonly referred to as the B2 or “Jed Set” was
critical for communicating with Special Force Headquarters in London.
first team dropped into the Brittany Peninsula prior to D-Day and the invasion
of Europe, codenamed Operation Overlord.
teams operated in 54 French metropolitan départements
between June and December 1944.
The Jedburgh teams normally
parachuted in by night to meet a reception committee from a local Resistance or
Maquis group. Their main function was to provide a link between the guerillas
and the Allied command. They could provide liaison, advice, expertise,
leadership, and — their most powerful ability — they could arrange airdrops of
arms and ammunition.
all Allied forces who operated behind Nazi lines, the Jedburghs or Jeds as they called
themselves, were subject to torture and execution in the event of capture, under
Hitler‘s notorious Commando Order. Because the Jeds normally operated in
uniform, to apply this order to them was a war crime.
represented the first real cooperation in Europe between SOE and the Special
Operations branch of OSS. By this period in the war, SOE had insufficient
resources to mount the huge operation on its own; OSS jumped at the chance to
be involved since in a single swoop it got more Special Operations agents into
northwestern Europe than it had during the entire period of the United States’
involvement in the war.
Jedburgh teams also operated in the Pacific
circa 1945, including Japanese occupied French Indochina.
of the surviving American Jeds
went on to great responsibility in the US Army or the CIA. Examples include CIA
director William Egan Colby, Lucien Conein, later a key CIA officer in Vietnam,
General John Singlaub and Colonel Aaron Bank
(founder of United States Army Special Forces).
French commandos, Paul Aussaresses, later founder of the SDECE’s 11e régiment
parachutiste de choc, and counter-insurgency expert in French Algeria. Another
and former 11e RPC, Jean Sassi, pioneered in conventional guerrilla commandos
GCMA with Roger Trinquier during the First Indochina War. Guy Le Borgne,
commander of the 8e Choc Parachute Battalion in Indochina, 3rd Marine Infantry
Parachute Regiment in Algeria and 11th Parachute Division.
and the United States would both use similar operations a few years later in