Jedburgh Team Operations in Support of The 12th Army Group, August 1944

Title:                        Jedburgh Team Operations in Support of The 12th Army Group, August 1944

Author:                   S. J. Lewis

Lewis, S. J. (1991). Jedburgh Team Operations in Support of The 12th Army Group, August 1944. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Command and General Staff College

OCLC:    58532953

D794.5 .L49 1991

Subjects:United States. Office of Strategic Services–History.
United States. Army. Army Group, 12th–History.
World War, 1939-1945–Commando operations.
Subversive activities–France–Normandy.
World War, 1939-1945–Campaigns–France–Normandy.
Normandy (France)–History.

Date Updated:  October 26, 2015

Little has been written about the missions and activities of special forces in the 1950s and even less about their predecessors in World War II. The Jedburghs were one such group dropped in three-man teams in France during 1944 to assist the Allied advance from behind German lines. Dr. S. J. Lewis’ study on the activities of a number of Jedburgh teams operating in northern France during the last year of the war addresses this often-overlooked aspect of the war in Europe. This study should advance the understanding of Special Operations forces on the part of military professionals and civilians alike and stimulate further inquiries into a topic still shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding.[1]

The entire book is available for download from the Command and General Staff School

Operation Jedburgh was a clandestine operation during World War II, in which personnel of the British Special Operations Executive, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, the Free French Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action (“Intelligence and operations central bureau”) and the Dutch and Belgian Armies were dropped by parachute into Nazi-occupied France, Holland and Belgium to conduct sabotage and guerilla warfare, and to lead the local resistance forces in actions against the Germans.

Jedburgh operations took the name, probably assigned at random from a list of pre-approved code names, from the town of 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 near Peterborough, which was much closer to the airfields from which they were to be launched, and to London and Special Force Headquarters.

The first team in, codenamed “Hugh”, parachuted into central France near Châteauroux the night before the Allied landings in Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord. In total, 93 Jedburgh teams operated in 54 French metropolitan départements between June and December 1944. They were known by codenames which usually were first names (such as “Hugh”), with some names of herbs or spices and a few random names thrown in to confuse German intelligence.

The Jedburgh teams normally parachuted in by night to meet a reception committee from a local Re-sistance or Maquis group. Their main function was to provide a link between the guerrillas and the Allied command. They could provide liaison, advice, expertise and leadership, but their most powerful asset was their ability to arrange airdrops of arms and ammunition.

Like all Allied forces who operated behind Nazi lines, the Jedburghs were subject to torture and execution in the event of capture, under Hitler‘s notorious Commando Order. Because the teams normally operated in uniform, to apply this order to them was a war crime. However, of the Jedburgh teams dropped into France, only British Captain Victor A. Gough met that fate, being shot while a prisoner on 25 November 1944. Operation Jedburgh 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; for example, it had access to only 23 Handley Page Halifax aircraft for dropping agents and stores, barely sufficient to maintain SOE’s existing networks. OSS was able to augment this force with Consolidated B-24 Liberator aircraft operating from RAF Harrington. The OSS eagerly sought to be involved, since in a single swoop it got more agents into northwestern Europe than it had during the entire previous period of the United States’ involvement in the war. Nevertheless, General Eisenhower, the American Supreme Commander, ensured that the French would lead the operation and gave them command on 9 June 1944 of the Jedburgh teams in France.

Jedburgh teams normally consisted of three men: a commander, an executive officer, and a non-commissioned radio operator. One of the officers would be British or American while the other would originate from the country to which the team deployed. The radio operator could be sourced from any nationality. In addition to their personal weapons (which included an M1 carbine and a Colt automatic pistol for each member) and sabotage equipment, the teams dropped with the Type B Mark II radio, more commonly referred to as the B2 or “Jed Set”, which was critical for communicating with Special Force Headquarters in London. They were also issued pieces of silk with five hundred phrases that they were likely to use in radio traffic replaced with four-letter codes to save time in transmission, and one-time pads to encipher their messages.

As the Jedburgh teams’ mission was to inspire overt rather than clandestine resistance activity, they wore military uniform and were equipped with a variety of personal equipment such as medical supplies, food such as “K” and “C” Ration packs, sleeping bags, field glasses and detailed maps of their operational areas, which were printed on silk like their radio ciphers. Agents who had previously been dropped to resistance groups had carried only “a gun, a spade (to bury their parachute) and false papers”.

[1] Excerpt from Foreword


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One Response to Jedburgh Team Operations in Support of The 12th Army Group, August 1944

  1. Pingback: Eisenhower’s Guerrillas | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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