The four years of Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1944 surely rank as one of the most painful periods in France’s long history. Beyond the dread of having the Germans roll over the five-million-strong French army in six weeks, taking more than 1.8 million French prisoners of war in the process, the demoralized country suddenly found German troops on every street corner. And while the Germans confiscated homes, offices, and wine cellars, a few very embittered French women and men took up arms and formed grassroots resistance cells around the country to create whatever mischief they could.
In the summer of 1944, as the Allies made brutally slow headway in liberating France, teams of paratroopers—including French officers—were dropped behind enemy lines to coordinate guerrilla operations with resistance leaders and communicate intelligence reports via radio to headquarters in England. In No Bridges Blown: With the OSS Jedburghs in Nazi-Occupied France, United States infantry officer William Dreux memorializes his riveting experiences on one of those teams in Brittany, led by Major Jeanpaul, a distinguished French officer who had escaped imprisonment at Dunkirk to battle Rommel’s Africa Korps. While it’s not the tale of intrigue and blown bridges-type espionage he imagined when signed up the paratrooping assignment, Dreux’s beautifully rendered depiction of Jeanpaul’s sense of decency and honor—in light of his country’s failures at the outset of the war—is unique and revelatory for projects of this kind.
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