Special Operations in the European Theater

From the beginning of the war American military leaders were committed to a decisive clash of mass armies on the European continent. Although the Allies did not fix a firm date for the cross-channel invasion until the spring of 1943, planning for the assault, code named OVERLORD, had been almost continuous since early 1942. For the American generals the prospect of a major amphibious landing on a heavily defended coastline represented a new and formidable challenge. As Marshall later remarked to a Soviet colleague, the military education of the American officer corps had been based on roads, rivers, and railways, and they were now forced to acquire one "based on oceans" if OVERLORD was to take place1 The availability of amphibious shipping, the neutralization of the German Air Force, and the ability to isolate the initial beachhead were all key ingredients in the new Allied recipe for success. To ensure a firm lodgment on the Continent, the OVERLORD planners were also prepared to conduct a host of special and unconventional operations. Prominent in these projects would be the operations of Ranger units, OSS commandos, and local partisans, all of which demanded much preparation and forethought.

The 29th Ranger Battalion

Among American planners the need to provide some combat experience to the American soldiers designated for OVERLORD remained a significant concern throughout the long planning process. Although Marshall had envisioned raids as a means of providing that experience, the departure of the 1st Ranger Battalion for the Mediterranean in October 1942 had left the British Combined Operations Headquarters without an

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Photo: A lietenant of the British commandos instructs men of the 29th Ranger Battalion in the use of the M1 rifle (U.S. Army photograph)

American commando unit for its raiding program. To replace that unit, the U.S. European Theater of Operations (ETO) activated another provisional Ranger formation in December 1942. Designated the 29th Ranger Battalion, the new unit consisted of a tiny cadre from Darby's original group and volunteers from the 29th Infantry Division, an inexperienced National Guard formation from Maryland and Virginia. Under the leadership of Maj. Randolph Milholland, a Maryland National Guardsman who had attended the British General Headquarters Battle School, the volunteers trained for five weeks at Achnacarry. In joint exercises with commandos they impressed the British with their performance in amphibious landings, cliff scaling, and a few practice raids.2

Through the summer and fall of 1943 the 29th Ranger Battalion joined the British commandos in a series of raids on the Norwegian and French coasts. The first, an attempt to destroy a bridge over a fjord, ended in failure when the Nor-

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wegian guide dropped the magazine for his submachine gun on a concrete quay, alerting the German guards. The Rangers met with more success in their second mission, a three-day reconnaissance of a harbor, but a third foray to the Norwegian coast proved abortive when they found that their objective, a German command post, had been abandoned. After more amphibious training during the summer of 1943, the entire battalion landed on the Ile d'Ouessant, a small island off the Atlantic coast of Brittany, and destroyed a German radar installation. As the raiders departed, they left Milholland's helmet and cartridge belt on the beach as calling cards. Despite the battalion's success, the European theater, in line with the original concept, deactivated the unit on 15 October and returned its members to the 29th Division.3

The 2d and 5th Ranger Battalions

By the time of the 29th Ranger Battalion's deactivation, the European Theater of Operations had determined that it would need more permanent Ranger-type units to spearhead the cross-channel invasion. At first, the activation of such formations found little support in the Regular Army. Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, the crusty chief of Army Ground Forces and the man most responsible for building and training the Army, preferred versatile standard units to specialized formations for special jobs. Permanent Ranger units, he feared, would constantly seek unprofitable secondary missions to justify their existence, absorb too many of the Army's better junior combat leaders, and cause a host of administrative problems. Marshall, however, deferred to the judgment of his field commanders and in March 1943 ordered the formation of at least one Ranger battalion to replace the 29th.4

During the early spring of 1943 volunteers from units throughout the continental United States assembled among the dusty streets, long white barracks, and green pyramidal tents of Camp Forrest, Tennessee, to form the 2d Ranger Battalion. Many had heard of the exploits of Darby's Rangers and were eager to belong to a similar unit; others simply wanted to move overseas more quickly. All generally possessed above average physical and mental ability. Some had served with the 1st Ranger Battalion, while others had attended Ranger-type training programs in the United States. The battalion also

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Photo: Maj. James E. Rudder (U.S. Army Military History Institute)

received a number of recruits who were too old for Ranger duty and a few eccentrics. All came under the command of Maj. James Earl Rudder on 30 June. Rudder, a genial former football coach from Texas, proved a popular leader, hosting monthly "gripe" sessions with his troops and improving their food and quarters. For all his affability, he insisted on high standards in the unit.5

Through 1943 and early 1944 Rudder pushed his men through an intensive training program, focusing on amphibious assaults and infantry fighting. At Camp Forrest the training combined physical conditioning with basic infantry tactics and fieldcraft. The marches, log-lifting drills, and obstacle courses helped to weed out those lacking in strength and stamina. In early September the battalion attended the Scout and Raiders School at Fort Pierce, Florida. Camped on an insect-infested island, the Rangers practiced small-scale amphibious raids with rubber boats and similar craft. From Fort Pierce they moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for training in advanced tactics. After arriving in Great Britain in early December the Rangers worked on cliff climbing, weapons training, navigation, and night maneuvers. Meanwhile, Rudder and his staff officers, in consultation with Combined Operations Headquarters, laid plans for a pair of raids against German

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installations near Calais and on the Isle of Herm. Rough weather forced cancellation of the two missions, but individual Rangers later accompanied British commandos on several similar operations.6

Meanwhile, in response to ETO's need for a stronger assault force for OVERLORD, Army Ground Forces formed the 5th Ranger Battalion in September 1943. Since the European theater command wanted the battalion in Great Britain by the end of the year, the training of the new unit was rushed. After initial physical conditioning and combat training at Camp Forrest, the 5th moved to Fort Pierce in November for two weeks of amphibious training, and then proceeded to Fort Dix for more speed marches and five-day tactical problems at the company and battalion levels. Following their arrival in Great Britain in January, the Rangers moved north to Scotland for amphibious training specifically tailored to match the Normandy coastline. 7

In January, as the two battalions trained along the coasts of Britain, Rudder and Maj. Max F. Schneider, the commander of the 5th Ranger Battalion, arrived in London to receive their mission for D-day from Col. Truman Thorson, operations officer of Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley's U.S. First Army. Four miles west of OMAHA Beach, the main American landing area, was Pointe du Hoe, a peninsula of steep, rocky cliffs jutting out into the Channel. There the Germans had emplaced a battery of six 155-mm. guns which dominated the invasion beaches. Destruction of the battery was critical to the success of the invasion. Although planners had provided for naval and air bombardments of the Pointe, a direct infantry assault was the only certain way of neutralizing the fortification. To reach the position by sea, the attackers would first have to land on a narrow shoreline and then scale an 83- to 100-foot cliff. One intelligence officer remarked, "It can't be done. Three old women with brooms could keep the Rangers from climbing that cliff."8 Although initially stunned by the magnitude of the task, Rudder and Schneider stepped up their training program, focusing on cliff climbing and amphibious tactics as the date of the assault drew near.9

The intense training of the Rangers paid off. Early on the morning of 6 June 1944, the first assault wave of Rangers,

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Photo: Route used by Rangers to get to the top of Pointe du Hoc (U.S. Navy Photograph)

Photo: View of Pointe du Hoc from the east (U.S. Army Military History Institute)

consisting of three companies of the 2d Battalion under Rudder's personal leadership, pounded through heavy Channel seas toward the Normandy coast. After a course error that put them about thirty-five minutes behind schedule, Rudder's force

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finally landed at 0710. Covered by naval gunfire, the Rangers used ropes fired by rockets to scramble up the cliff. The incredulous German defenders kept up a withering fire, cut the ropes, and tossed grenades down the slope, but within ten minutes of the landing the first Rangers had reached the top and secured a precarious foothold. As more soldiers reached the summit, Rudder expanded his perimeter and began sweeping the area. One patrol quickly found and destroyed the guns, which the Germans had hidden for protection during the bombardment. The cost had been heavy. Of the 230 Rangers who had made the assault, only 70 remained by the late afternoon of 6 June. Lacking men, supplies, and ammunition, the remainder grimly prepared to hold out against enemy counterattacks.

To the east the 5th Ranger Battalion and the remaining companies of the 2d had joined the 29th Infantry Division's assault on OMAHA Beach (Map 4). Heavy German fire raked the beachhead, pinning the Rangers and troops of the 29th behind a seawall. At this point, according to legend, Brig. Gen. Norman D. Cota, the assistant division commander of the 29th, roared, "We have to get the hell off this beach. Rangers, lead the way!" Whether under Cota's inspiration or not, small parties of Rangers and infantry scrambled over the seawall and, under cover of the rising smoke, carried the heights. After linking up with another Ranger company that had seized Pointe de la Percee, Schneider's force finally relieved Rudder's battered contingent on 8 June. l0

Having accomplished the task that had been the basis for their creation, the two Ranger battalions spent much of the rest of the war in search of a purpose, performing few missions which line infantry could not have handled. Both battalions had lost heavily on D-day, and Rudder, as senior battalion commander, unsuccessfully petitioned for their return to Great Britain for reorganization and the training of replacements. Instead, the Rangers trained their new personnel as adequately as possible while guarding prisoner cages and acting as a reserve against a German attack from the Channel Islands. In August the two battalions supported the campaign in Brittany, securing the flanks of the American advance, filling gaps in the line, and assaulting minor strongpoints. In the assault on the forts and pillboxes surrounding Brest a four-man patrol from

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Map 4: OMAHA Beach, 6 June 1944

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the 2d Ranger Battalion infiltrated the Lochrist Battery and forced the German commander to surrender the position. After a two-month respite following the fall of Brest on 18 September, the 2d Ranger Battalion joined the bitter struggle to clear the Huertgen Forest. Holding a defensive position in the snow and mud, a role ill suited to their organization as a light assault force, the Rangers suffered heavily from enemy artillery and exposure.11

When Rudder complained to higher headquarters about the misuse of his Rangers, he received orders to move the battalion to the outskirts of Bergstein and assault Hill 400, also known as Castle Hill. Troops and tanks of the 5th Armored Division clung to a tenuous position in Bergstein under heavy fire directed from the hill, which commanded the village and surrounding region. After a Ranger patrol reconnoitered the height in the predawn darkness of 7 December, one company took position to provide fire support, while two others charged up the slope. Catching the Germans by surprise, the Rangers seized control of the crest and captured twenty-eight prisoners with only light losses. Almost immediately, however, they were hit by enemy shellfire and two counterattacks. By late afternoon only twenty-five Rangers remained on top of the hill. Reinforced by a platoon and supported by artillery fire, they managed to hold until a battalion relieved them on the evening of 8 December. In the end, the battle for Bergstein cost the 2d Ranger Battalion over half its strength, most of which was expended in defense of the hill.l2

To the south the 5th Ranger Battalion performed the only deep infiltration mission assigned to the two battalions after D-day. Under a new commander, Lt. Col. Richard P. Sullivan, the 5th had joined Third Army's drive into the Saar-Moselle region in late November and had covered a division-size sector in Third Army's front during the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes. In late February 1945 Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker's XX Corps was attempting to expand its bridgehead over the Saar River in the vicinity of Trier. To weaken German resistance, Walker directed Sullivan's Ranger unit to penetrate the German front and attack the enemy's communications. On the night of 23-24 February the Rangers, using the woods and hills of the region as concealment, silently moved through

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Photo: Patrol of the 2d Platoon, Company C, 2d Ranger Battalion, moves down a road near Heimbach, Germany ( U. S. Army photograph).

German lines. Despite occasional clashes with enemy parties and the separation of two platoons from the main body, by the morning of 25 February the battalion had reached a position on high ground dominating the Irsch-Zerf Road, the enemy's main line of retreat. Aided by a battery of field artillery firing from American lines, the Rangers withstood repeated attacks by the withdrawing Germans. Although advance elements of the 10th Armored Division bypassed the Ranger positions on 26 February, it was not until 5 March that the 180 remaining Rangers could finally withdraw to a rest area. Their stand contributed directly to the collapse of German defenses in the area and the advance of XX Corps to the Rhine.l3

After these two Ranger-type missions, the remainder of the war in Europe proved anticlimactic for the two battalions. The 2d had barely begun to train replacements following its ordeal at Bergstein when the German Ardennes offensive compelled First Army to throw the unit into the line at Simmerath in an effort to shore up the northern flank of the growing "Bulge."

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Following the repulse of the last German offensive, the 2d conducted patrols in preparation for Allied crossings of the Roer River. Once the Allies breached the German defenses along the Roer and the Rhine, the two Ranger battalions, operating in conjunction with mechanized cavalry forces, joined the rapid final advance of Allied forces across Germany, mopping up the last pockets of resistance prior to the surrender on 8 May.l4

There were many reasons for the consistent use of the Rangers as line infantry during the campaign in France and Germany. The Army had created the two battalions for one mission: the seizure of key points in support of the crosschannel invasion. Once on the Continent the U.S. Army fought a war of mass and firepower, a war in which small, light commando units seemed to have little place. Although the rapid pace of the campaign left little time to plan special missions, the very fluidity of the situation did present opportunities for infiltration and the seizure of river crossings, road junctions, and prisoner-of-war camps in advance of Allied spearheads. An abortive attempt by an armored task force to free prisoners at Hammelburg furnishes one example of a mission where a mobile Ranger unit might have proved useful. In fact, with their attachment to the cavalry during the closing months of the war, the Rangers had acquired the operational mobility to perform such operations in open terrain.l5 American tactical commanders, however, shied away from using the Rangers in this manner, perhaps because they viewed such activities as too risky. Furthermore, no doctrine, staff section, or command existed to guide field commanders in the use of Ranger units. Given the lack of knowledge on the proper employment of the Rangers, the shortage of combat manpower, and the resulting pressure on commanders to keep every unit on the front line, the assignment of the Rangers to line duty was perhaps inevitable.

The Jedburghs and Operational Groups in France

If the Army showed only a fleeting interest in raids and other Ranger tasks, it showed even less in partisan operations, generally leaving that field to the Office of Strategic Services. As in the Mediterranean, the OSS effort in northern Europe initially suffered from inexperience, lack of respect, and a

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shortage of resources. One British observer recalled the first six OSS operatives in London in early 1943, "arriving like jeune filles en fleur straight from finishing school, all fresh and innocent, to start work in our frowsty old intelligence brothel."16 Although the Special Operations office in London and the Special Operations Executive soon concluded an operational pact and created a combined Special Forces Headquarters (SFHQ), the more established British clearly overshadowed their American partners. As late as March 1944 the British were launching ten times as many supply sorties into France as the Americans, largely because of the Roosevelt administration's lukewarm attitude toward the Gaullist resistance and the U.S. Army Air Forces' desire to concentrate on the bombing offensive.17

Fortunately, the Office of Strategic Services found support for its efforts from the supreme commander of the crosschannel invasion. In an "ultrasecret" memorandum on 22 March, General Eisenhower remarked, "We are going to need very badly the support of the Resistance groups in France."18 His Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), perceived in the resistance a means of delaying, or even preventing, a German counterattack against the future invasion beaches. SHAEF's plan for the invasion called for the partisans to destroy railways, to harass German troop movements, to cut road communications and telephone lines, and to attack other targets of opportunity, such as enemy headquarters, fuel and ammunition dumps, and even German aircraft on the ground. Through Eisenhower's headquarters, personnel of the Special Operations Branch were able to obtain a larger allocation of aircraft and by May were starting to match the British effort in shipments of agents and supplies.19

In their dealings with the French underground, Allied headquarters and the Office of Strategic Services soon found that they could not ignore politics. While General Charles de Gaulle's adherents claimed authority over the entire resistance, the rightist Armee de l'Armistice and the Communist Francs Tireurs Partisans, who frequently clashed with the Gaullist Armee Secrete, also possessed sizable followings. The OSS encountered disagreements, both with the Special Operations Executive and within its own ranks, over how to handle these differences. In general, the British preferred to divert supplies

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away from any elements which might act against British postwar interests, while the Office of Strategic Services, in line with the U.S. policy of postponing political considerations until after the war, was willing to aid any group willing to fight the Germans. To ensure Gaullist support for OVERLORD, Eisenhower, on the eve of the invasion, created the Etat Major, Forces Francaises de l'Interieur (EMFFI), an administrative headquarters under a Gaullist general to supervise resistance activities, but he resisted subordinating Special Forces Headquarters to this organization until late June. This chaotic, improvised command structure would later cause numerous diffculties for OSS operatives in the field.20

To serve as a link with the resistance, Eisenhower's headquarters and EMFFI planned to use liaison teams known as Jedburghs, named after guerrillas in the Jedburgh region of twelfth century Scotland. Formed into three-man cells consisting of a British or American officer, a French officer, and a radio operator, the Jedburghs were to parachute into France and provide radio communications between the resistance and Allied headquarters, to coordinate partisan operations with the main Allied force, to arrange for deliveries of supplies, and, if necessary, to organize, train, and even lead the partisans in guerrilla warfare. Beginning in August 1943, the Special Operations Office in London canvassed American units and bases in the European theater, the Mediterranean, and the continental United States for physically fit volunteers with skill in communications, an ability to speak French, and a willingness to volunteer for a hazardous mission behind enemy lines. In response, it received a tough, gregarious, and often unruly collection of characters, including a few ex-paratroopers, prewar adventurers, and assorted intellectuals. In contrast to the freewheeling American and British volunteers, the French officers, including many professionals haunted by the memory of 1940, seemed grim and austere. Nevertheless, the three groups adapted well to each other as they prepared for the task ahead. 21

The Jedburghs received the bulk of their training at a number of installations in Great Britain. At a commando training camp in the highlands of Scotland they studied demolitions, practicing their craft on unused railroads, tunnels,

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Photo: Main wing, Milton Hall (National Archives)

bridges, roads, and isolated buildings in the area. They also learned hand-to-hand combat from two former officers of the Shanghai Police Force and endured three days of severe psychological and physical testing. The graduates who passed these tests then proceeded to the British parachute school at Ringway. In contrast to the American airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Jedburgh training schedule permitted only three days of instruction, during which the prospective infiltrators made three practice jumps from aircraft flying at an altitude of 500 feet. Following this abbreviated instruction, their final training took place at Milton Hall, the estate of an old, aristocratic English family. Amidst the brick buildings and gardens the trainees endured further physical conditioning and received instruction in guerrilla tactics, sabotage and evasion techniques, codes and communications, weapons, and fieldcraft. Left to form their own teams, they chose partners on the basis of professional respect and personal friendship. After three-day maneuvers as teams the Jedburghs were ready for

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deployment by late April, but, because of SHAEF's concern that premature deployment might alert the Germans to the coming invasion, the first Jedburgh teams did not jump into France until D-day.22

By early June 1944 the resistance, aided by SOE and SO agents, had already reached a high state of organization, but the French partisans, known as the Maquis, badly needed arms, equipment, and supplies. Urban areas and a dense population in much of France provided little cover for guerrillas, forcing them to disperse and limit their activities to sabotage and the gathering of intelligence. In the mountains and forests of the Massif Central, the Vosges, and the Alps, however, partisans flourished, harassing convoys and raiding enemy-controlled villages and towns (Map 5). Periodically, the Germans sent divisions into guerrilla-controlled areas, but, although they terrorized the local population, the troops rarely were able to pin down the elusive Maquis. Nevertheless, the partisans lacked not only military items of all types, but also such essentials as shoes. While the training and organizational abilities of the Jedburghs would be helpful, an increase in the number of supply drops was critical.23

Between June and September 1944, 276 Jedburgh personnel jumped into France, Belgium, and the Netherlands from bases in Great Britain and North Africa. During June and July they joined the resistance in attacks on German communications with Normandy. Several teams deployed to Brittany, where they worked with the British Special Air Service to organize more than 20,000 partisans. When U.S. troops entered the province in August, these guerrillas guided units, protected their flanks, gathered intelligence, and provided a screen against German patrols. To the east as Allied armies raced across France in August and early September, French partisans with Jedburgh assistance ambushed retreating German columns, preserved major installations from demolition, rescued downed Allied pilots, and protected the right flank of Third Army's rapid advance. Jedburgh officers also gathered valuable intelligence, including plans for German defenses at Lorient and La Rochelle, and information on the V4, a new German secret weapon that used the blast from compressed air against infantry. In southern France Jedburgh-

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Map 5: France, 1943- 1945

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Photo: A Jedburgh with full operational equipment (National Archives)

aided partisans supported the Allied landings on the Riviera coast and Seventh Army's subsequent drive to the Rhine Valley, liberating hosts of jubilant French towns in advance of Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch's Allied forces.24

One of the teams operating in advance of Seventh Army was Team Packard. Deploying from Algiers on the night of 31 July, Packard, under Capt. Aaron Bank, jumped into the Lazare Department, a region of forested mountains and small cities near the Rhone Valley. Caught in the middle of various political squabbles between Communist and Gaullist partisans, they provided assistance to both groups but worked more closely with the non-Communist elements, initially arming and training them, and then accompanying them on occasional forays against railroad bridges and tunnels. When the Germans began to withdraw following Patch's breakout from the ANVIL beachhead on 19 August, the partisans stepped up the tempo of their operations, harassing the Germans with roadblocks and ambushes and providing intelligence and all possible assistance to the advancing Allied forces. To the end the various resistance factions continued to compete with one another, each attempting to be the first to liberate the French cities and towns. Exuberant Frenchmen feted Bank's team with wine and food and even offered free service at a local bordello. By 3

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September few Germans remained in the area, and the team drove to Grenoble to await further orders.25

Team Gorin's experience in Brittany proved more frustrating. After an alert on 10 July a nervous French officer from EMFFI hurriedly briefed the team, which included American 1st Lt. William Dreux, a French officer, and a French radio operator. The team's mission was to organize and train the Maquis in the St. Malo region, harass enemy communications, and, on signal from London, demolish six local bridges. Both Gorin and another team assigned an identical mission jumped into a pasture about seventy-five miles east of the objective area. The open terrain of the region and heavy German activity precluded a strong Maquis, but the two groups were able to contact a local party of Communist guerrillas and make their way toward their assigned area, hiding in churches and barns along the way. On one occasion a German patrol stopped their car, but the German guard was too confused to recognize the

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Allied officers. The two teams finally reached their operational area about the same time as Patton's spearheads, rendering senseless any attempt to destroy the bridges. Although the teams were able to organize local partisans to help reconnoiter and to screen the subsequent American advance, they ultimately returned to London feeling they had made no more than an insignificant contribution to the battle.26

Where a more sizable American presence than a Jedburgh team was necessary, the Allied high command employed the OSS's operational groups. Based in London and Algiers, about 355 personnel in twenty-two groups parachuted into France between June and September 1944. Most were French-speaking, but in the absence of plans to invade Norway, some Norwegian operational groups also participated. Working alone or in cooperation with Jedburghs and partisans, the groups ambushed enemy columns, cut communications, attacked railroad lines, blew up bridges, and helped supply and arm the resistance. They also preserved two important hydroelectric plants from destruction by the retreating Germans.27

In Brittany Operational Group Donald performed a typical counterscorch mission, capturing and preserving a small bridge until relieved by advancing American forces. Landing in a field near Guimilieu in the early morning of 6 August, Donald, consisting of about thirty-five men under Lt. Col. Serge Obolensky, quickly secured the span, which proved to be only a short walk from its landing zone. Over the next few days the group, with partisan assistance, gradually strengthened its tiny perimeter around the bridge and found time to participate in a local parade. Patrolling the surrounding countryside, Donald's patrols even bluffed a 100-man German force into surrendering. After finally linking up with elements of the Third Army, the section flew to London on 18 August, its mission accomplished. 28

While most OG missions were successful, the operational groups and the resistance received a bitter lesson in the Vercours of the dangers of a partisan stand against conventional forces. Located in the Alpine foothills southwest of Grenoble, the Vercours region, a plateau surrounded by sheer cliffs and approachable by only a few roads, seemed a natural fortress. In early June the area's Maquis, responding to SHAEF's call to

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Photo: Colonel Obolensky and his OGs in a dressing area before departure for France (National Archives)

arms, attacked German communications all along the Rhone Valley. Allied headquarters sent an operational group and two Jedburgh teams with instructions to train the Maquis but discourage a large-scale uprising. The advice came too late. Confident of their ability to defend the plateau, the partisans, with ranks swelled by recruits to almost 3,200 men, proclaimed a Republic of Vercours. On Bastille Day the Allies carried out a massive supply drop to the insurgents, who appeared eager to face the regular German troops in a standup battle.

The German response to this clear challenge was swift. Within thirty minutes of the airlift, the German Air Force began round-the-clock bombing of the plateau. Having surrounded the region with 6,500 men, the Germans attacked in converging columns on 18 July and later landed airborne troops on the plateau. Under heavy pressure from within and without, the partisans and OSS men split into small groups and fled to the forests. After eleven days of hiding from German patrols, the OSS elements managed to escape the

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pocket, eventually reaching American lines, but the resistance lost 600 to 700 killed, not including the victims of German atrocities against civilians in the region.29

As the varying accounts would indicate, evaluation of the Jedburghs and operational groups is a difficult task, Eisenhower later equated the worth of the resistance to fifteen divisions, but the degree to which American operatives contributed to this success is impossible to estimate. The Maquis obviously benefited from the instruction in weapons and sabotage provided by Jedburgh and OG teams. In addition, the OSS men performed valuable services in gathering intelligence and providing needed liaison between the resistance and Allied commanders in London and in the field. The sight of Allied officers in uniform behind German lines elated the French populace, who knew that Allied armies could not be far behind. Jedburgh officers who accompanied the Maquis in the "liberation" of small towns and villages were treated to tumultuous receptions as conquering heroes. Children offered candy and flowers, women competed to kiss the OSS liberators, and champagne flowed freely. Although some in the Allied high command had estimated that the Jedburghs would lose as much as 40 percent of their personnel, casualties were relatively low. Of the 84 American Jedburghs, 6 were killed, 7 were wounded, and 2 survived capture.30

While the Jedburghs and operational groups could boast of many concrete accomplishments, a number of problems also plagued their operations. Reflecting in some cases a contempt for rear echelon personnel, Jedburghs complained of unrealistic planning, inadequate briefings, confusing command and liaison arrangements, and an embarrassing lack of response to repeated requests for supplies. One Jedburgh team, assured by a briefing officer that it would be deployed to an area free of Germans, landed in the middle of an enemy parachute division. Reflecting a lack of policy toward the resistance, the OSS men received little guidance in handling different political factions. When Capt. Stewart Alsop's Jedburgh team jumped into southern France, the French officer who accompanied him insisted that they ignore orders to cooperate with a Communist group and instead work with the Gaullist partisans. In addition, most OSS personnel found that Allied tactical commanders had little grasp of their work and missions and often

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ignored their intelligence reports and offers of assistance. While trigger-happy partisans often proved long on enthusiasm and short on actual fighting ability, too many American officers ignored their real value and adopted the views of one infantry lieutenant, who called the French Forces of the Interior the "damndest bunch of clowns I ever saw in my life.... Foolish French Idiots we used to call them." 31 The most common complaints of OSS personnel revolved around their late deployment to the Continent. By the time of their arrival the resistance had been fairly well organized, and Allied forces were often only a few days' march away.32

The unanticipated speed of the Allied advance through France was one of the major factors inhibiting the establishment of an effective program of special operations in the European theater. Although mountainous and forested areas provided some cover for guerrilla and commando activities, the critical terrain over which the armies fought up to the German border was usually characterized by open plains and highways, which were more conducive to mobile conventional units. Another problem was the lack of acceptance and prior planning by the Army on the subject of special operations. While planners of the cross-channel attack foresaw the need for special assault units fairly early, it was not until March 1944 that Eisenhower directed a major emphasis on the organization and supply of French partisans by the Office of Strategic Services. Once on the Continent the pace of the Allied advance, along with the lack of doctrine, further hampered the systematic employment of commandos and partisans. As Eisenhower later admitted, the Maquis proved a great help to Allied operations, but their success came in spite of improvisation and administrative confusion, and owed more to the work of the partisans themselves and to the British, who had worked laboriously to establish the resistance network since 1940. Consequently, the American experience with special operations in northern Europe, while a success in many ways, served mainly to indicate the possibilities of such activities in the future.


1. Quote from Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944, U.S. Army in World War II (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, Government Printing Office, 1959), p. 363.

2. Memo, Lt Col C.E. Lundquist, ETO, for Commanding General, II Corps, 30 Sep 42; Rpt, Capt Cleaves A. Jones, Liaison Section, to Brig Gen Norman D. Cota, 18 Mar 43; and Rpt, Jones to Col Claude E. Stadtman, Feb 43. All in Perlmutter Collection, Roll 8. Jerome J. Haggerty, "A History of the Ranger Battalions in World War II" (Ph.D. diss., Fordham University, 1982), pp. 129-30; Joseph H. Ewing, 29 Let's Go! A History of the 29th Infantry Division in World War II (Washington, D.C.: Infantry Journal Press, 1948), pp. 18-19.

3. Ewing, 29 Let's Colt, pp. 19, 25-26; Haggerty, "A History of the Ranger Battalions in World War II," pp. 131-35.

4. Memo, Maj Richard P. Fisk, Asst Adj Gen, ETO, for the Adjutant General, 2 Dec 42, Perlmutter Collection, Roll 8; Memo, Maj James D. Tanner, Asst Grd Adj Gen, Army Ground Forces, for Asst Chief of Staff, Operations Division, 4 Jan 43, AG 320.2 (12-2-42), and Memo, Col Claude B. Fehrenbach, Chief, European Section, Theater Group, OPD, for Adjutant General, 21 Apr 43, AG 320.2 Ranger Battalions for ETO (March 12, 1943), both in U.S. Army, Adjutant General, Classified Decimal File, 1943-1945, RG 407, NARA; Weigley, History of the U.S. Army, pp. 466, 470. The European Theater of Operations wanted to grant permanent status to the 29th Ranger Battalion, but the War Department preferred to form new units in the United States rather than adopt any existing provisional formations.

5. Ronald L. Lane, Rudder's Rangers (Manassas, Va.: Ranger Associates, 1979), pp. 16-24; Alfred E. Baer, Jr., D for Dog: The Story of a Ranger Company (1946), p. 1.

6. Lane, Rudder's Rangers, pp. 15-55; Bell I. Wiley and William P. Govan, History of the Second Army, Army Ground Forces Histories 16 (Washington, D.C.: Army Ground Forces, 1946), pp. 154-55.

7. Henry S. Glassman, "Lead the Way Rangers". A History of the 5th Ranger Battalion (Marks Grafing, Bavaria: Buchdruckerei Hausser, 1945), pp. 2, 1013; Wiley and Govan, History of the Second Army, p. 155.

8. Quote from Lane, Rudder's Rangers, p. 68.

9. Lane, Rudder's Rangers, pp. 55-68; Narrative History of the Second Ranger Infantry Battalion, 1944, pp. 1-8, WWII Ops Reports, INBN 2-0.3, RG 407, WNRC; Glassman, "Lead the Way Rangers" pp. 12-13; Normandy Landings, 2d and 5th Ranger Battalions, June 6-8, 1944, Perlmutter Collection, Roll 7.

10. Lane's Rudder's Rangers has a good account. See also Normandy Landings, 2d and 5th Ranger Battalions, June 6-8, 1944, Perlmutter Collection, Roll 7, and After Battle Report, 2d Ranger Battalion for June 1944, 22 Jul 44, WWII Ops Reports, INBN 2-0.3, RG 407, WNRC; Glassman, "Lead the Way Rangers", pp. 20-24; Cota quote from Haggerty, "A History of the Ranger Battalions in World War II," p. 218.

11. See After Battle Reports for the 2d Ranger Battalion in WWII Ops Reports, INBN 2-0.3; Glassman, "Lead the Way Rangers" pp. 28-38, 42-43; Haggerty, "A History of the Ranger Battalions in World War II," p. 227; Baer, D For Dog, pp. 48-58, 63-69.

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12. Baer, D for Dog, pp. 75-86; Charles B. MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign, U.S. Army in World War II (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, Government Printing Office, 1963), pp. 461-63.

13. King, Rangers, pp. 43-54. See reports of Sullivan and his executive officer, Maj. Hugo W. Heffelfinger, in Perlmutter Collection, Roll 7. Glassman, "Lead the Way Rangers", pp. 56-70.

14. See After Battle Reports for the 2d Ranger Battalion, in WWII Ops Reports, INBN 2-0.3, and Glassman, "Lead the Way Rangers", pp. 71-73. Baer, D for Dog, pp. 87-88, 101.

15. On Hammelburg, see Charles B. MacDonald, The Last Offensive, U.S. Army in World War II (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History, Government Printing Office, 1973), pp. 280-84.

16. Quote from Smith, OSS, p. 163.

17. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 3-7, 144-45; Smith, OSS, p. 166; Arthur L. Funk, "Churchill, Eisenhower, and the French Resistance," Military Affairs 45 (February 1981): 29-30; Brown, The Last Hero, pp. 524-26.

18. Quotes from Peter Lyon, Eisenhower: Portrait of the Hero (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974), p. 280.

19. Ltr, Maj Gen Walter B. Smith to Gen Sir Henry M. Wilson, 21 May 44, and Plan for Coordination and Use of Resistance Movements in Connection with Operation OVERLORD, both in MS, AFHQ' History of Special Operations, Mediterranean, pp. 160-70; Brown, The Last Hero, p. 526.

20. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 197-98; MS, AFHQ, History of Special Operations, Mediterranean, pp. 151, 170; Smith, OSS, pp. 168-69.

21. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 199; Functions of Staffs and Jedburgh Teams Under SOE/SO Plan, 30 Aug 43, OOS, Algiers SO-OP-9, Entry 97, Box 40, RG 226, NARA; MS, Stanley N. Cannicott, Journey of a Jed, pp. 21-22, held by Dr. SamuelJ. Lewis, Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kans.; Dreux, No Bridges Blown, pp. 18, 50-56; Bank, From OSS to Green Berets, pp. 6, 13-15, 22; Smith, OSS, p. 175, Alsop and Braden, The OSS and American Espionage, pp. 143, 146-49. The Jedburghs also included some Belgians and Dutch for operations into the Low Countries.

22. Bank, From OSS to Green Berets, pp. 8-25; Dreux, No Bridges Blown, pp. 26-69; MS, Cannicott, Journey of a Jed, pp. 22-25; Alsop and Braden, The OSS and American Espionage, pp. 141, 146-49.

23. Call for Arms for French Patriots, in MS, Cannicott, Journey of a Jed, pp. 13-14; Bank, From OSS to Green Berets, p. 25; Alsop and Braden, The OSS and American Espionage, pp. 130-35.

24. See reports on Jedburghs in OSS, Special Forces, Entry 103, Boxes 23, RG 226, NARA; Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 199-204; Marten, Report on Jedburghs, 6 Oct 44, OSS, Caserta SO-OP, Entry 154, Box 56, RG 226, NARA.

25. Team Packard's report in OSS, Special Forces, Entry 103, Box 3, RG 226, NARA; Bank, From OSS to Green Berets, pp. 32-62.

26. See Dreux, No Bridges Blown.

27. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: xii, 204-07, 219; operational group reports in OSS, London OG-OP-I, Entry 148, Box 83, RG 226, NARA; progress reports in Folder 4, OSS, History Office Files, Entry 99, Box 2, RG 226, NARA; MS, AFHQ. History of Special Operations, Mediterranean, pp. 219-20.

28. Report of Operational Group Donald in OSS, London OG-OP- I, Entry 148, Box 83, RG 226, NARA.

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29. Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 194-96; MS, AFHQ. History of Special Operations, Mediterranean, pp. 153, 205-10.

30. M.R.D. Foot, SOE in France (Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1966), pp. 401, 441-42; Bank, From OSS to Green Berets, p. 135; Smith, OSS, pp. 188-90; Alsop and Braden, The OSS and American Espionage, pp. 183-84.

31. Quotes from Alsop and Braden, The OSS and American Espionage, p. 171.

32. Marten, Report on Jedburghs, 6 Oct 44, OSS, Caserta SO-OP; reports on Jedburghs, OSS, Special Forces, Entry 103, Boxes 2-3, RG 226, NARA; operational group reports, OSS, London OG-OP-I, Entry 148, Box 83, RG 226, NARA; Bank, From OSS to Green Berets, pp. 43, 54, 57, 66-67; Roosevelt, War Report of the OSS, 2: 200, 204, 207; Theater Report, 15 June 1944, Folder 3, OSS, History Office Files, Entry 99, Box 2, RG 226, NARA; MS, AFHQ, History of Special Operations, Mediterranean, p. 344; Foot, SOE in France, pp. 401-04; Alsop and Braden, The OSS and American Espionage, pp. 122-27; Smith, OSS, pp. 186, 190-93.