Jason Bourne first appeared in Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity (published in 1980). Ludlum went on to write two additional Jason Bourne novels: The Bourne Supremacy (1986) and The Bourne Ultimatum (1990). Several sequels have been subsequently written by Eric Van Lustbader, including the most recent: The Bourne Dominion (2011) and The Bourne Imperative (2012).

Of course, Jason Bourne has also appeared in several feature films, including The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and The Bourne Legacy (2012). Besides the beginning of The Bourne Identity film, the movies do not parallel the Bourne books.
Below is some of the most detailed information available on Jason Bourne, including his origins (as David Webb), Medusa, Treadstone 71 & Carlos the Jackal, Jason Bourne's amnesia, and even links to each of the Bourne series books.

Jason Bourne's Origins

Jason Bourne never existed. The original Jason Bourne was a traitor, a drifter from Tasmania, executed on March 25, 1968 by Delta One in the jungles of Tam Quan (see Medusa below). Delta would later take on the name. The Bourne identity was a fabrication. Before there was a Bourne identity, and even before Delta One, there was David Webb.

David Webb was a young American career foreign service officer, specializing in Far Eastern affairs. Webb had a family - a Thai wife (Dao), a toddler son (Joshua), and an infant daughter (Alyssa).
Jason Bourne - Agency Priority

Bourne's Tortured Past & Medusa

As mentioned, David Webb was a foreign service officer specializing in Asian affairs. He was a multilingual, very bright academic. During the Vietnam War, Webb and his family were stationed in Phnom Penh (the capital of Cambodia), living in a house on the outskirts, near the Mekong River. One Sunday afternoon while his wife and children were down by the river, a fighter plane dropped two bombs and strafed the area. [Note: According to Ludlum's original story, Bourne was the one to find their bodies in the water, making this indescribable experience even worse. However, according to Eric Van Lustbader's "Legacy version" (written over 20 years later), Bourne was away at work when he learned what happened. Hence, he never saw the bodies (especially that of his son, Joshua). This is what enables the entire premise of the 4th Jason Bourne book, the Bourne Legacy. Still, we'll stick with Ludlum's original version.]

After this life-altering trauma, David Webb went to Alex Conklin in Saigon and volunteered to join a top secret group called Medusa. Medusa was a clandestine extreme of the search-and-destroy concept, designed to operate behind enemy lines during the Vietnam war. Units of American, French, British, Australian and native volunteers were formed to function in territories occupied by the North Vietnamese. Their goals were to disrupt enemy communications and supply lines, pinpoint prison camps and to assassinate local known collaborators with the Communists, as well as the enemy commanders when possible.” In addition to military personnel, there was a sizable faction of criminals who wanted an alternative to prison or execution.

Since Medusa operated outside of the confines of international law, it could not be connected to (or even associated with) the US government. 

He was the coldest man I ever saw, the most dangerous, and utterly unpredictable." Once a peaceful academic, Bourne became the most effective and lethal member of Medusa. In Medusa, no real names were used. Henceforth, David Webb would be known only as Delta, or Delta One.

Bourne, Carlos, and Treadstone 71

After surviving Medusa and the Vietnam War, and having developed a very unique set of skills, Bourne (still Delta One) was recruited by Alex Conklin to join a new, ultra-secret operation: Treadstone 71. Treadstone was created by a handful of American CIA spies, and named after it's training base on New York's East 71th Street. Chief among those spies was David Abbott, nicknamed The Monk (as he was considered the Silent Monk of Covert Operations).

Treadstone 71 had only one objective: to weed out, trap, and kill the world's most menacing assassin-for-hire: Carlos the Jackal (born Ilich Ramírez Sánchez). Interestingly, Carlos the Jackal is a real person.

The strategy was clear, but it was also anything but simple. Through some clever maneuvering and disinformation, Webb, now Medusa's  Delta One, would become Jason Bourne, an up-and-coming international assassin for hire (a fabricated identity) who operated expertly out of Asia. If someone of importance was killed (even if they died of natural causes), Bourne would take the credit. He was immediately flown to the area, evidence was planted, and the rumors began - rumors which quickly became the stuff of legend in the underworld of international espionage. Moreover, Bourne even took credit for a number of assassination contracts completed by Carlos himself.

During his rigorous training at Treadstone, Bourne learned every known fact about Carlos, his operations, his methods, and so on. Carlos operated mainly out of Europe and the Middle East. Eventually, Bourne would move into Europe (the Jackal's territory) and attempt to outdo the Jackal in every way. The assassin Jason Bourne would take on yet another alias: Cain (see below for an explanation).

The idea was to force Carlos, whose abilities were outmatched only by his ego, to come after Jason Bourne (Cain), and expose himself "long enough to put a bullet in his head".

"Alpha, Bravo, Cain, Delta ...

Cain is for Charlie, and Delta is for Cain.

Get Carlos. Trap Carlos...

Kill Carlos!"

The above incantation was drilled into the mind of David Webb (Jason Bourne) so thoroughly, it was one of the only things he could remember clearly during the early parts of his amnesia. Here's what it means:
  • Alpha, Bravo (and so on) is the phonetic alphabet used by the US military.
  • In the Bourne Identity, the code word for the letter C was changed from Charlie to Cain after the Vietnam War (due to the connotation of "Charlie" which was used as a shortening of V-C, or Viet Cong).
  • The Spanish name Carlos is the equivalent of the English Charlie.
  • Delta (Bourne's codename in Medusa) would now become Cain, as he moved to Europe to antagonize the Jackal.
  • And just as Cain replaced Charlie in the phonetic alphabet, so Cain (Bourne's adopted codename, after moving from Asia to Europe) would replace Carlos.
  • The rest is fairly straightforward (get, trap, and kill Carlos).
Jason Bourne
Birth name: David Webb
Known Aliases: 
-Delta One (Medusa)
-Jason Charles Bourne
-Cain (Identity)
-John Michael Kane (films)
-George P. Washburn (Identity)
-Mr. Cruet (Supremacy)
-Dan Little (Legacy)
-The Chameleon 
-The Patient (Identity)
-The Man Without a Name (Identity)
-Marie St. Jacques Webb (wife)
-Jamie Webb (son with Marie)
-Alison Webb (daughter with Marie)
-Gordon Webb (brother, deceased)
-John St. Jacques (brother-on-law)
-Dao Webb (first wife, deceased)
-Joshua Webb (first son, AKA Khan, Legacy)
-Alyssa Webb (first daughter, deceased)

The Latest Jason Bourne News 

As Cain, Bourne moved to Europe and began to plant the seeds of the ultimate competition to Carlos, as someone who could soon take his place as Europe’s top assassin for hire. Again, the strategy being to play on Carlos’ ego – enrage him to the point where he would come after Cain (Bourne), and expose himself long enough to be eliminated.

For three years, Bourne immersed himself in the lie - he became Cain. No contact was made with friends or family (of which he had none). Alex Conklin was his only sporadic contact with the U.S., his only reminder that he was not actually the assassin he was pretending to be. No one, not even the U.S. government, knew Cain (Bourne) was in reality a U.S. agent. In fact, during the time that Bourne would live this false life, American agencies actually used vast resources to try and capture "Bourne" - in fact, after Carlos, Bourne was their top priority target. 

Jason Bourne’s Amnesia

During a mission-gone-wrong on a boat in the Mediterranean, Bourne is shot numerous times in the body and head. He is found unconscious, clutching a piece of floating driftwood, by French fishermen, who deliver him, nearly dead, to an alcoholic British doctor. Over the next many weeks, Jason Bourne begins to recover physically, yet he has no memory of his past. He is merely known as the Patient, or the Man without a name. His training, however, has left him with certain “hard-wired” skills. He is multilingual, he is extremely resourceful and cunning, and he is deadly.

Bourne’s new life mission, his obsession, is to find out the truth about who he is (who he was). Over the next few weeks, Jason Bourne follows every possible shred of a lead and uses all of his abilities and cunning to find out more about his past.

It turns out, however, that his past is filled with darkness, deceit, and violence. And, the closer he gets to finding out the truth, the more dangerous his mission becomes. Bourne soon finds out that he is the subject of more than one manhunt: 

Carlos, the assassin he was meant to find, knows much of the truth about Bourne and has an army of helpers trying to trap, and kill, Bourne. 

At the same time, his own government (at least, those who know him from Treadstone), thinks he has turned, and is also trying to capture and kill him.

All of this is happening to a man who has no recollection of who is trying to kill him, and more importantly, why. To put it mildly, Jason Bourne is at a slight disadvantage. Nevertheless, Bourne continues to push forward, constantly reminding himself to “Move!” and not to give in to the anguish. But Jason has one advantage, and it’s a big one: he calls on his deadly, but effective skills – a set of skills that will certainly come in handy.

I'll take him, Marie! I swear 'I'll take him and we'll have our life again. It's David and I love you so! I need you so!

Stop it! There are no people, only objectives. No emotions, only targets and kills and men to be eliminated who stand in the way. I have no use for you, Webb. You're soft and I despise you. Listen to Delta - listen to Jason Bourne!

Jason Bourne, taking control from David Webb (The Bourne Supremacy). 

The Jason Bourne Books

Below are links to each of Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne series books, in order (starting with The Bourne Identity). Hover over each book to get the details. Click on a book to buy it on Amazon.com, or click on the book title to visit that book's page.