The story of the Special Forces in World War II has never fully been told before. Information about them began to be declassified only in the 1980s. Known as the Jedburghs, these Special Forces were selected from members of the British, American, and Free French armies to be dropped in teams of three deep behind German lines. There, in preparation for D-Day, they carried out what we now know as unconventional warfare: supporting the French Resistance in guerrilla attacks, supply-route disruption, and the harassment and obstruction of German reinforcements. Always, they operated against extraordinary odds. They had to be prepared to survive pitched battles with German troops and Gestapo manhunts for weeks and months while awaiting the arrival of Allied ground forces. They were, in short, heroes.
The Jedburghs finally tells their story and offers a new perspective on D-Day itself. Will Irwin has selected seven of the Jedburgh teams and told their stories as gripping personal narratives. He has gathered archival documents, diaries and correspondence, and interviewed Jed veterans and family members in order to present this portrait of their crucial role — a role recognized by Churchill and Eisenhower — in the struggle to liberate Europe in 1944-45.
This is narrative history at its most compelling; a vivid drama of the battle for France from deep behind enemy lines.
Filling a significant gap in World War II scholarship, Irwin, a former U.S. Special Forces colonel, tells the story of the pioneering special forces units known as the Jedburghs-three-man teams comprised of American, British and French soldiers dropped deep into enemy-controlled territory, where they armed and trained local resistance fighters in support of the Allied invasion of Normandy and the subsequent liberation of France. Holed up in rural France, the resistance often consisted of loose factions of teenagers with no military training that were especially vulnerable to spies and infiltrators. Despite the risks associated with Jedburgh operations, many Jed teams thrived under these extraordinary circumstances. "By the end of June," writes Irwin, "the resistance, aided by the Jedburghs had made nearly five hundred more railway cuts, ambushed untold numbers of German convoys, and rendered the enemy's telecommunications almost completely ineffective." Furthermore, the author notes, "The most important task assigned to the resistance was that of disrupting the movement of German reinforcements to the Normandy beachhead...And this they did remarkably well, delaying many divisions and completely stopping others." The narrative occasionally veers off course in an attempt to fit in extraneous details-the inevitable product of a tireless research effort-but Irwin's detailed retelling of these early covert operations and his ability to place these relatively small operations in the context of the Allied campaign will please military history readers.
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Great book and documentary of the Jedburghs and their work in France. Highly recommended.