The last surviving D-day veteran of the 177 soldiers Kieffer commando, Léon Gautier, died Monday aged 100.
Leon Gautier was an apprentice mechanic when World War II broke out.
His young age left him only one option: to join the National Navy. He was then recruited as a gunner and helped defend the port of Cherbourg aboard the battleship Courbet. Subsequently, he served on the submarine cruiser “Surcouf” until January 1941, when he joined a unit of fusiliers-marins.
In 1943, he learned of the creation of a British elite unit open to French volunteers and succeeds the dreaded commando course of Achnacarry. He then integrates the Troop 8 of the 1st battalion of Fusiliers Marins Commandos, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Philippe Kieffer. He landed in Normandy alongside his 176 comrades - youngest of them all.
Grand Officer of the Légion d’honneur, Léon Gautier was awarded the Médaille militaire, the Order of the British Empire, the War Cross with two citations, the Medal of Resistance, the Cross of the Volunteer Fighter and the Commemorative Medal for Voluntary Service in Free France.
« Je ne suis pas un héros. Le héros, c’est le copain qui est mort à côté de moi. »
After the war, he became a campaigner for peace, pointing to his wartime experiences.
“You kill people on the other side who never did anything to you, who have families, and children. For what?” he said during a celebration for his 100th birthday last year.