Operation Jedburgh
Operation Jedburgh was a clandestine operation during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, in which personnel of the British Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services
Office of Strategic Services
The Office of Strategic Services was a United States intelligence agency formed during World War II. It was the wartime intelligence agency, and it was a predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency...

, the Free French Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action
Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action
The Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action , commonly referred as the BCRA was the World War II-era forerunner of the SDECE, the French intelligence service...

 ("Intelligence and operations central bureau") and the Dutch and Belgian Armies were dropped by parachute into Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

-occupied France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Holland, and Belgium to conduct sabotage and guerilla warfare, and to lead the local resistance forces in actions against the Germans.


The operation took its name, probably assigned at random from a list of pre-approved code names, from the town of Jedburgh
Jedburgh is a town and former royal burgh in the Scottish Borders and historically in Roxburghshire.-Location:Jedburgh lies on the Jed Water, a tributary of the River Teviot, it is only ten miles from the border with England and is dominated by the substantial ruins of Jedburgh Abbey...

 in the Scottish Borders
Scottish Borders
The Scottish Borders is one of 32 local government council areas of Scotland. It is bordered by Dumfries and Galloway in the west, South Lanarkshire and West Lothian in the north west, City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian to the north; and the non-metropolitan counties of Northumberland...

. After about two weeks of paramilitary training at commando training bases in the Scottish Highlands
Scottish Highlands
The Highlands is an historic region of Scotland. The area is sometimes referred to as the "Scottish Highlands". It was culturally distinguishable from the Lowlands from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands...

, the "Jeds" moved to Milton Hall
Milton Hall
Milton Hall is the largest private house in Cambridgeshire, England, and formerly a part of Northamptonshire. It dates from 1594, being the historical home of the Fitzwilliam family, and is situated in an extensive park in which some original oak trees from an earlier Tudor Deer Park...

, which was much closer to the airfields from which they were to be launched, and to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and Special Force Headquarters.

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
Handley Page Halifax
The Handley Page Halifax was one of the British front-line, four-engined heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. A contemporary of the famous Avro Lancaster, the Halifax remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing...

 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
RAF Harrington
RAF Harrington is a former World War II airfield in England. The field is located west of Kettering in Northamptonshire south of the village of Harrington across the B576 road, now the A14.-USAAF use:...

 (which they codenamed "Carpetbagger"). 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
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

, the American Supreme Commander
Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force , was the headquarters of the Commander of Allied forces in north west Europe, from late 1943 until the end of World War II. U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command of SHAEF throughout its existence...

, ensured that the French would lead the operation and gave them command on 9 June, 1944 of the Jedburgh teams in France.

Jedburgh teams

The Jedburgh teams 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. In addition to their personal weapons (which included an M1 carbine
M1 Carbine
The M1 carbine is a lightweight, easy to use semi-automatic carbine that became a standard firearm for the U.S. military during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and was produced in several variants. It was widely used by U.S...

 and a Colt revolver 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 which they were likely to use in radio traffic replaced with four-letter codes to save time in transmission, and one-time pad
One-time pad
In cryptography, the one-time pad is a type of encryption, which has been proven to be impossible to crack if used correctly. Each bit or character from the plaintext is encrypted by a modular addition with a bit or character from a secret random key of the same length as the plaintext, resulting...

s to encipher their messages.

The first team in, codenamed "Hugh", parachuted into central France near Châteauroux
Châteauroux is the capital of the Indre department in central France and the second-largest town in the province of Berry, after Bourges. Its residents are called Castelroussines or Castelroussins....

 the night before the Allied landings in Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

. In total, 93 Jedburgh teams operated in 54 French metropolitan départements between June and December 1944. They were known by codenames which usually were the names of herbs or spices, with a few random names to confuse German intelligence.

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 guerrillas and the Allied command. They could provide liaison, advice, expertise and leadership, but their most powerful asset was their ability to arrange airdrop
An airdrop is a type of airlift, developed during World War II to resupply otherwise inaccessible troops, who themselves may have been airborne forces. In some cases, it is used to refer to the airborne assault itself. Early airdrops were conducted by dropping or pushing padded bundles from...

s 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
Commando Order
The Commando Order was issued by Adolf Hitler on 18 October 1942 stating that all Allied commandos encountered by German forces in Europe and Africa should be killed immediately, even if in uniform or if they attempted to surrender...

. Because the teams normally operated in uniform, to apply this order to them was a war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

. 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.

Jedburgh operations in the Far East

Jedburgh teams, or parties organised on a similar basis, also operated in the South East Asia Command (SEAC) in 1945, including Japanese-occupied French Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

, where sixty French Jedburghs joined the newly created C.L.I. fighting the Japanese occupation in French Indochina
French Indochina
French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

. In Burma, Jedburgh teams were used in operations 'Billet' and 'Character'. Operation Billet was the plan to raise Burman resistance to the Japanese, primarily through the largely communist Anti Fascist Organisation (AFO). Operation 'Character' was the scheme to raise the Karens in the Karen Hills between the Sittang and Salween Rivers. The first Jeds to go on Character operations were flown into Burma in February 1945 with Lt/Col Peacock's Special Groups.

France and the United States would both use similar operations a few years later in Vietnam.


Many of the surviving American "Jeds" later held various positions of great responsibility in the US Army or the CIA. Examples include William Colby
William Colby
William Egan Colby spent a career in intelligence for the United States, culminating in holding the post of Director of Central Intelligence from September 1973, to January 1976....

, who became director of the CIA, Lucien Conein
Lucien Conein
Lt. Col. Lucien Emile Conein was a noted U.S. Army officer and Office of Strategic Services / Central Intelligence Agency operative...

, who was a key CIA officer in Vietnam, General John Singlaub and Colonel Aaron Bank
Aaron Bank
Colonel Aaron Bank was an officer of the United States Army, and the founder of the US Army Special Forces, commonly called "Green Berets". He is also famous for his exploits as an OSS officer during World War II, parachuting into France to coordinate and activate the French Resistance and...

 (founder of United States Army Special Forces
United States Army Special Forces
The United States Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force tasked with six primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, hostage rescue, and...


Among French Jedburghs were Paul Aussaresses
Paul Aussaresses
Paul Aussaresses is a retired French Army general, who fought during World War II, the First Indochina War and Algerian War...

, later founder of the SDECE's 11e RPC
11e régiment parachutiste de choc
The 11e régiment parachutiste de choc , often called 11e choc, was a parachute elite regiment of the French Army. It used to serve as the armed branch of the SDECE. Its insignia, designed by lieutenant Dupas, features Bagheera in the moonlight and a golden wing...

, and counter-insurgency expert in French Algeria; Jean Sassi
Jean Sassi
Jean Sassi was a French Army colonel and intelligence service officer, former "Jedburgh" of France and Far East. Commando chief of the SDECE's 11th Shock Parachutist Regiment...

, another who later served in the 11e RPC, who pioneered conventional guerrilla commandos GCMA
Groupement de Commandos Mixtes Aéroportés
The Groupement de Commandos Mixtes Aéroportés commonly referred as just GCMA, was the "Action Service" of the SDECE French counter-intelligence service active during the Cold War...

 with Roger Trinquier
Roger Trinquier
Roger Trinquier was a French Army officer during World War II, the First Indochina War and the Algerian War, serving mainly in airborne and Special forces units...

 during the First Indochina War
First Indochina War
The First Indochina War was fought in French Indochina from December 19, 1946, until August 1, 1954, between the French Union's French Far East...

; Guy Le Borgne
Guy Le Borgne
Guy Le Borgne was a French Army general that fought in World War II, First Indochina War and Algerian War. He commanded several paratroop units during his career and was military governor of Lyon.- Biography :...

, commander of the 8e Choc Parachute Battalion
8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment
The 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment is an airborne regiment in the French Army. It is an elite unit that can be rapidly sent anywhere in the world...

 in Indochina, the 3rd Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment in Algeria and 11th Parachute Division.

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