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The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944 [Kindle Edition]

Will Irwin
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

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Product Description


"(b)ooks on Special Forces units continue to be popular and The
Jedburghs is a particularly good one...highly recommended."
-- Military Illustrated


The story of the Jedburghs has never properly been told before. Conceived as part of the Special Operations Executive, and their 'unconventional warfare' campaign, information about them only began to be properly declassified recently. The Jeds were highly effective three-man bands operating at extraordinary odds, pitched in battles against the German troops and evading gestapo manhunts, and were a crucial force in the liberation of France. Each Jed unit was made up of three selected members of the Special Forces, a combination of Englishman, Americans and Frenchmen. Between 1944-45 they were parachuted deep behind enemy lines and charged with supporting the French Resistance by whatever means necessary. Lt. Col. Will Irwin gives us, for the first time, the full history of these pioneering units, but always woven within the gripping personal narratives of the actual Jed members themselves. From Captain Adrian Wise, the cultured, British expert in guerilla warfare, to the youthful Jo Di Maggio lookalike Sargeant Kehoe, the heroic stories of these young men are told with pace and colour.

Based on diaries, correspondence and interviews with veterans, Will Irwin has created a moving and compelling tribute to The Jeds. This is a vivid drama of a crucial but little known band of brave men.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2923 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (29 April 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #481,216 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars SOE history France - must read 6 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Good background and history of the Jedburgh teams. If interested in history of SOE, this is a must read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 25 Jun. 2015
As advertised and quick delivery
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  32 reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rarity: the "untold story of WWII" that was actually untold before... 17 Oct. 2005
By Addison Phillips - Published on
I picked up Jedburghs in an airport bookshop recently, figuring it would be yet another book trying to exploit "Band of Brothers" recent popularity. In some ways, I guess that *is* what this book represents to its publisher, but inside is something original and quit interesting.

Jedburghs is the story of the operations of special forces during World War II: hard trained small units parachuted in behind enemy lines. In particular, this program consisted of people who spoke French and were parachuted into France to assist the Resistance (the maquis) by organizing air drops of weapons and supplies, training, and so forth.

Irwin is not a particularly gifted writer. His prose is direct and workmanlike, but he's done excellent research and knows well enough to stay out of the way of a very good story. In recreating the events and culling interesting stories from the available material, he's assembled a fascinating book, so much so that I was sad to see it end.

If you're buff of this kind of military history, you'll like this book a lot.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind The Lines In France With The Resistance 27 May 2006
By Kay's Husband - Published on
All of a sudden we have several books on the Jedburghs, at least two others come to mind. One thing this author doesn't answer for me is 'why' they were named Jedburghs. He gives us enough info to realize that several explanations have been put forth, however, he is not able to settle on just one.

These 3-men teams were trained and retrained up to the very date of the D-Day landings, with some of the men taken directly from the training field to behind the lines action. The teams consisted of 3 individuals, generally 2 officers, and 1 radioman. The 3-men teams were supposed to contain two officers, either British, French, or American, and 1 radioman at Sergeant level. All were required to be experienced in the French language, and the radioman was preferred to have at least 2 year's college. The radiomen had a special radio made exclusively for the rough combat conditions expected, with all members of the 3 men team trained all areas of survival.

They were expected to stay alive on their own until the D-Day armies reached the behind the line areas into which the Jeds had been dropped. The Jeds were also expected to arm, clothe, and train all French resistance personel in their areas. One of the attributes looked for in these men was that of having an attitude, or men who looked for a scrap. And during their training this was an ongoing psychological requirement. At certain points as many as 40% of applicants were washed out. After reading this book you realize any of these men who made it, were indeed very special men.

The author is very knowledgable about these teams and offers a very readable book. Until these recent books and declassified records, not much public awareness existed concerning these 3 men teams. I enjoyed this subject so much I have another book by another author on order concerning this same subject. One serious flaw of this book: no maps. For those of us without great knowledge of France, general maps and some of the specific area dropzones would have been beneficial.

If you enjoy out of the mainstream material on WWII subjects, these books on the Jedburghs, a force of no more than 300 men, may be for you. As an ex-military man, these resilient, courageous men have my fullest admiration!

Semper Fi.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original U.S. Special Operations Unit 12 May 2007
By Richard H. Arland - Published on
My interest in the Office of Strategic Service and subsequently the Jedburghs is the direct result of my obsession in collecting, restoring and using military communications (MilCom) equipment; especially "spy radios" of the WW-II through Viet Nam.

The Jedburghs consisted of three man teams of military personnel made up of specially trained officers and enlisted men. These teams drew from the U.S., British and Free French personnel who, after intensive training, were air dropped behind Nazi lines piror to the D-Day invasion in 1944.

Typically these Jedburgh Teams were responsible for recruiting, training, arming and organizing local resistance movements to form effective irregular (guerilla) forces which would harass the Nazi's prior to and during the initial phases of Operation Overloard, the D-Day invasion. Overall, this idea has been carried forward and the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berret) are direct descendents of these Jedburgh Teams.

This book takes a look at several individual Jedburgh Teams and their guerilla ctivities in occupied France. The author shows us an inside look into the workings of an early special ops force that is, quite literally, out numbered, out gunned and alone in a very hostile environment.

While this book is not the difiniative work on the special section within the OSS called "Jedburghs", it can be viewed as a well documented work that will serve to whet the appitite of anyone wanting specific knowledge of this segment of WW-II.

The author is knowledgable and has documented his text quite well. With all the hoopla regarding special operations units in the War on Terror, The Jedburghs will reveal how today's SOCOM units got their start.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first full history of the Special Forces units of World War II 4 April 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format:Audio CD
Lt. Col. Will Irwin (Ret)'s The Jedburghs: The Secret History Of The Allied Special Forces, France 1944 represents the first full history of the Special Forces units of World War II and receives a dramatic narration by Ptrick Lawlor as it tells of their unconventional warfare, supporting the French Resistance in guerrilla stacks. They operated against all odds but in the end were effective heroes who survived underground battles with Germans and Gestapo for months while awaiting the arrival of Allied ground forces: The Jedburghs in audio is especially adept at bringing all this to life.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing- No story is ever finished 5 Sept. 2007
By J. Graham - Published on
I took a risk buying this book. I was intrigued by these secret warriors and was further intrigued reading Wild Bill Donovan's biography. Irvin seems to have done his homework and the set up was well written. My problem was every story was written from a 10,000ft and never seemed to finish. I was lost trying to keep track. Stories would start never having ended another.
Scattered thoughts on written page.
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