The first contingent of some 200 volunteers who had been selected to form the French Operational Group completed OG training at Area F in the fall of 1943, and Major (later Lt. Col.) Alfred T. Cox who had been the Chief of OG training at Area F was then designated commanding officer of that Group. In filling out the projected T/O for overseas assignment for the unit, Major Cox included many of the personnel from the Area F teaching staff, the quartermaster/supply unit, communications unit and medical unit to establish a complete operational group to include a Field Service Headquarters Unit (FSHQ).
The French OGs were ready for deployment. But circumstances similar to those which the Italian OGs experienced before they embarked in August 1943 were again causing delays, while the military leaders in each command needed to be briefed and familiarized with the OG operational concept. As a part of that process to sell the OG concept, a section of the French OGs participated in a combined Airborne maneuver in North Carolina in December 1943 as a demonstration.
Meanwhile, to utilize the extra time to advantage and to avoid a waning of morale, the group was sent to Area B, a CCC Camp near Quantico Virginia which had been taken over for wartime use by OSS. Training at that site provided opportunity to use operational practices they had earlier worked out but in a different locale and environment. Also further concentration was given to physical fitness as well as giving special attention to what could be used in that locale if necessary to "live off the land."
In December the Group went to Camp Hale, Colorado for ski training. Upon their arrival at Camp Hale word was received that the group had been ordered for attachment to the Seventh Army in Algiers. On 1 January 1944 Major Cox and his executive officer departed by military air transport as the advance party to establish facilities for the Group to be near that headquarters in Algiers.
Crossing the Atlantic by ship convoy, the Group found its North African base in February 1944 at Domaine de la Trappe, a site near Algiers where Trappist Monks had managed extensive vineyards at an earlier period. While there awaiting operational deployment the group undertook parachute jump training at the nearby OSS parachute school, using both American and British equipment; and to practice jump techniques for parachuting from bombers through an opening in the airplane belly where normally the gunner's turret would be.
Major Cox was concerned and very mindful of the need to keep the men active to avoid any drop off of morale, and as a part of such effort organized additional field training for the Group in the Atlas Mountains. Plans were also being explored to conduct operations with the French Foreign Legion at its base in that area, but before the latter could be arranged, the call came to prepare for the first OG operation into southern France in support of the June 6th Normandy invasion.
Soon thereafter, two additional French Groups arrived in Algiers for parachute jump training at the OSS parachute school before proceeding to England where, under the command of Lt. Colonel Serge Obolenski, they would join the Norwegian OG unit stationed there under administrative control of OSS Special Operations. Working together they would become the second French OG unit to operate in France; and on August 1, 1944 their first section parachuted into France.
The England-to-France Group operated north of Lyons,with the Algiers-to France Group operating in southern France south of the Lyons level. Combined, the French OGs deployed a total of twenty teams into France.
The missions assigned to
all French OGs were:
French Operational Group,
Summary compiled by Art Frizzell and John Hamblet.