Last Member of Elite D-Day Unit Dies at 100

  • Léon Gautier served as a member of the Kieffer Commando unit.
  • The 100-year-old died on July 3. 
  • Gautier was one of 177 French green berets to storm Normandy beaches.
  • D-Day went down in history as the beginning of the end of Hitler’s regime.

( – On June 6, 2023, Léon Gautier joined French President Emmanuel Macron at a ceremony that marked the 79th anniversary of D-Day landings. The event took place in Colleville-Montgomery, a seaside community next to the spot where Gautier and others landed on that pivotal day during WWII. Gautier was the last remaining survivor of France’s commandos, making the day even more special.

Less than a month later, Gautier passed away.

A Hero

Gautier was just 21 when he landed on Sword Beach in 1944. He and other service members were met by a hail of gunfire from soldiers under Adolf Hitler’s control. He was a member of the 1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos (also known as the Kieffer Commandos) who were part of the French Navy and served under the command of then-Lieutenant de Vaisseau Philippe Kieffer. Gautier and 176 other French green berets stormed the beaches of Normandy on that fateful day, ultimately delivering Hitler a crushing defeat.

Gautier was born in 1922. He joined France’s navy in 1940 but fled to England when the country fell to Hitler that year. When in the UK, he joined French General Charles de Gaulle’s exiled government. He later joined the Kieffer Commandos and trained with them in the Scottish Highlands. Of the 177 Fench men who stormed the beaches, Gautier was one of just two dozen who escaped injury and death.

After D-Day, Gautier suffered an ankle injury that followed him for the rest of his life. When the war was over, he moved to England, Cameroon, and Nigeria before finally going home to France. He worked as a mechanic and also helped train others to fix vehicles.

Gautier campaigned for peace later in his life. During an interview with Reuters in 2019, he said that he was still making peace with the war decades later. He explained that sometimes he thought about whether he “widowed a woman or made a mother cry.”

The Hero Dies

Gautier died on July 3. Macron announced the hero’s death on Twitter, quoting Gautier, who once objected to the term, saying, “We are not heroes, we only did our duty.” The French president vowed not to forget the legacy he and his other comrades left behind.

Gautier married Dorothy Banks while he was stationed in England, and the two spent 70 years in wedded bliss until she died in 2016. The couple went on to have children, grandchildren, and at least one great-grandchild who was born on the 73rd anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2017.

Copyright 2023,