How about other people? Did anyone quit?
I don’t remember anybody voluntarily quitting. A lot of them were encouraged to withdraw as a result of the ongoing assessment. But if they were still in the course when it became time to move to the next place, no one would say, “The following have been tasked for going on.” We were just told, “The following men would go over here and will get into that truck. The rest of you will go over here and get into that truck.” You never knew if you had been selected or if you were eliminated – certainly not at first. Eventually it was clear that the guys in the smaller groups were those being eliminated. The rest of us were going on to more difficult things to learn.
You had a memorable encounter with William Stephenson, Intrepid, in which your group hazed him. Describe that.
I remember that very well, and I have to say it is a source of embarrassment to me. I didn’t like that group action. My recollection is that it was started by John Gildee, who was one of the Jeds. I think he went all the way through. I’m not sure of that. I didn’t see him after Milton Hall, so I’m not sure. We had so many people who would come from Washington to see us. I guess the whole OSS program was attracting some attention in the city. These guys would come down and give us a pep talk and tell us what great people we were and what good things we were going to do. So the response to that, in a very crude way, was for someone to call off, “No. 48” and then some others would say “No. 49’ and a larger number would say “50” and then all would say “some shit.”
And we did it to some people who I think didn’t really need the hazing. Stephenson was the first one of that group who got the treatment. I really was embarrassed about it, personally. No one asked me if I was embarrassed, but I certainly would have told them had I been asked.
Later on, when we were at Milton Hall, we did it in French. And we did it to some people who I think didn’t really need the hazing. Stephenson was the first one of that group who got the treatment. I really was embarrassed about it, personally. No one asked me if I was embarrassed, but I certainly would have told them had I been asked.
After training in the U.S. was completed, you were shipped to Scotland where you were trained under the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Describe that.
First of all, the training in the U.S. and Scotland was individual-type training. There was no team training at this time, even though we had formed temporary teams that were rotated at an hourly basis or something. In Scotland, we trained with British weapons: Bren gun, Sten gun, pistols, and the British demolitions, that were quite different from American demolitions. For the first time in my experience, and I think with most of the Jeds, this was where training included having the students shot at.
With live ammunition?
With live ammunition, that’s right. They had some of the best shots in the British army detailed to them. Say you were doing an individual practice mission, like crawling up a slope. They would have a sniper, well camouflaged, up at the top so that you couldn’t see him. He would watch you and if you got into places where you obviously shouldn’t be, he would fire a round and bounce it off a rock near you. Well, that was unnerving. But it’s quite clear that once you’ve experienced a lot of that … if you’re not hit, you know you’re not hit. You just ignore the gunfire, go on, and get the mission done. They also did that to us later when we were taking city combat training in some of the bombed out neighborhoods in London that had been converted into training facilities for this sort of exercise. They also did it in the rubber boat training – splash a burst close enough so that you could see as well as hear it hit the water. You always wondered how those bullets could ricochet off the surface of the water.
What was your most memorable moment during this training?
For me, they used stag hunting as a training device. We were authorized to go in a small group and shoot a stag. These are large, almost like an elk. And so a group of about five under an instructor would go out each with his own rifle. The instructor carried the ammunition. When it was your turn, he gave you a round, which you chambered, and then we would all have to sneak up quietly onto the stag – it was all things that as a hunter I knew, but I had never practiced in this way.
Describe Maj. Bill Sykes, another important individual in the training of the Jeds.
Well, as opposed to Maj. Fairbairn, Bill Sykes was shorter and he was stockier. He had absolutely white hair. He looked like a padre. And you might think that he was until he opened his mouth and said, “Well, you don’t leave the evil brute there to suffer, you bash ’is brains out with the ’eel of your boot!” That was when you realized that he was not only British, but he was also a tough guy, too.
He set up a knife-fighting course using a series of dummies that would be swung by various people. You had to run through this gauntlet without the dummy swinging into you, without getting your knife point first into the dummy.
He is the one who really introduced us to the concept of – that made us practice instinctive shooting, and knife fighting. He set up a knife-fighting course using a series of dummies that would be swung by various people. You had to run through this gauntlet without the dummy swinging into you, without getting your knife point first into the dummy. He also had places where we would go into an enclosure in subdued light that he had bullet-proofed. You would go through and in the very dim light a target would appear and we had to put two rounds into it. Without aiming – just pointing it instinctively. That was really a great thing to learn. It caused you to have such confidence in your ability to take care of yourself in the event you should encounter an enemy during your mission that you don’t spend a lot of time on the encounter. Your focus is on your mission and how you’re going to accomplish your mission, knowing full well that if somebody tries to interfere, you’ve got the skills to get the drop on him to take him out. I used that training in infantry units I later commanded – particularly with all the Ranger units.
The Jedburghs had undoubtedly the most diverse group of individuals in its ranks. Who among them made the strongest impression on you?
Well, Maj. Adrian Wise and I became very good friends. He was a Royal Warwickshire who had volunteered and conducted some commando raids in Norway. And, there was a Scotsman named Tommy MacPherson who was a captain at that time. He had been on a commando raid into the North African desert to take out Gen. Rommel. He was captured. He made four escape attempts. On the fourth time, he was able to get away. He made it to a north German port where he got a fishing boat and eventually made his way to Sweden. We became good friends.
Another one, who became a good friend of my Team James teammate Jacques le Bel de Penguilly, was a French officer by the name of Michel de Bourbon. He is a descendent of the royal Bourbon family and I think his father or uncle was the pretender to the French throne. Michel was one of the Frenchmen who happened to be in the country when the Jedburghs were formed. Several of them came in through an arrangement with the SOE.