STEFFEN, Gauthier


Registration Nr.:    00358 / S 0070

Birthday:    10.05.1912, Basel (CH)

Father:    Auguste STEFFEN

Mother:    Frieda NEBICKER

Service entry:    18.06.1945

Contingent:    1st

Ranks:    Sergent (1945)
                  Sergent-Chef (1946)
                  Adjudant (1946)
                  Adjudant-Chef (1946)

Death:    08.04.2002, Luxembourg City

Gauthier’s life took an early military turn when the former baker walked into the recruitment office in Thionville to join the Légion étrangère in January 1933. Without any abilities to read, nor to speak French, he signed a conscription note and was incorporated for a 5-year period. While tensions in Europe were on the rise, Gauthier was stationed with the 2e régiment étranger d’infanterie in Algeria and Morocco. After the Nazis had invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, Gauthier was ordered back to France to secure the French-German border. Having capitulated on 22 June 1940, the French troops, including Gauthier, set over the Mediterranean Sea to the Maghreb region, where they remained throughout the North African campaign. On 25 January 1944, he went to Great Britain and fought in the Belgian battery of the Allied forces until the liberation of Western Europe.

After the war, he worked for the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (C.F.L.) until June 1945, when he enlisted as a volunteer to the Luxembourg Army. Following a quick term with the IInd Battalion, Gauthier was detached to the 2nd Company of the Corps de la Garde. Due to his military experience, he was appointed Adjudant in 1946.

On 30 September 1950, he reported for a one-year term to the first contingent deployed in the Korean War. Next to Lieutenant Joseph Wagener, Gauthier was the second officer in command. During the Battle of the Imjin River in late April 1951, he proved himself capable of leading a platoon under fire. While the first officer, Lieutenant Wagener, was on furlough in Japan, he took over command and led his men safely through the battle. They managed to hold their ground and covered the retreat of the 3rd US Infantry Division. Soon after that, masses of Chinese infantry overwhelmed the Luxembourgish lines, forcing them to abandon their camp and retreat across the Imjin to retake new fighting positions.

While the rest of the first contingent packed their bags and returned home, Gauthier and Paul Saurfeld were chosen to represent the Luxembourgish detachment on a tour throughout the United States and Canada. On personal invitation of the President of the United States, Harry Truman, representatives of all fighting nations toured the biggest cities in Northern America during more than 6 weeks, between October and November 1951, held speeches, attended diners and highlighted their efforts in Korea. Gauthier eventually returned to Luxembourg on 4 February 1952 and worked at the Army Technical Services Base in Capellen. In the 1960s, numerous asthenia crises disabled him from active service and bound him to a desk job until his retirement in 1967.

After the death of his wife in 1975, Gauthier’s traces were fading until he resurfaced in the late 1990s in Munsbach, where he was living together with an unknown woman.

Croix d'Honneur et de Mérite militaire en argent avec palme (Lux.)
Croix de Guerre 1940-1945 (Lux.)
Médaille du Volontaire de Guerre Combattant avec barrette en argent (Bel.)
Médaille du Volontaire de Guerre avec barrette en bronze (Bel.)
Médaille Commémorative des théâtres d'opérations extérieures (Bel.)
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