Army Col. Shirly Ray Trumps; Led Commando Units in WWII
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Shirly Ray Trumps, 84, a retired Army colonel who led commando operations behind German lines in support of the Normandy invasion, died of lymphocytic leukemia Nov. 15 at his home in Annandale.
Born along the Bayou Teche in Breaux Bridge, La., in the heart of Louisiana's French-speaking Cajun parishes, he joined the Army in 1940 as a member of the Louisiana National Guard and was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry in 1942. On a weekend pass to Washington in 1943, he heard that the Army was searching for French-speaking volunteers to train for special missions. He applied for and became part of the Office of Strategic Services mission called Operation Jedburgh.
Organized into three-man teams, the Jedburgh men were from the British, U.S. and French armies and were trained to harass, disrupt and kill German troops, clearing the way for Allied forces advancing across occupied France.
Then-Lt. Trumps was the youngest and least experienced of about 86 officers in the program, a group of men that included future CIA Director William Colby, future Maj. Gen. John Singlaub and Col. Aaron Bank, founder of the Army's Special Forces.
"The only thing I had over them was I spoke French better than most," he told Jason P. Theriot, author of "To Honor Our Veterans: An Oral History of World War II Veterans from the Bayou Country" (2005).
The Jeds, as they were called -- Jedburgh was a castle in Scotland -- also were expected to meet up with French resistance forces, known as the Maquis, and organize the loose-knit units into cohesive fighting forces. The multinational teams included a U.S. or a British officer, an enlisted radio operator and at least one soldier fluent in the local language.
On the night of Aug. 4, 1944, after nine months of training in demolition and other guerrilla tactics at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda and Milton Hall in England, Lt. Trumps and his team took off from a British airfield in a Liberator bomber. They carried with them two parting gifts from the Allied command: a flask of British rum to fortify their nerves for the nighttime jump and cyanide capsules in case they were captured.
Landing in an isolated meadow on the west coast of Brittany, the paratroopers quickly gathered up their equipment. As Col. Trumps recalled for Theriot's oral history, he had with him two grenades, a dagger, a carbine rifle, a pistol, a canteen and rations, a compass and a silk map of the region. He also had money for food, clothing and bribes. Almost immediately, his team hooked up with Maquis fighters and led them in the defeat and capture of a 400-man garrison of the elite German 2nd Parachute Division in Quimper.
A few days later, the team was making its way south when it ran into an enemy patrol in a small French town.
"At this time, all hell broke loose," Col. Trumps told Theriot. "We began throwing grenades and firing. . . . The Maquis troops were all in position in houses, and I don't think one German escaped."
The team also participated in the battle of Concarneau, where Lt. Trumps was wounded in action and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for valor in combat operations.
He returned to England in September 1944 and then was reassigned to the Office of Strategic Services center in Kunming, China. In April 1945, he conducted his second combat parachute operation, leading a five-man team into French Indochina. Japanese forces ambushed the unit, although in the ensuing firefight, then-Capt. Trumps and his men managed to escape.
He remained in the Army after World War II and served as a commander and staff officer during several counterintelligence assignments in the United States and overseas. His overseas assignments included service in Japan, Germany, France, Ivory Coast, West Africa and Belgium. In 1968-69, he served as director of counterintelligence at Military Assistance Command, Vietnam headquarters in Saigon. He retired in 1975.
Col. Trumps's military awards included the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. He received an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Maryland in 1956 and a master's degree in international affairs from American University in 1964.
In retirement, he enjoyed golfing, fishing and spending time at the family beach house in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. He was an original parishioner of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Annandale.
Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Katherine "Kitty" Trumps of Annandale; five children, Gail T. Wells of Houston, Steve P. Trumps of Lafayette, La., Thomas H. Trumps of Bristow, Eric J. Trumps of Raleigh, N.C., and Keith A. Trumps of Annandale; 13 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.