Emile René Gueguen was born on February 13, 1925, at Kerfraval, near Morlaix.
He was an intelligent boy, bursting with energy, and constantly wanting to stretch his limits. He was champion of the Brittany "junior" foot race. During German occupation in 1940, he individually carried out acts of resistance, before joining an "action" group of the North-Liberation movement.
On July 6, 1944, this 19-year old Resistance fighter fell in an ambush set by German parachutists and feldgendarmes. As they ferried him away in a side-car, he jumped out and succeeded to escape amid bursts of automatic gunfire from the convoy. Five months later, on December 10, 1944, Second Lieutenant Gueguen, at the command of a section comprising about thirty teenagers, participated in the cordoning off of the Lorient pocket where a considerable number of enemy troops had been surrounded. Six hundred veterans of the 683rd Kriegsmarine marine battalion attempted to force their way through by launching an attack on the embankment behind which Gueguen’s section was stationed. With their light infantry arms, the teenagers fought back for several hours and succeeded to push back the attack, as well as subsequent ones, despite their artillery back-up. The Germans incurred a heavy toll with several soldiers killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Such extraordinary exploit of war won astounded allied forces and won their admiration.
In 1947, Emile Gueguen, who was an accomplished sportsman, came out first of his batch at Ecole Normale Supérieure d'Education Physique, Paris. In 1950, he emerged world military pentathlon and international orienteering champion. He formed and trained the French modern pentathlon team which won a medal at the Mexico Olympic Games. He was also the brain behind the athletic method which replaced the Hébert method in the French armed forces.
In 1951, aged 26, Lieutenant Gueguen left for Indochina where he took over the command of the 16th parachutist company. From October 3 to 8, his 200-man company single-handedly fought a Viet-Minh regiment, inflicting heavy loss on the latter. The 16th parachutist company received two commendations in the Army Order and was the only unit whose pennant spotted two bars.
In 1958, Captain Gueguen served in Algeria, Souk Ahras, near the Tunisian border, as commander of a light company of the 9th chasseur parachutists regiment (RCP). This unit, composed of the 90 contingent conscripts, got engaged in the greatest pitched battle of the Algerian war. The 3rd company of the 9th RCP, which had been heliported, got trapped in the pincer movement of two heavily armed katibas. Its commander, Captain Beaumont, who had already been wounded once during fighting, was killed at the front. Overwhelmed by the number, the 3rd company was forced to withdraw after 28 of its men had been killed and several others wounded. Captain Gueguen’s company then had to face the 4th Faïlek, an ALN shock battalion with 300 seasoned fighters. At the end of fierce confrontations, Captain Gueguen’s parachutists managed to grab victory.
In 1967, he founded and leads the team of France wins modern pentathlon for the first time in this discipline, a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. It is also the source of new methods of physical training and sports in the French armies.
In 1969, aged 44, Colonel Gueguen, despite being destined for great things, decided to quit the army to become director of the International Olympic Centre of Vittel. In 1986, he published his autobiography entitled "Volontaire" (Volunteer), at Editions Grasset, Paris, and two years later, in 1988, he migrated to the US, California, where he kept himself busy strengthening friendship ties between the United States and France. On June 5, 1994, during the fiftieth anniversary of the D-Day, he organized the dropping of forty US veteran parachutists on Sainte Mère Eglise. A history consultant, Emile Gueguen, became member of Société Napoléonienne Internationale (the International Napoleonic Society) in 1995.
Emile Gueguen, "Milic", as he was fondly called by friends, died in the United States on February 15, 2003, at the age of 78.
In the course of his admirable military career, and exceptional destiny which he personally sculpted, this great volunteer serviceman, who was elevated to the order of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, received twelve commendations. He held, amongst others, the World War II Cross, the T.O.E. War Cross, and the Military Valour Cross with bars. At the front, he was known to be always chivalrous, a fact acknowledged by all his war adversaries - Germans, Vietnamese and Algerians.
One of the favourite expressions of this outstanding soldier was :
"Quelle connerie, la guerre..." (“War, what a bloody stupid thing…”)
The parachutists he commanded, who very much venerated him, said :