D-Day: France's famed Kieffer Commando unit

A total of 177 French soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 with a specific mission. The small but well-trained group would later come to be known as the Kieffer Commando unit (their official title being, ‘1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos’), after their leader, Captain Philippe Kieffer.

Kieffer, working with General Charles De Gaulle, wanted to create an elite unit like the ones he had seen in Britain. The French marines were sent to Scotland to train with British Special Forces, with some of the training exercises including live rounds. At the end of their training, the French soldiers were rewarded with the famed British green beret, which is reserved for this elite body of soldiers. When the Kieffer Commando’s arrived -- after previous missions -- in Normandy, they were given the honour of firing the first shots in accordance with military tradition.

French troops make rapid gains on returning to their country, ultimately capturing the city of Ouistreham and taking back control of Pegasus Bridge. They endured heavy casualties but their objective was clear: liberating France. A few weeks later, General Leclerc's 2nd Armoured Division disembarked in Normandy and pushed its way through to the capital on August 25, 1944.