Jed-0001

The purpose of the Jedburgh Operations is to coordinate the French resistance actions with the allied strategic and tactical plans of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in order to slow down German troops movement in France. These operations were done by air dropping equipment and personnel belonging to the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Free France Central Bureau of Intelligence and Action (BCRA) to local French resistance networks. The British, experts in commando operations, initiated the project at the fall of 1943 and began the selection of hand-picked cadres from the Special Air Service (SAS). With an excellent physical condition, these volunteers must be determined and accept to endure multiple tests while perfecting their technical skills. Col Wilkinson of the SOE gave the code name Jedburgh to these small teams trained to work alone and deep into enemy territory. The term Jedburgh comes from the name of a town located on the Scottish border, near which many exercises were organized like Spartan, the first training setting the bases of the general concept of these operations.

In the summer of 1944, Allied special operations teams known as Jedburghs parachuted into occupied Europe to cooperate with resistance groups behind German lines and to aid in the advance of Allied ground forces. Each of the 19 Jedburgh teams consisted of three special trained volunteers. Clandestine operations of the kind that the Jeds conducted often have been recounted in memoirs and novels, but only a portion of the actual operational records have been declassified. The Jeds, as they called themselves, were but one group charged with clandestine work. Individual agents, inter-Allied missions, Special Air Service (SAS) troops and other such organization will only be included in this study when they specifically influenced Jed operations.

This study examines the operations of the 11 Jed teams dropped into northern France during the summer of 1944, with particular emphasis on the degree to which they assisted in the advance of the 12th Army Group from Normandy to the German border. The treatment of these Jed teams will be arranged chronologically, by date of insertion. The area of operations covered by these teams reached from Belgian border in the north, south to Nancy. Jed operations south of Nancy lie beyond the scope of this study. The operational records of these 11 northern teams form the core of the documentation for this study, although a good deal of the story told here has been gleaned from other sources, memories, and interviews with Jeds veterans.

Regrettably, the records of the Special Forces Headquarters, the organization with Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower’s SHAEF that provided operational command and control for Jed teams, remain classified and, therefore, were not available for use in this study. I have resolved to follow M.R.D. Foot’s examples and capitalized the names of intelligence circuits to assist the reader amid the sea of names and code names used to protect these operations. The name of each individual in the text is the individual’s real name (as well as that can be determined), Nom de Guerre of each French Jed will be mention in the appropriate footnote. I have adopted the word Axis as a generic term for the German-dominated security forces. In some instances, these rear-area defense forces were not German, but Vichy security forces, such as the Milice.


Jed-0002

Introduction

The sun was setting on July 7 1944 at Harrington Air Base some fifty miles north of London. Capt Bill Dreux, a 31 year old lawyer from New Orleans, like his two partners was weighed down by a M-1911A-1 .45 pistol, cal .30 carbine, ammo, binoculars, money belt, escape kit, flashlight, tobacco, map case and could barely move. Over all this equipment each man wore a camouflaged British paratrooper body-length smock. Dreux felt wrapped like a mummy and had trouble getting out of the station wagon. Finally, after the driver assisted each out of the vehicle, the three tightly wrapped men waddled in short, jerky steps toward a black-painted B-24 Liberator. The absurdity of the situation was not lost on the bomber’s US Army Corps crew, who succumbed to laughter. After a last cigarette, Bill Dreux, his partners, and the crew scaled the B-24 and took off for Brittany. Dreux and his two colleagues were Jeds. Jeds were volunteers specially trained to conduct guerrilla warfare in conjunction with the French Resistance in support of the Allied invasion of France.

Bill Dreux and his two partners survived their mission. Their story has already been told, however, and with some skill in one of the few Jed memoirs. This paper will examine the role of the 11 Jed teams parachuted into northern France in the summer of 1944 whose story has not been told. These 11 teams, like Dreux’s, has worked with mostly French teenagers and the few Frenchmen not drafted into Germany labor or prisoners of war in Germany. Many Jed teams had difficulty radioing London, and some that did contact London doubted that their reports were acted upon. After the Jeds operations in France concluded, the teams’ after-action reports reflected a sense, not of failure, but rather of frustration. The teams felt they could have been used more effectively. The major reason for this frustration was a professional officer Corps, unfamiliar with the capabilities of unconventional warfare and the multiplicity of secret organizations (several of them new) competing for recognition, personal, funds and missions.

Following the fall of France, in July 1940, the Chamberlain cabinet, in one of its last acts, created the Special Operations Executive, (SOE). Independent of other British Intelligence Service, its charter was suitably unique : two foster sabotage activity in axis-occupied countries. Two offices in the War Office and one in the Foreign Office had been studying the subject since 1938, and they combined to form SOE. Although SOE ran intelligence circuits, it was independent of the Secret (or Special) Intelligence Service, (SIS), which today is known as MI6.

In similar fashion, the Special Air Service Regiment remained independent of the SOE and the SIS. David Stirling who created the SAS in 1941, summarized his organization’s purpose as follows : … firstly, raids in depth behind the enemy lines, attacking Headquarters nerve centers, landing grounds, supply lines and so on; and, secondly, the mounting of sustained strategic offensive activity from secret bases within hostile territory and, if the opportunity existed, recruiting, training, arming and coordinating local guerrilla elements.

The United States approached World War II without a strategic intelligence organization. It first created the Committee of Information, a conspicuous failure that soon became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Its director, William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, allowed it to duplicate the functions and methods of the British Intelligence Organizations, to which it was closely tied. But whereas the British effort was marked by independent competing organs, Donovan attempted to unify the many facets of the secret world in his neophyte OSS.

Following September 1942, the OSS special operations branch joined the SOE London Group to create a combined office known as SOE/SO on Baker Street in London. S0E’s first director, Dr Hugh Dalton, explained his organization’s purpose as follows : … we have got to organize movements in enemy-occupied territory comparable to the Sinn Fein movement in Ireland, to the Chinese Guerillas now operating against Japan, to the Spanish Irregulars who played a notable part in Wellington’s campaign or – one might as well admit it – to the organizations which the nazis themselves have developed so remarkably in almost every country in the world. This ‘democratic international’ must use many different methods, including industrial and military sabotage, labor agitation and strikes, continuous propaganda, terrorist acts against traitors and German leaders, boycotts and riots.

One of the most important personalities in the SOE was Sir Colin McVean Gubbins, who eventually became its executive director. Born in Japan in 1896, Gubbins was a slight Scot who had served in the artillery on the Western Front in World War One, in Ireland during the Troubles, and in northern Russia during the Russian Civil War. In 1939, in the War Office’s small unconventional war section, he wrote two short pamphlets : The Art of Guerilla Warfare and Partisan Leaders’ Handbook. He created the Independent Companies (later renamed commandos) and successfully led several of them in Norway in 1940.

May 1942 found Sir Colin McVean Gubbins a brigadier general and, with the title of military deputy, at the head of the SOE. In May 1942, the SOE entered into talks involving its support of a future Allied invasion of northwestern Europe. The British Chief of Staff foresaw the SOE activity occurring in two phases. In the first phase (cooperation during the initial invasion) the SOE would organize and arm resistance forces and take action against the enemy’s rail and signal communications, air personnel, etc. During the second phase, after the landing, the SOE would provide guides for British conventional units, guards for important locations, labor parties, and organized raiding parties capable of penetrating behind German lines.

Brig Gubbins and the SOE developed the Jedburgh concept from these discussions with one paper, drafted by Peter Wilkinson, summarizing its activities as follows : as and when the invasion commences, the SOE will drop additional small teams of French speaking personnel carrying arms for some forty men each. The role of these teams will be to make contact with local authorities or existing SOE organizations, to distribute the arms, to start off the action of the patriots, and, most particularly, to arrange by W/T (Wireless Telegraphy) communication the dropping points and reception committees for further arms and equipment on the normal SOE system. Each Team will consist of one British Officer, one W/T operator with radio set and possibly one guide.

On July 6, Gubbins (recently promoted to major general) briefly explained the project to the head of the SOE security section, requesting a code name for teams to raise and arm the civilian population to carry out guerrilla activities against the enemy’s lines of communication. The following day, the security section issued the project the code name Jedburgh, after a small town on the Scots-English border. The Jedburgh project evolved along with the changing Allied invasion plans of the Continent.

Later in the month, the SOE resolved that seventy Jedburgh teams would be required, with the British and Americans each providing thirty-five. In August 1942, the British Chiefs of Staff informed the SOE that there was no longer a requirement for Jedburgh teams to provide guides and labor or raiding parties, effectively eliminating phase two of the original proposal. On December 24 1942, a meeting at General Headquarters Home Forces, determined that the Jedburghs would all be uniformed soldiers and that one of the two officers in each team should be of the nationality of the country to which the team would deploy. This signified that the project would require Belgian, Dutch, and French soldiers.

Furthermore, Jedburgh teams would be dropped to secure areas, where SOE agents would receive them. Each team would be given one or more military tasks to perform in their area. In addition, since it would take at least seventy-two hours to deploy a team and have them operational, Jedburgh teams would not be used to assist the tactical plans of conventional ground forces. Finally, the SOE would provide twelve Jedburgh teams to further examine the concept’s possibilities and limitations during Exercise Spartan from March 3-11 1943.

Churchill IV tank enters a village during Exercise Spartan, March 9 1943. (Hardy Bert – War Office Official Photographer) Canadian Churchill tanks during Exercise Spartan, March 9 1943. (Hardy Bert – War Office Official Photographer)

Exercise Spartan simulated an Allied breakout from the initial invasion lodgment area. SOE’s Jedburgh teams attempted to assist the British Second Army advance, with the 8th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the role of local resistance groups. The SOE also used this opportunity to test the insertion of individual agents behind enemy lines and the role of the SOE staff officers at army and corps headquarters. Each of these parties communicated via an, SOE radio base in Scotland.

Following the exercise, the SOE concluded that the Jedburgh teams should be inserted at least forty miles behind enemy lines to conduct small-scale guerrilla operations against enemy lines of communication. The exercise also demonstrated that each army and army group headquarters required an SOE liaison and signals detachment. The SOE also concluded that it should maintain a small detachment with the Supreme Headquarters.

Jedburgs Jeds

SOE and OSS, after compiling the Spartan lessons learned, both began the process of moving similar position papers through the British and American hierarchies, seeking approval, support, and personnel. On July 19 1943, Lt Gen Frederick R. Morgan, Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander, recommended that the SOE proposals be approved. To his understanding, the SOE, would provide small staffs and signal detachments to each army and army group headquarters (and the Supreme Allied Commander’s headquarters) for controlling resistance groups. Jedburgh teams would constitute a strategic reserve in England until D Day to provide, if necessary, suitable leadership and equipment for those resistance groups found to be in need of them.

Two days later, the British Chiefs of Staff approved the SOE proposal, with the Americans following suit on August 24 1943. By October, the SOE and the OSS each agreed to provide sufficient personnel to field 35 Jedburgh teams plus 15 reserve teams, a total of 300 men in 100 teams. SHAEF created a special forces (SF) detachment for each army and army group headquarters to coordinate these operations with the field army. These detachments linked the field headquarters with the SOE/SO. Each detachment fielded about twelve officers and twenty men. The senior OSS officer with the US 3-A described the organization as follows : the Special Force Detachment was an orthodox military staff organized to provide the Commanding General of the Army a direct means to exercise control over the organized resistance elements and to use these elements in connection with military operations.

The detachments, however, had no means of directly contacting those organized resistance groups and Jedburgh teams other than through the SOE/SO. That organization summarized agent and resistance group reports and dispatched those summaries to the SF detachments. To integrate this effort with the Allied invasion of France, the SOE/SO, on May 1 1944, became the Special Forces Headquarters responsible to SHAEF’s G-3 Branch. Although the SOE had several sections running circuits in France, the most important were RF Section (circuits supporting General Charles de Gaulle) and F Section (which operated non-Gaullist circuits). De Gaulle’s government in exile still remained at arm’s length, but on occasion, its intelligence branch, Bureau Central de Renseignements et d’Action (BCRA), cooperated with the SOE/SO.

One such occasion was a January 25 1944 London meeting to discuss the reception of Jedburgh teams in France. The SOE, the OSS, and the BCRA agreed to finance a mission for the BCRA and the F Section to establish reception committees and safe houses for Jedburgh teams. Through herculean efforts, de Gaulle’s government managed to largely unify the many diverse French resistance groups, in March 1944 announcing the creation of the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur (FFI). The FFI included the Franc Tireurs et the Partisans (leftist resistance organization), the largest and most active resistance organization. It remained difficult, however, for the many diverse French resistance organizations to cooperate without considering postwar political dilemmas.

In July 1944, SHAEF directed de Gaulle’s subordinate and personal friend, Pierre Koenig, commander of the FFI, to gradually assume command over SFHQ operations in France. The transfer did not occur until August 21. In any case, this was largely a political and cosmetic measure, because Koenig’s deputies from the SOE and the OSS maintained the mechanisms of command, communication, and supply. Most of the eleven Jedburgh teams examined here operated in eastern France, known as Region C to the FFI, commanded by District Military Representative Planète. Region C consisted of the Ardennes, Marne, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Vosges, Bas-Rhin, and Haute-Rhin Departments. This had been a difficult area in which to operate from the beginning, but in August 1944, it became even more difficult, as the Vichy police, the Milice, and its supporters fled east with the remnants of the defeated German Army.

In mid-September 1943, with the Allied invasion of France just around the corner, no Jedburgh force existed. Over the next three months, the SOE and the OSS each recruited officers and non commissioned officers (NCO) with French language skills – all volunteers. The NCOs would serve as radio operators, the officers as either Jedburghs or staff officers of the SF detachments. Little is known of the SOE selection process, but the OSS qualifications for Jedburgh officers were as follows : Officers recruited as leaders and seconds in command should be picked for qualities of leadership and daring, ability to speak and understand French, and all-around physical condition. They should be experienced in handling men, preferably in an active theater of operations, and be prepared to be parachuted in uniform behind enemy lines and operate on their own for some time. They must have had at least basic military training and preferably have aptitude for small arms weapons.

Qualifications for the NCO radio operators were less stringent, requiring only a working knowledge of French and the ability to attain a speed of fifteen words per minute before leaving the United States. They, too, had to be in top physical condition. It would appear that the screening procedures were quite rigorous. Of the fifty-five officers selected for further Jedburgh training in Great Britain, only thirty-five became Jedburghs. This signified that the OSS was forced to secure additional volunteers from the US Army units in Great Britain.

Several of those volunteers did not join their colleagues until February, a good month after basic training had already begun. Although the SOE and the OSS were theoretically coequals in the SOE/SO (and later in the SFHQ), the SOE remained dominant. The SOE provided the training sites and most of the instructors. The American volunteers arrived in Great Britain in late December 1943, with the officers spending two weeks going through psychological tests near Peterfield, south of London. The officers then split into three groups and rotated through the Special Training Schools (STS) No. 6 at Walsingham, No. 45 at Fairford, and No. 40 at Gumley Hall. The sixty-two American NCOs attended the SOE communications school at Henley-on-Thames. Like the officers, however, they also underwent the ubiquitous psychological tests and practiced marksmanship, self-defense (taught by former members of the Shanghai Police), and physical training. In late January, all the Americans attended the Bingway parachute school, a three-day course, where they trained on Parachuting through the small hole (Joe hole) of a Royal Air Force bomber.

Lt Col Frank V. Spaoner of the British Army established the Jedburgh training school at Milton Hall, a large estate four miles from Peterborough, England. Operational training for the Jedburghs began there in February 1944, emphasizing guerrilla warfare tactics and skills demolitions, use of enemy weapons, map reading, night navigation, agent circuit operations, intelligence, sabotage, escape and evasion, counterespionage, ambushes, security, the use of couriers, and hand-to-hand combat. Almost all Jedburghs practiced French, Morse code, and long marches. The Jedburghs also received briefings on the history and organization of the resistance in France and other European countries.

The final seventy French volunteers did not arrive at Milton Hall until March 1944, after the SOE/SO had conducted a recruitment drive through the Middle East. From May 21 to June 8, any Jedburgh teams participated in Lash, the last large-scale exercise. In the Leicestershire’s Charnwood Forest, the teams rehearsed receiving orders, linking up with resistance groups, and later leading attacks against targets designated by radio message. The SOE/SO, or the SFHQ as it was now known, expressed pleasure with the exercise, although the simulated guerrillas had been observed moving during daylight in large groups. The SFHQ concluded that the guerrillas should have approached their targets in smaller bands. In the category of minor criticisms, the guerrilla groups had received vague orders, which led to confusion. In addition, the groups had difficulty with their escape and evasion techniques.

The Jedburghs formed their own teams in March and April, between the large-scale training exercises. In early April, Lt Col George R. Musgrave, British Army, became the new commandant at Milton Hall. By April, training was by and large complete, and on May 2 1944, fifteen Jedburgh teams sailed for North Africa in preparation for insertion into southern France from Algiers. The teams remaining at Milton Hall continued to train while awaiting their alert or warning order.

As a rule, upon receipt of their alert order, the team would be isolated and driven to a London safe house, where the SFHQ representatives from the SOE’s country sections briefed the officers on the particulars of the mission, local conditions, and background information. Although most Jedburghs entered France wearing military uniforms, several teams were informed at the briefing that they would be parachuted into France in civilian clothes. Needless to say, if they were caught wearing civilian clothes, the Germans would treat them as spies.

From there, the team was usually driven to Harrington or Tempsford Air Bases to await a flight that same evening. Other air bases were occasionally used, but Harrington fielded the modified black-painted bombers of the US Eighth Air Force’s 801st (Provisional) Bomb Group (Heavy), while the RAF’s 38th Group flew out of Tempsford. The SFHQ maintained its supply and packing area (known as Area H) some thirty-five miles from Harrington near the village of Holme.

Many of the Jedburghs heard of the D Day invasion while on Exercise Lash in Leicestershire. There was a general sense of disappointment upon the realization that they would not be deployed before but after the invasion. By the end of June, the SFHQ had dispatched thirteen Jedburgh teams to France (six from England and seven from North Africa). At the end of July, the number of teams in France increased to twenty-five, although none had been dropped north of the Seine River.

The Jedburgh concept had evolved considerably from Gubbins’ original 1942 proposal. The number of teams mushroomed from 70 to 100, of which 93 would deploy to France and another 6 to Holland in support of Operation Market Garden. From being a British force, the Jedburghs became an international one including Americans, French, Belgians, and Dutch. Basically, they constituted an unconventional warfare reserve in theater to provide leadership, organization, training, weapons, supplies, and communication links to the FFI resistance groups. They would be inserted at least forty miles behind enemy lines and hence would not usually be in a position to provide tactical assistance to conventional forces. The teams would conduct unconventional warfare against German lines of communication, but not until told to do so by the SFHQ.

When Lt Gen Frederick Morgan approved the Jedburgh concept in 1943, it was with the understanding that the special forces detachments at army and army group headquarters would control the organized resistance groups behind German lines. Furthermore, he believed it was the job of his army commander to exercise that control. How suitable, however, were the senior army officers for directing unconventional warfare behind enemy lines ?

Modern professional officer corps, as a rule, have very little interest in unconventional warfare. That was certainly the case for the senior commanders and staff officers of World War II, trained in the branch schools and staff colleges of the 1920s and 1930s. Robin Brook, senior SOE adviser to SHAEF, observed that the regular officers he served with had little knowledge of or interest in unconventional warfare. The SF detachments began to see similar patterns upon taking the field in France.

As early as July 12, when the commanders of the #10 and #11 SF Detachments met, one observed : it appears from his experience and ours here that Armies working under Army Groups are not very strategically minded. The first response of the US 3-A upon breaking out of the Normandy bridgehead was to disarm the FFI. It took a directive from the 12-AG to establish that the FFI were allies and not enemies. Basically, there was little interest in the SF detachments on what was happening 100 kilometers in the enemy’s rear. To complicate the situation further, the SF detachments could only contact Jedburgh teams and resistance groups through the SFHQ. Another possible cloud on the horizon was the efficiency of communications between resistance groups, the SFHQ, and the SF detachments. With more and more Allied special operations teams and resistance groups operating behind German lines, would the SFHQ be capable of receiving and analyzing the increasing radio traffic and giving the SF detachments sufficient information to act upon ?

Jedburgh teams were but one special operations instrument available to SHAEF in the summer of 1944. Current military doctrine emphasizes a rational construct of Special Operations Forces, an umbrella concept encompassing numerous organizations and functions ranging from psychological warfare and civil affairs all the way to elite special forces teams conducting direct-action missions deep behind enemy lines. In 1944, however, there was no such concept. Theoretically; SHAEF and its SFHQ provided the umbrella to encompass the many special-operations-type forces.

But as we have seen, the Allied special operations effort was marked by different organizations competing for funds, personnel, and missions. Although pledged to support SHAEF in the invasion of western Europe, a number of organizations remained independent, the most conspicuous being British Intelligence and the Special Air Service Regiment. A number of Jedburgh teams in the field, when confronted with a mission beyond their means, specifically requested reinforcement by SAS parties. Unfortunately, the SFHQ did not control the operational use of those forces. The modern concept of deconfliction (ensuring that simultaneous special or intelligence operations do not conflict or compromise each other) did not exist.

The experience and skills of the FFI groups (and the SOE agents inserted to work with the resistance) varied considerably. Some groups were rather familiar with the reception procedures (flash-light identification signals and two lines of bonfires) and had even used the procedures once or twice. Other groups would form their first reception committee to meet a Jedburgh team. A coded BBC message (known as a blind transmission broadcast) informed each FFI group of the impending arrival of a Jedburgh team. Some Jedburghs trained to receive a small aircraft in the field to evacuate the severely wounded.

Jedburghs, however, were expected to remain in the field until they linked up with advancing Allied ground forces. This event was called being overrun and required no special procedures other than a Jedburgh showing his SFHQ identification paper. The Jedburghs who would parachute into northern France followed the progress of Operation Overlord in the newspapers and BBC newscasts. Until they received their warning order and briefing in London, however, they did not know where they would be inserted. Of the 12-AG and its operations, they knew next to nothing.

Capt Jedburgh Maurice Geminel. Photo prise dans l'abbaye d'Auberive

The Operational Situation, August 15 1944
The Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6 1944 succeeded at all points, and Allied control of the sea and air ensured the rapid buildup of follow-on forces. The German High Command erroneously believed the main invasion would come farther north, in the Calais area. This misconception, along with Allied air interdiction, slowed the arrival of German reinforcements. The feared German counterattack never took place. Instead, a battle of attrition developed – a battle the Germans could not afford to fight.

The strain on the German Army began to show by June 13, when the US VII Corps stretched the German line to the breaking point, severing the Cotentin Peninsula on June 18 and advancing north to capture the port of Cherbourg. The Allied armies in Normandy continued to grow in strength and experience as they wore down the Germans, who still ably defended the difficult Bocage terrain. On July 18, the US 1-A captured Saint-Lo, while the British Second Army engaged most of the German armored divisions near Caen. What was needed was one powerful thrust to break through the German line. That occurred with Operation Cobra on July 25 1944, when the US 1-A broke through the positions of the German 7.Army ably exploiting the breakout and reaching Avranches on July 31.

On August 1, the Allied armies reorganized into two army groups. Gen Bernard Montgomery commanded the 21-AG, consisting of the Canadian First and the British Second Armies, while Gen Omar N. Bradley commanded the US 12-AG, with Gen Courtney Hodges’s US 1-A and Gen George S. Patton‘s US 3-A. Patton’s 3-A swept across Brittany in a vain attempt to secure a usable harbor and then swung east against minimal opposition.

SHAEF headquarters had been reading the most secret German signals communications and realized that Hitler, instead of allowing his forces to retreat to a defensible position, was about to counterattack at Mortain. This provided SHAEF the opportunity to surround and trap most of German Army Group B south of the Seine River. On August 13, however, as the Canadian 1-A and US 3-A were approaching each other to close the trap, Gen Bradley halted Patton’s forces. Several days later, the trap closed, but the delay allowed many of the German troops to escape north across the Seine. A second attempt to destroy German Army Group B, by trapping it against the Seine River, also, failed. Nevertheless, the Allies had largely destroyed the German 5.Panzer-Army and the 7.Army. On the morning of August 15, the second Allied invasion struck, not at Calais, but along the French Riviera.

Although the German forces in the west had been thoroughly defeated, Hitler, from his headquarters hundreds of miles away, issued orders to defend the Seine River and later the Marne River, as if the defeat in Normandy had not taken place. He did, however, allow the German forces in southern France to withdraw north, which made possible their escape. For the German commanders and troops, each day was a struggle to survive. Faced with total Allied air superiority, the remnants of the German Army could move freely only at night or in rain or fog.

To their rear, the French Resistance had risen in arms and posed a real threat to any German force smaller than a company. On paper, German commanders still acted as if they were obeying Hitler’s orders, but in actuality, they were simply trying to save what was left of their battered formations. They marched east, mostly at night, taking shelter behind the successive river lines in northern France, hoping to get back to Germany. The Allied commanders, like their German counterparts, fully understood the magnitude of the German defeat in Normandy. The only question remaining was how to exploit the situation.

For the US Seventh Army that had invaded southern France, this was rather simple, it would advance north up the Rhone River valley. Gen Eisenhower reexamined the pre-invasion planning and decided to exploit the advance beyond the Seine River. He directed the 21-AG to advance northeast through Belgium and directed Bradley’s 12-AG to protect the 21-AG’s southern flank. Gen Patton’s 3-A launched a subsidiary offensive due east towards Nancy and Metz. Both the western Allies and the Germans expected the war to end within weeks. The only shadow on the horizon was the possibility that the Allied system of logistical support would halt their triumphant procession to the east.

By August 15, the SFHQ had deployed only two Jedburgh teams in northern France in front of the advancing 12-AG. Nine more teams were soon to follow. Recent experience in Brittany demonstrated that US Army field commanders were particularly impressed with the help of the FFI guides and scouts. Therefore, most of the Jedburgh teams sent into northern France were instructed to be prepared to send the FFI volunteers to meet the advancing field armies. SHAEF possessed abundant supplies to be parachuted to the SOF forces, but with resistance groups springing into action all across France, the limited air assets could not provide immediate delivery. The SFHQ briefing officers informed most Jedburgh teams that deployed in northern France that it would take eight days for them to receive supply drops.

(end of part one)

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