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.
Buy it on Amazon!
Today I wanted to turn my readers on to a new e-book released today from my buddy and fellow writer, Dan Tharp. Dan has written at a great history of the Rhodesian Light Infantry, Selous Scouts, and Rhodesian Special Air Service in about 60 pages which will help those interested researchers get up to speed on the Rhodesian approach to Counter-Insurgency. This is a great book and comes at a time as more and more people are getting interested in Rhodesia and some of the success stories they had in battling communist insurgents in the 1970’s. This truly is the lost chapter of Special Operations history.
The Lost Chapter of Special Operations History: Rhodesia.
Some of the most explosive combat in Special Operations history is almost completely unknown to the Western World. Everyone knows about Navy SEALs and Green Berets but nobody knows about the deep recce, sabotage, and direct action missions conducted by the Rhodesian SAS. The Rhodesian Light Infantry was a killing machine, participating in combat jumps every night during the heat of the Bush War. The Selous Scouts were perhaps the most innovative and daring unconventional warfare unit in history which would pair white soldiers with turncoat black “former” terrorists who would then infiltrate enemy camps.
US military veteran and historian Dan Tharp covers each of these three units in depth in Africa Lost.
In a dark corner of American special operations there exists, alongside the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s Osama bin Laden-killing SEAL Team Six, a small unit of Army spies known as the Intelligence Support Activity.
Created more than 30 years ago, the ISA has had its hand in almost every high-profile American special operation around the world in recent history, and countless others, according to published reports and special operations veterans with firsthand knowledge of the group.
And though relatively little is known about the secret unit — the military still refuses to acknowledge its existence — a new, colorful picture of the group has emerged through, of all things, a comic book.
In the panels of the comic “The Activity,” writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mitch Gerads create a cell-shaded version of the ISA’s world in which the plot is fictional, but much of the rest rings true, even to those few familiar with the comic’s real-life counterpart.
One former member of the special operations community, who requested anonymity to speak about the ISA, told ABC News that while the comic clearly condenses intelligence-gathering timelines and significantly expands the ISA’s duties for the sake of dramatic story telling, he was surprised at its overall accuracy.
Read the rest on ABC News!
“Big dumb Ranger stomping through the woods,” a retired Sergeant Major from 5th Special Forces Group said with a smirk to me after an After Action Review in Robin Sage. Robin Sage is the culmination exercise at the end of the Special Forces Qualification Course, basically your final exam prior to donning the Green Beret.
I rolled my eyes at Kevin as I shook my head. I was pissed, but not because Kevin was breaking my balls, rather I was irritated with myself because I knew that he was right. We were instructed to conduct an ambush in the fictional nation of Pineland (actually located in North Carolina) and I was walking point. Getting angry with some of the junior guys on the team because of a land navigation error, I told them to shut up and follow me. I charged off through the woods and made enough noise that the role players guarding the road we were supposed to ambush heard us.
Read the rest on SOFREP!
Two weeks ago the MNLF, one of the Muslim groups, kicked off a major offensive against the Abu Sayaaf group, another Muslim organization/terrorist group in Sulu. It seems that Abu Sayaaf got pushed right to the waterline on the coast and without anywhere else to go they hopped on a boat to the Sabah region of Malaysia. For those who have been keeping score, these groups are completely different than the others I’ve written about previously such as the Ampatuans and BIFF which is Kato‘s Islamic faction that broke away from the MILF…which in turn had broken away from the MNLF. Confused yet?
The new debate about women in combat positions is an argument that few seem to be able to think clearly about. This post will contain some harsh language. Consider it a part of the selection process if you are a woman. If you can’t handle it then you might want to look at another career field because we say a lot worse about each other.
Whenever this topic comes up I hear the same statement from what seems like the vast majority of Americans. It goes something like this, “Hold them to the same standard and if they can hack it then let them do the job.” Intellectually I can look at this subject from an abstract standpoint and agree. Why not let job positions be delegated to soldiers based on their ability to meet the qualifications rather than their gender? This is probably the correct way to think about this subject, have one high standard which all must meet.
However, I did the job and there are some practical issues that we need to overcome. Here is one of the ugly ones: the Army just doesn’t have a lot of integrity when it comes to maintaining standards. They are often lowered for political reasons as commanders are expected to fill quotas or more understandably, units get understrength and need to be plused up on warm bodies. This is the wrong way to go about the problem because letting sub-standard personnel in causes huge problems down the line ranging from degraded operational capabilities to unit morale. Special Operations units are no exception to these internal politics I’m afraid.
But that isn’t fair to female soldiers, right? The problem isn’t women in combat but rather that the institution of the Army needs to get their house in order and stand by their own core values, namely, upholding high standards of combat readiness. I would agree with that argument as well and would be willing to work with anyone, man or woman, on this issue however I can. I feel strongly about this and have written about it previously.
Since 9/11 we have seen a revolution in how the entire US defense structure approaches and deals with the issue of terrorism. While the Clinton administration introduced some legislation that would pave the way for “targeted” killings in instances where there was an Executive Finding, the Clinton administration took a limp-wristed approach to intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism for the bulk for the 1990s, including missed opportunities to kill Al Qaeda head honcho, Osama Bin Laden.
The post-9/11 Bush Administration not only swung US Special Operations forces into action, along with Para-Military and Clandestine Services, but also pushed hard for an expansion of these capabilities. Then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld played a large role in expanding the Special Forces Regiment and personally visited the Delta Force compound on Ft. Bragg to get a better understanding of how counter-terrorist forces operate.
Obama stepped into the White House during a transition period where America was withdrawing from Iraq and attempting to hash out an exit strategy for Afghanistan. While timelines were debated, shifted to the right, and a number of phony withdrawals were staged for the media, the US military did pull out of Iraq and is currently working towards doing the same in Afghanistan. No doubt this action has increased support from both the Pentagon and the American public with the near total lose of credibility of US Counter-Insurgency strategy with the so-called “insider” or “green on blue” attack where our Afghan allies suddenly turn on and kill American soldiers.
In the face of this withdrawal, the War on Terror seems to be decreasing in over all troop deployments while simultaneously expanding in all directions with low-visibility operations in places like Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Mali, and Libya. Meanwhile, other long standing operations have continued in places like Colombia which have been largely ignored by a media, and perhaps a Pentagon, that has a fixation on the Middle East.
With SEAL Team Six eliminating Osama Bin Laden during Obama’s watch, the Special Operations community has received unprecedented popularity in the public arena. Reportedly, the Obama Administration has delegated responsibility for counter-terrorist operations to JSOC and his National Security Council, leaving them more or less to their own devices.