Upon finding out that a Buddy was reading this book, I asked him to write me an overview, once he had completed it. I let Steve read it before posting, and he was more than happy to comment about the content of the summary. Enjoy.
What it took to be a ‘Commando’….
By Someone Who Did the Research
The term, “Commando” brings to mind great images of men who were the cream of the crop in our history and are only now (when it comes to WWII) having their stories told. Simply, these guys were true ‘bad asses’. Of late, there seems to be some interest in and of various ‘special’ commando groups from WWII and later forwarded by various voices of the ‘liberty’ or ‘patriot’ movement up to and including “borrowing” the name(s) as well as claiming selected or general capabilities from these groups.
One such group that comes to mind due to their recent popularization on at least one blog, are the Jedburgh Special Forces teams of World War II (the Jeds are the forerunners of today’s ‘Green Berets’). There are claims out there right now that if one follows a certain path of training at a certain school (or series of schools), when it’s complete, the attendee will have the ‘skills of the commando.’ As of this writing and quick peek into the book listed below on just the training the real Jedburgh teams underwent, there’s no way to tell whether or not that particular claim will prove to be mere puffery or fact simply because there’s no way to prove or disprove the capabilities alluded to or held. let alone the credentials of the instructors providing those skills. Without bonafides, claims are only that. The proof, as they say, “is in the puddin’…”
For those sincerely considering an attempt to learn various skills that the Jedburgh teams (or any other special team for that matter) that are considered ‘commando’ skills, from any corner of the training world offerings out there, comparison contrast is in order.
The following book, for example, provides some actual history regarding the selection, qualification, and employment of the Jedburgh Teams from written by Lt Col Will Irwin (Ret), “The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944.” Published in 2005 and compiled by the author from declassified documents, records, archives and stories by the participants themselves, to tell the tale of just seven of the 100 Jed that deployed to Nazi occupied France.
To help you determine what might be a realistic syllabus in your personal training (should you be a participant in any ‘commando school’ taking its name from a historical unit), the book provides a superb summary of the training the Jeds went through and what skills they already held when they volunteered simply for assessment and selection. In this particular instance, when one reads the history of the Jedburgh Teams, one realizes that, in effect, anyone offering you this title at the conclusion of their training telling you that you’re the equal of a special forces soldier from the era the group name is ‘borrowed’ from. Some Latin comes to mind: Caveat Emptor.
A better return on investment may be had by attending a course that offers solid ‘basics’ based upon staff experience. It doesn’t matter what the person is trying to learn. If one wants to be a chef, one doesn’t join a construction outfit. If one wishes to learn a set of skills typically taught in the military or a particular method of employing skills in the manner of military organizations, one might consider finding a course overseen by someone with that experience within the military.
As to the subject of this brief essay, here’s a few verifiable facts on the Jeds from the book title above:
The name, “Jedburgh” was not taken from the town in Scotland; it was most likely the next approved codename on the available codename list held in Whitehall. Churchill was obsessed with code names, and insisted they were not allowed to have anything to do with the mission or have any relation in any way to the people involved. The first codename suggested was, “Jumpers,” and it was discarded. As to the naming of the teams for the Scottish Borders town of, “Jedburgh,” it sits approximately 250 miles North of the actual Jedburgh training site of Milton Hall, which is near Peterborough, England. Further, the bookThere are at five known popular descriptions of how the name was chosen. Of those, only the one above holds historical weight due to Churchill’s documented obsession with how code names were chosen and employed.
The common nickname of the teams was, “The Jeds.” The term, “Jedburgh” was rarely used, especially by the teams themselves.
There were 100 teams of 3 men each.
Training was about 8 months long (continuous, not in 3 day stints over the same period) that also consisted of ‘real world’ field training exercises throughout England.
The Jedburgh candidates, like other ‘special force’ candidates, didn’t arrive ‘off the street’ from bakeries, farms, or factories. They were recruited from actively serviing/trained disciplines, and the ability to speak one or two additional languages fluently was desired.
The American contingent came from the ‘OSS’ (Office of Strategic Services) headed by William Donovan, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in World War I (obviously, he knew a good deal about soldiering)) and who later became a successful businessman asked by FDR to head up the new office even though their politics were at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Assessments began as soon as the candidates arrived at the training site; they underwent a large battery of interviews and completed many questionnaires designed by a staff of psychiatrists and psychologists to expose the troublesome, inept, lazy or misfits.
Their washout rate was about 1/3; sometimes rejection was done in mid-training, and simply because the trainers didn’t believe the man in question had the temperament for duty behind the lines for long periods of time.
The candidates had their basic military skills ‘down cold’ before they began training for the Jedburgh teams. An instructor for initial training stated the candidates did everything they were asked and more with a nonchalant ease that allowed instructors to focus on specialized training rather than the foundational military training described today as, ‘shoot, move and communicate.’ Those who fell behind or otherwise were found to be unsuitable for various reasons were washed out during the initial training.
Upon arrival in England, all Jedburgh candidates were assessed again by the Brits, who released even more for various reasons of unsuitability.
The candidates were primarily already ‘parachute qualified’ but were retrained in parachute drops from a modified bomb bay door after arrival in England.
Hand to hand was taught by William E Fairbairn.
Primary weapons were the M1 carbine, the .45 caliber 1911 pistol, and the Fairbairn knives. Most training was done with the pistol and knife.
Their operations were successful to the following reasons:
o A large, well organized military supply train, communications network, intelligence network, and air arm supported their actions on call.
o Large amounts of local currency brought with them and air dropped as necessary to pay and support the local irregular force.
o The local population provided shelter, food, clothing, and whatever they could.
o The Jedburgh teams themselves displayed uncommon courage during contact with the German Wehrmacht and Gestapo units.
The teams had a unique way of calling, “Bullshit” on a speaker (or, in today’s case, those who might be trying to capitalize on their capabilities): The practice came from a legendary instance at Benning during jump school. A student had been dropped for 50 pushups, and counted them out. Near the end, the instructor heard, “48….49….50!” and as the student recovered, he said under his breath, “Some shit!” The Jeds would use this during en masse briefings for dry or otherwise boring subjects….one Jed, somewhere in the audience would yell, “48!”, another couple or so would join in with, “49!….50!” and the rest of the audience would loudly call, “SOME SHIT!” to the bewilderment of the speaker.
The above method is a good way to deal with anyone not able to prove they can train you to that level….during their sales pitch, you can always mimic the Jeds’ by starting out with, “48…”
As for the book itself, it’s an excellent read and shows what determination, courage, and the ability to operate for long periods of time with only the support of the local population can do for a war effort. Both Churchill and Eisenhower gave credit to the ‘resistance’ for significantly delaying German reinforcements from arriving in time at Normandy to thwart the Allied invasion of D-Day.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________ Commentary on the Review
SFC Steven M Barry USA RET
Most welcome is this fine book review about the Jedburghs. In a sane world it would put paid to “constitutional militia” dreamy delusions of recreating anything even remotely resembling the Jeds. But we’re not living in a sane world and in all likelihood the reaction of the dreamers will be to become yet more pertinacious in their claims that they will recreate something they could not have created in the first place – by reading the book.
This commentator on the review received an advanced review copy of the book The Jedburghs long before its 2005 publication (the original subtitle is slightly different). Thumbing through it at the time brought back many memories of this commentator’s early Unconventional Warfare education and training. What the reviewer emphasizes about the spotting and recruiting of military professionals, Assessment and Selection, training, chain of command, integration within and subordination to Theater level UW hierarchy (in their case SOE) unlimited service and support (i.e. logistics), etc., in other words everything “constitutional militias” (which are neither constitutional nor militias) don’t have and cannot create – except in their own heads and in their wildest fantasies – was wisely selected in favor over war stories which can only inflame “militia” self-selecting utopianism.
Particularly fun was the retelling of the Jed habit of tearing to sheds by ridicule and hooting those (non-OSS/SOE) staff officers of supporting services during pre-deployment OPORD briefs. The description brought back warm memories of Old SF ripping into supporting services briefers who frequently left the briefing room quite shaken. We invariably got our way. It wasn’t a game. We knew what was probable, what was possible and what was impossible. Woe befell those non-SF staff officers who briefed something merely possible – which meant it was probably impossible. This commentator cannot speak to how New SF (post 1982ish) treats such briefings; he has no experience being in an overqualified Ranger squad.
The reviewer of The Jedburghs makes a strong argument against those who, with incomprehensible hubris perfect ignorance and profound incompetence, would usurp both the name and the training and the operations of the Jeds. What, he asks, are the credentials of said usurpers? The answer of course is that they have no credentials whatsoever. Caveat emptor indeed.
By the way, if there is any question as to your “Constitutional Militia” status, read this, and feel free to comment with your credentials and “Constitutionally validating” authority. You don’t need the Constitution to give you permission to protect yourselves and your loved ones and if you think you do, you don’t understand the concept and practical application of rights as they pertain to reality. If you want to play “Jedburgh” I’d suggest you try here instead of someone’s distorted fantasy of what they think “Jedburgh” is, just based on the fact that they are “well read”. Mastery of the basics to the point of them being second nature makes a Commando, not a name or a wool hat. Be a Survivalist who is a “Jack of all Trades”, master of some (preferably the life saving and life protecting arts).
American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE.