- The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944
Jedburgh was the code name for the 93 three-man teams parachuted into France from June to September 1944, for liaison with the Resistance. This international project brought together British, American, and French agents. One of the three team members had to be French, but the other two included various combinations: both British (39), both American (28), additional Frenchmen (18), one American and one British (8). The Jedburgh program [End Page 546] was truly innovative, uniting guerrillas, Allied Command, and regular armies.
The author is a retired Army officer who served in the Special Forces and studied at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. In his book he devotes several chapters to explanations of who the Jeds were, how they were chosen, how they were trained, and how they were assigned their targets. He provides a complete list of all the teams, as well as thumbnail sketches of the postwar careers of many participants.
But the bulk of the book is devoted to narratives of six teams. These have a strong American flavor as all the members (except for one Briton and the mandatory Frenchmen) come from the United States. About half of the book is devoted to the liberation of Brittany with emphasis on teams Frederick and George, which were dropped with the French SAS (Special Air Service) 4th battalion. The landings attracted thousands of patriots, but lack of experience led to disaster when the Germans overran the base. It was not until August that elements of Patton's Third Army entered Brittany, and the Jeds cooperated thereafter with the regular forces. By mid-August Patton had turned from Brittany to the east, where he made contact with Jed Bruce, of which future CIA Director William Colby was a member. Bruce was helping the Maquis defend Patton's right flank. Patton in fact saw no threat from Germans to his south. His advice: "Just ignore 'em."
Irwin next describes the unhappy mission of Jed Augustus, a team with two Americans and one Frenchman, all of whom were captured and executed. More successful was Jed Chloroform, launched from Algiers, and operating in the lower Alps. They destroyed a bridge to slow down a potential German attack from Italy. (The Allied High Command, knowing from Ultra intercepts that the Germans had no such intentions, had not disseminated this information to the Jedburgh level.)
Finally, Irwin takes on Team Cedric, operating near Besançon, where the Briton George Millar controlled an SOE circuit. From Millar's autobiographical books one gets a fascinating account of Cedric's Douglas Bazata, whose energetic projects differed 180 degrees from Millar's low-key approach. As Irwin knows and admires Bazata, his favorable characterization is worth comparing with Millar's.
Did the Jedburghs succeed? Irwin writes: "The answer . . . is in the effectiveness of resistance activities in support of the Allied campaign in France" (p. 236). There is much evidence to show that the Resistance provided significant assistance—but it would be virtually impossible to single out Jedburgh help as against that of SOE, AFHQ (Allied Force Headquarters), SAS, Operational Groups (OG), and special missions.
This book is eminently readable and useful, even though it delivers only a fraction of what the title suggests. The lack of maps makes it difficult for the reader to follow the Jeds as they moved from place to place. The book is also available on CD from Tantor Media, Inc.