COLLEVILLE MONTGOMERY, France, June 6 (Reuters) – Léon Gauthier, the last surviving French commando who stormed the beaches of Normandy defended by Hitler’s forces in 1944, on Tuesday joined President Emmanuel Macron at a waterfront celebration marking his 79th anniversary. D-Day takedowns.
Gauthier, 100, introduced a Marine commando cadet in his green beret to a passing parade at Colleyville Montgomery, near where the 21-year-old Gauthier landed on Sword Beach in a hail of enemy gunfire.
Gauthier was one of the 177 French Green Berets under Captain Philippe Kiefer who took part in the Normandy landings. More than 150,000 Allied forces invaded France to drive out the forces of Nazi Germany.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, the young marine knelt to allow Gauthier, who was seated in a wheelchair alongside Macron, to straighten his hat.
In 2019, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings, Gauthier recounted how French troops were the first to go chest deep at Sword Beach.
“Your honor,” Gauthier recalls British Colonel Robert Dawson telling the French green berets. We’re only a few seconds ahead. It was a symbolic gesture.
“By the end of the day I didn’t have much lead.”
(This story has been corrected to show that Gauthier was 21, not 17, when the allied forces landed on Sword Beach in paragraph 2)
(Reporting by Noemi Olive). Writing by Richard Love; Editing by Ed Osmond
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