January 9, 2014

Jed-21: Beyond Counter-Terrorism (Part 2)

During the planning of the D-Day (formally known as Operation Overlord) invasion of mainland Europe, “the Jedburgh concept was born in the minds of political and military leaders at the highest levels…” (Irwin, xviii). The Jedburghs were to be small, three-man teams which were multi-national in composition. American Jedburghs served under the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), British members in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and French members as a part of Charles De Gaulle’s Free French resistance. These men were not spies, but soldiers. “Espionage agents they were not. They were all military officers and noncommissioned officers…most often in uniform” (Irwin, xviii). The teams would be a mix match of nationalities, a few having all three nations represented within their three-man team.

Their mission was to jump into occupied France, link up with the French resistance, and then bog down Nazi forces with sabotage and harassment campaigns. They would blow rail lines to sever Nazi logistics, ambush enemy columns along roads, and generally start trouble and make life difficult in the Nazi’s rear areas where they would otherwise have felt safe. Trained in America and Britain, the Jeds were heavily influenced by early SOE efforts to set up resistance networks in France called circuits. Is it important to distinguish that, “these were not intelligence gathering networks; rather the business of the circuits would be special operations; particularly sabotage” (Irwin, 34) while the task of intelligence gathering would be left to Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. The Jedburgh’s were a unique special operations capability that bridged the gap between the military and intelligence services, much like the role that ISA would fill nearly forty years later.

As allied forces were hitting the beaches at Normandy, the Jeds were already in France organizing the resistance and conducting spoiler attacks against the Nazis. Military planners feared that if the Nazis were permitted freedom of movement within France, then they would be able to move over 30 divisions of troops into the region in the weeks and months after D-Day, potentially pushing the allies back out into the ocean. The Jeds helped tie up the Nazis with their unconventional warfare campaign, organizing aerial re-supplies from London and Algiers, all the while being hunted down by the Gestapo.

The Jeds were not just commandos, but also skilled organizers and leaders. Within the French resistance, there were deep political divisions, particularly between the communists and essentially everyone else. French Jeds provided a critical liaison to the resistance, but were prone to getting caught up in local politics at times. While working without a home field advantage, Americans did have a leg up when it came to getting the resistance to “agree to put political differences aside and commit to the common task of ridding the area of Germans” (Irwin, 110). The French knew that the Americans did not carry any political baggage, so it was easier for American Jeds to get everyone working together.


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About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he is now working towards a degree in Political Science at Columbia University. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, the PROMIS series, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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  • flagg

    tigerstr flagg  I reckon such an effort would need to be a Frankenstein mashup: I think the idea of embedding an individual with a long-term succession plan into a permissive to semi-permissive foreign culture permanently is a valid one(as per part 3). It's like taking a page out of the Quds/Hez/PRC playbook I also think there's scope to improve and increase what was achieved in terms of fusion cells in the Iraq/SOF space. This could be achieved by taking a page out of the US venture capital and business incubator space in terms of talent management, non-core support, merging multi-agency, and merging federal employees with outsourced contractors, as well as determination of task force permanence or end of life. In the 1950's in Malaya the British embedded Field Int officers multi-year long term going native living with the locals to help defeat the threat. Maybe we should consider embedding folks directly into, or on the periphery of, current and future megaslums. And have a human resources plan that does not disadvantage them in career progression. Maybe it would be a slow move towards a new career field, then branch. Much as SF took time to develop as a branch, I think it will take time for dedicated irregular warfare career fields beyond SF to develop across a number of agencies, then time for them to be effectively fused on a global level.

  • tigerstr

    flagg Well put, with very good reasoning! If i read you correctly you are talking about the creation of flexible (but persistent if need be) concetnrict task forces/networks, that would lie outside traditional hierarchies and promotion criteria (even concerning things like time on station, normal tour lenghts etc?)

  • majrod

    Looking forward to part III and Jack tying the three parts together. One caveat.  One has to be careful embracing every suggestion to grow SOF forces.  Yes the Jedburghs did an awesome job in Europe but overall their impact was miniscule in comparison to the resources that went into establishing them.  That's an issue when the majority of the fight is being carried by day in day out conventional units.  We have to design the organization for the fight and not the fight for the organization...

  • tigerstr

    JackMurphyRGR tigerstr Thanx Jack, Will be waiting for the 3rd part. Re Mc Crystal, I get what you say. Just pointed out the apparently/publicly  most successful case of consistent  broad fusion.

  • JackMurphyRGR

    bharrisonPipe hitters are over rated.  We already have more than we need.