Back to the ’40s, last OSS OG’er tabbed

| September 4, 2023

“Let’s go back to the 50’s, when it was hip to be hep to be cool to be popular, to be teenaged and going steady” – NGDB. OK, I lied – we’re headed to the ’40s.

Jeff LPH turned me on to the “Jedburgh Teams”, of whom I had never heard. The Jedburgh teams were small international teams ideally consisting of an American OSS Special Operations agent, a UK Special Operations Executive (SOE), and one or two others, usually French Maquis.  They were dropped into occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands to harass and interfere with German troops immediately before and after D-Day.

The Americans, neophytes in this type of warfare, leaned heavily on their British counterparts’ experience. The results were the teams not only copied the British in the manner that they were selected, trained, and utilized, but they matched the Brits’ operational success as well.

These Special Operations teams were at the forefront of the Allied advances in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands and supported conventional troops by coordinating parachute drops of supplies and weapons, guide local resistance fighters on hit-and-run raids and ambushes as well as sabotage.

The Jedburgh teams received extensive foreign language instruction, as well as training in airborne and amphibious operations, skiing, mountain climbing, Morse code, small arms, land navigation, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, and espionage tactics. Each Jedburgh team carried a communications radio, the Type B, Mark 2 commonly referred to as a “Jed Set,” which encased in a suitcase and later two small containers.

This is BEFORE “more portable PRC radios… two suitcases? .

Ninety-three Jedburgh teams parachuted into France to help with the Normandy invasion, the first, the night before D-Day and later into Southern France for the follow-on invasion there in August 1944. Six more jumped into Holland prior to the large airborne invasion in September. Among those Jedburgh team members were Aaron Bank, considered the Father of the US Army Special Forces, and William Colby the future head of the CIA.


Very few people were selected. A post-war accounting put the number at 276 of which 83 were Americans. There were also 90 British and 103 French troops. The most typical team size was three, but all teams were required to have at least a commander and a radio operator.

A roster of team members is at

After the war the OSS was disbanded. Its functions were later assumed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Army Special Forces (or Green Berets).

SF History

Per the CIA, Jedburgh is a Scots town from which raiders plagued the English in the 1100s – it’s south of Edinburgh.

T4 Johnson, top right

Friday, Ellsworth Johnson, age 100, was presented with a Special Forces tab and Green Beret at his nursing home in Zeeland, MI. Mr. Johnson, formerly a Tech$ medic, is believed to be the last survivor of the OSS  Operational Groups, who even predate the Jedburghs.

Army special operations leaders presented a Special Forces tab and the iconic green beret Friday morning to a man believed to be the last living member of their World War II Office of Strategic Services’ Operations Group predecessors, known as OGs.

Technician 4th Grade Ellsworth “Al” Johnson, now 100, was a medic who parachuted into France and China with the OGs. The ceremony took place in Zeeland, Michigan, where Johnson resides today in a nursing home. Army Special Operations Command’s deputy commander, Maj. Gen. Patrick Roberson, and 1st Special Forces Command leader Brig. Gen. Gil Ferguson presented the tab and beret.

“He laid the groundwork for what we are today,” Roberson said during the ceremony, which the veteran’s family attended. “Everything that he did in 1944 — we model ourselves on in our training and the operations that we conduct. [It’s our] origin story.”

Each OSS OG was roughly 34 soldiers — a four-man command element and two 15-soldier sections that could operate independently. These groups provided a blueprint for future units, according to historical research by Army special operations officials, who noted that today’s Special Forces A-teams resemble the WWII-era OG sections.


Mr. Johnson said he volunteered for hazardous duty because he wanted to not be a “bedpan jockey.”

On Johnson’s first mission, his unit, OG Patrick, successfully captured a dam in Central France after jumping behind German lines in August 1944, according to historical reports. They achieved this by linking up with the French Resistance and successfully convincing the dam’s German garrison to abandon its post.

After his unit’s success in France, Johnson and many of his peers volunteered to jump into China in July 1945 with Chinese paratroopers of the 2nd Chinese Commando that they’d trained. They led an assault on a Japanese garrison that inflicted significant casualties on the enemy but failed to take the town. A medical history report said Johnson successfully stabilized and evacuated wounded troops, including two Americans, while waiting for a doctor to arrive.

After the Japanese surrender in August 1945, Johnson and his fellow OSS troops made their way out of Asia and back to America, where he was discharged from the service. He went on to have a successful career in the cosmetics industry, according to an Army report.

I am thinking this makes him the oldest man ever to be tabbed? Respect, sir.


Category: Army, None, War Stories, WWII

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Rest in peace. This old petroleum supply specialist is humbled yet again.



Al was still alive this past Friday, 1 September 2023, when he was awarded his SF Tab and Green Beret…😉😎


BTW, Wilson, were you POL in the Army? Air Force?

Training at Fort Lee? US Army Quartermaster Corps?

Thank You for sharing your Military Service experience with us!



Army … At the time the MOS was 77F but I think I read that that has changed.

Yes, Fort Leonard Wood basic, Fort Lee AIT, 3rd ACR when it was at Fort Bliss (89-92)


Last I checked it was 92F (CMF 92 being Quartermaster Corps). We had one in my small group in Recruiter School (after a couple of weeks of learning regs and such, they break the class down to groups of 10 or so for individual instructors to continue teaching). He ended up becoming the Station Commander at my former office a year or so after I left. You see that a lot with the CMF 92 and CMF 88 (Transportation) MOS’. It’s hard to make E7, so they volunteer for recruiting duty and then convert to 79R (Career Recruiter).


I remember during my time, the cutoff score for E5 was always 998. It didn’t affect me since my plan from my first meeting with the recruiter was just one enlistment but a lot of my squad mates either had to change MOS or just said the heck with it and ETS’d.


David and Jeff: Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story.

Al’s wife, Jeanette (Jean) lived to be 100 years young. She and Al were married for 74 years.

She was a Cougar (Al was born 5 July 1923)….She went by the nickname
“Only a Sinner Saved by Grace”…

She passed away in 2021:

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Quite a looker even at that advanced young age.
And I’d be willing to bet that she had a joyful attitude to match.
RIP, m’am.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

Thanks ninja, When I heard about Al getting the tab, I remembered the Jedburghs which I had found about the group a number of years ago. we used to go up to the Baywinds in West Palm Beach, Fl. to see the Broadway Shows that the residents who were members of the TAG (theater acting group) put on and their Italien night. We went to the Italien night dinner ,dancing and while going into the large room, their was an artist easel with a picture of the guy who ran the shows and was a retired music teacher. I looked at the WW2 medals and small photographs and had an article that he was a Jedburgh radio operator. Most of the people who lived there knew this because one night, there was a meeting with anyone who wanted to tell what they did during the wars we had. Next day I looked up the Jedburghs and was able to get the team members on the teams and their was the guys name and radio operater. I should have copied and printed the papers but didn’t. the other day, I got the team names off of the PC but a McNafee window popped up with a suspicious site window so I didn’t make any copies. First time I did it, I didn’t get any warnings. I don’t remember the name but if I was able to look at the list, I would see it.


This probably won’t help, but the Center of Military History has this: World War II Special Operations Forces, CODE AND COVER NAMES (

jeff LPH 3 63-66

CORK Code name for SGT N. E. Franklin, American radio operator of JEDBURGH team ALEXANDER.

Am 100% sure it is the name of the TAG club member in the West Palm Beach Fl. Baywinds community. I emailed the new TAG director to confirm the name. Thanks 2176


“Fighting Soldiers From The Sky…”

Salute, Mr. Johnson!


Al’s 1941 High School yearbook picture.



Great story. Thanks for the research that goes into these stories.

Hazardous duty guaranteed is quite the understatement.


Damn shame it took this long to recognize the accomplishments of this man, and others like him.



Last of a truly special group of heroes. I read Aaron Bank’s book years ago and might still have it somewhere. I guess in this day and age I can just buy the digital edition. Let’s see: From Oss to Green Beret: Aaron Bank: 9780671639235: Books

Maybe not, I need to start digging through the garage at those prices… I’m pretty certain I paid $1 or so for my paperback copy 25 years ago.

I was part of the second Escort element for the funeral of LTG William P. Yarbrough, who is considered one of the founders of Special Forces, along with COL Bank. LTG Yarbrough designed the Parachutist’s Wings along with the jump boots and uniform.

Mr. Johnson and his breed were pioneers in Special Operations. Much like the Korean War-era Rangers, every member of the predecessor teams to modern Special Forces should have been awarded the Long Tab during their lifetimes. Without men like Johnson, there’d be no Lauri Torni’s or Robert Howard’s wearing the Green Beret. Nor would we have our pop culture icon of Rambo.


WEB Griffin and his pseudonym Alex Baldwin (not to be confused with I didn’t pull the trigger Alec) included a number of stories of the OSS in his novels including the Men at War Series and the Corp series. While these were historical fiction they prompted me to do some research into the underlying stories.

If you haven’t read them do so,

His Brotherhood of War series gives a great background on the post WWII of special forces and Army aviation as it is today.


All excellent books. I haven’t read the Men at War or Brotherhood of War books since before I enlisted, but the way Griffin followed the main characters from WWII through Vietnam was nice. Historical fiction or not, they showed how that very unique group of men, some of whom earned three awards of the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, might have progressed in their careers from the still somewhat traditional 1940s Army fighting conventional battles, to The Berets and The Aviators using new tactics (tested by Mr. Johnson’s generation) and equipment to fight ever-evolving unconventional battles.

Unrelated to a degree, but Once an Eagle is a book I recommend that follows a similar path, albeit in one exceptionally long book instead of a series. Anyone who’s served knows at least one Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale. It used to be on the Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List but has probably been replaced by books from Ibram X. Kendi and others.


If you get the chance and can find it. There was a TV mini-series based on Myrer’s Once an Eagle… Sam Elliot starred as Sam Damon.


Even though I was a lowly soldier, I enjoyed Griffin’s “The Corps” series. I Used to delude myself that under different circumstances I could have been “Killer” McCoy or even Jack (NMI) Stecker.


I’d have to look in the basement to check the books, but I believe I have all of the WEB Griffin books, other than the ones about the Philly PD. Great stories.


David, since you are interested in this subject, you should read Col. Aaron Bank’s book. It is or was available in paperback. I had a copy at some point. It contains his story in the OSS and his service on a Jedburgh team, including photos of fake identity papers. Col. Bank was the first commander of the 10th Special Forces Group.

The suitcase radio in your pic was the predecessor of the AN/GRC-109 radio set, which was still use in SF groups in the 1970’s. In fact, I had its hand-crank generator packed in my ruck when my ODA pilot team jumped into Southern Germany on dark and moonless night in 1973.