cover image Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America's First Shadow War

Operation Jedburgh: D-Day and America's First Shadow War

Colin Beavan, . . Viking, $27.95 (401pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03762-9

While Hitler considered western European resistance forces a minor annoyance, movies and popular writers invariably extol the havoc they wreaked behind enemy lines, perhaps tipping the balance toward victory. In this vein, Beavan (Fingerprints ) delivers a lively account of the immense Allied effort to stir up trouble in occupied France in support of the Normandy invasion in June 1944. Since 1940, the British and Free French had sent agents into France, but the Nazis tracked them down with alarming efficiency. Backed by U.S. leaders, Operation Jedburgh was born in 1943: hundreds of American, British and French volunteers parachuted into France to organize resistance forces and then lead them in a campaign of sabotage and guerrilla action. Many operations failed, but there were plenty of triumphs—perhaps the most spectacular being the surrender of 20,000 German troops in September 1944. Beavan, whose grandfather was a "Jed," interviewed 30 operatives, including former CIA director William Colby and Green Beret founder Aaron Banks, and recounts Jedburgh's exploits through their eyes. This involves a good deal of recreated dialogue and speculation—but it rings true. Historians may not share the author's conviction of Jedburgh's crucial role in the Allied victory, but he makes an entertaining case. (May 8)