Léon Gautier, the last French survivor of the Normandy landings, died at 100

France has just lost one of its heroes: Léon Gautier was known to be one of the Frenchmen to have participated in the Normandy landings during the Second World War. He was the sole survivor of his iconic commando.

June 6, 1944 is a date engraved in history, and for good reason: it is that of the Normandy landings, led by the Americans to counter the Nazi yoke. A black day repeated many times in the cinema since and which we have all heard of: did you know that a whole commando of French people had taken part in it?

Léon Gautier was one of them and was also known to be the last survivor of the 177 Frenchmen to have made the Landing in recent years. After several nights of hospitalization, his death was unfortunately confirmed in Caen at the age of 100.

When war was declared, Léon Gautier was only 17 years old and he did not particularly like the Germans, after the sordid experience of the First World War shared by his family. “I was a patriot, we were coming out of the First World War, we didn’t think well of the Germans, we called them the Boches. My father, my grandfather, were veterans of the First World War, we had hatred Germans, not just Hitler.” , he said.

He then decided to enlist in the armed forces, those of the marine riflemen. In February 1940, he was one of the last French soldiers to leave the country, just before the occupation. He finally arrives near Liverpool, England, to join the local army built by General De Gaulle.

Three years later and after numerous missions, he finally joined the Kieffer commando, attached to the English and made up of French soldiers. Their mission? Take part in the Normandy landings and take back as much French land as possible. Despite the extreme risks, all the soldiers of the commando went on a mission. Only 24 men did not end up injured or killed out of the 177 soldiers on the team.

After the war, Léon Gautier finally took some time… to find his way in society. In France, the reintegration into civilian life was difficult, so much so that he finally left for the United Kingdom to spend many years there, taking advantage of excellent relations with the English and becoming a workshop foreman.

In the 90s, the war hero will finally return to France, to Ouistreham, in Normandy , to spend his retirement there with his wife. In recent years, Léon Gautier had become a true symbol of the Landings, present at the various commemorations. And above all, the Frenchman knew how to bury the hatchet despite his initial anger against the Germans, as he declared to France 3:

“Peace, we must do everything to keep it. There are fathers of families who die, widows and children who cry, mothers who mourn their son. War is not beautiful, whether it is one side or the other. Don’t forget that the enemy is going through the same thing. They have families, too. War is about killing people. And killing people is not a pleasure. Me, when they surrendered, I was happy.”

He thus appeared in a photo with his German friend Johannes Borner, a meeting that was necessarily strong given his military experience. An example for many!

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