OUISTREHAM, France — Among the tens of thousands of Allied soldiers who landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944, was a hardened group of elite French commandos who ensured that France had D-Day exploits to be proud of, too.
There are now just three surviving members of the 177-strong unit. They include 96-year-old Leon Gautier, whose memories are as vivid as ever. “War is ugly. War is misery,” he says. He wants younger generations to never forget that.
The commandos were trained for quick in-and-out raids to take prisoners, gather intelligence and destroy things. Gautier remembers that not all of the newly liberated inhabitants of Ouistreham where they fought were pleased to see them, figuring the troops would soon turn tail and be replaced again by vengeful Germans.
“I told them, ‘We’re not leaving! We’re here for good!'” Gautier recalls.
The Associated Press