COLVILLE-MONTCOMERY, France, June 6 (Reuters) – Leon Gautier, the last surviving member of the French commandos who stormed the Normandy beaches defended by Hitler’s troops in 1944, joined President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday at a seaside ceremony marking the 79th anniversary. D-Day landings.
Gautier, 100, gifted a student Marine commando at a passing out parade in Colleville-Montgomery, where 21-year-old Gautier landed on the beach hailing from enemy fire.
Gautier was one of the 177 French Green Berets under the command of Captain Philippe Kieffer who participated in the Normandy landings. More than 150,000 Allied troops invaded France to drive out the forces of Nazi Germany.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, the young marine knelt on one knee and sat beside Macron in a wheelchair, allowing Gautier to straighten his beret.
In 2019, on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Gautier recounted how French troops first went chest-deep on Sword Beach.
“Your honor,” Gautier recalled British Colonel Robert Dawson saying to the French Green Berets. “We went a few seconds ahead. It was a symbolic gesture.”
“At the end of the day I don’t have many bullets.”
(This story has been corrected to show that Gautier was 21, not 17, when the Allied forces landed on Sword Beach in paragraph 2)
Report by Nomi Olive; Written by Richard Loaf, edited by Ed Osmond
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