Léon Gautier, the last French D-Day fighter, has died at the age of 100.
The last survivor of a French commando team that aided in repelling Nazi Germany’s invasion of Western Europe has died at the age of 100.
Léon Gautier took part in the 1944 D-Day landings, when Allied forces invaded Normandy, France, in the largest maritime invasion in history.
He was one of only a few French nationals who took part in the horrific eight-day war.
Later, Gautier described war as a “misery” that “ends with widows and orphans.”
Regional Mayor Romain Bail referred to Gautier as “a local hero whom everyone knew” and a “ardent defender of freedom.”
Gautier was born in Rennes, in France’s northwestern Brittany area, and joined the French navy as a teenager just after World War II began since he was too young to join the army.
He fled to the United Kingdom in 1940, just as Adolf Hitler’s armies surged over much of Western Europe, including France.
Gautier joined the Free France movement in London, which maintained an in-exile administration and military that worked with the Allies against Nazi Germany.
He fought in Congo, Syria, and Lebanon before joining the Kieffer commandos, a squad of marine riflemen based in the Scottish Highlands.
They were the only French fighters present on D-Day.
More than half of Gautier’s regiment of 177 Frenchmen were killed during the Battle of Normandy.
The D-Day landings, which included forces from many other Allied countries, kicked off an 11-month attack. It eventually resulted to Nazi Germany’s defeat and the liberation of occupied Europe.
Gautier then lived in the Normandy coastal town of Ouistreham and became a peace activist.
“Not all that long ago… I would think perhaps I killed a young lad,” he stated in a Reuters interview in 2019, at the age of 96.
“Perhaps I orphaned children, bereaved a lady, or caused a mother to grieve… That was something I didn’t want to do. “I’m not a bad person.”