Editor’s Note: The terms resistant, partisan, maquis, and maquisard are used interchangeably in this article to identify members of the anti-German paramilitary Resistance in France during World War II. The term maquis refers to a piece of wild, bushy land found in Corsica. During the war, beginning in eastern France, it was used to refer to groups of irregulars who had organized themselves to fight the Germans. By 1944, this usage had become common throughout France.
“You do not recognize me, do you?” asked the gentleman opposite. I had to admit I did not. He continued: “You knew me as ‘Emile’; it was I who met you the night you parachuted into France with the SAS. My men and I moved away from that spot in the Forêt de Duault as soon as possible. Security was abominable. I don’t know how any of you survived!”
Here we were, 40 years later, at the home of Simone Auffret in the Breton town of St. Nicolas du Pelem where, with other veterans of the wartime Resistance, we were celebrating that anniversary. My mind went back many years to the months of frantic activity as our team worked to help build an effective paramilitary force in the Departement of the Côtes-du-Nord. The success of the mission and our very survival were owed to a handful of persons such as Emile and Simone, together with the lessons of experience and considerable good luck.
These thoughts led me to write this personal history, drawing on memory, some old notes, and the recollections of conversations over the years with former associates from the French Resistance. I have a copy of the official team report, consisting largely of the end-of-mission debriefing of Maj. Adrian Wise, our team leader. In the few places where my recollection differs from the report, I rely on memory. This is seldom a problem because I concentrate on the day-to-day details of our work, whereas the report is concerned with the military operations and their impact. I have included excerpts from a number of the radio messages transmitted and received which are contained in the team report. They are invaluable for imparting the sense of excitement and danger that permeated the mission.
Editor’s Note: Robert R. Kehoe passed away in Boulder, CO, in August 2020 at 98 years of age. He would join CIA in 1949, retiring in 1984 after serving to train many future officers in CIA’s ranks on the Soviet Union and Communist China. In September 2017, Studies published his article, “WW II Intelligence Culture Shock: From Europe to China–An OSS Veteran’s Reflections” in Studies 61, No. 3).