Depart: JUNE 17TH, 2018
Return: JUNE 27TH, 2018

WBT    Vince Coakley

 

THIS TOUR FEATURES WBT’s VINCE COAKLEY

 

Epic Events of World War Two

 

Includes Paris & London Sightseeing

 

The D-Day Beaches in Normandy remain a pilgrimage site for all those wishing to pay homage to the World War II generation of men and women who answered the call of true public service, a service that here in Normandy often meant the ultimate sacrifice.

Many vestiges of the battles remain intact, and Pointe du Hoc (the Rangers scaling the cliff face) has just been rebuilt into its original state. The Battle of the Bulge comprises a focal point of this event and we complement the battlefield visits with the Imperial War Museum in London via the Bullet Train and its twin in Paris which has recently been enhanced to focus on World War II.

Highlights

  • Battle of the Bulge Tour with our resident Bulge historian – and Europe’s leading expert on The Bulge – Roland Gaul.
  • 2 and ½ days touring the D Day Beaches with America’s leading expert on France and the Invasion Beaches, Ken
    Chase
  • Luxury Hotel in the heart of the city of Paris
  • Eiffel Tower
  • L’Arc de Triomphe
  • Les Champs Elysees
  • Notre Dame
  • Les Invalides
  • Daily Breakfast plus formal dining and bistro dining
  • Pointe du Hoc, where President Reagan spoke in 1984 (see photo) and where Colonel James Rudder made history with the Army Rangers.
  • Sainte Mere Eglise to see Private Steele still hanging from the church steeple.
  • Free time to visit the museums of your choice in Paris (the Louvre, Le Grand Palais, Le Musee d’Orsay, l’Opera Garnier, La Madeleine.)
  • Place de la Concorde.
  • American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach.
  • Imperial War Museum in London
  • The Bullet Train
  • World War Two War Museum in Paris.

Itinerary

Battle of the Bulge

We’ll start our Bulge tour by heading east out of La Gare de L’Est in Paris on the bullet train, direction Luxembourg, the tiny nation sandwiched between France, Germany and Belgium that is better known in modern times as a tax haven for the wealthy but during WWII found itself at the crossroads of this famous military engagement between a desperate Wermacht and a tenacious Allied force led by the Americans.

Patton

First we’ll visit the burial site of General George S. Patton. Patton played a crucial role in this battle and wanted to be buried among his men. The American Military Cemetery here is an appropriate tribute in its solemnity to our soldiers.

Most of the shooting during The Bulge took place on Belgian soil, and there are several secondary roads in the Ardennes Forest and its environs that are well marked for American visitors to understand the events of December, 1944 into January, 1945. We’ll take our time in our comfortable motor coach to stop and learn along the backroads of eastern Belgium.

The Bulge was the largest single battle ever fought by the American Army. Hitler threw everything he had into this last counteroffensive, and the size and intensity of the attack caught our forces by surprise in what turned out to be an unusually bitter cold winter. Hitler’s goal was the port city of Antwerp, to split the Allied forces in two; he came up well short!

The German attack started on December, 16th, 1944 and it was initially successful, catching the Americans unaware and undermanned for a full-scale battle. Most of our men in the Ardennes region were sent there to rest and recover from earlier battles, as it was thought the Ardennes forest – deeply wooded and full of hills and valleys… and narrow country roads – was ill-suited to a large scale tank invasion.

Bastogne

“NUTS” defiantly proclaimed General McAuliffe from his base in the now famous small town of Bastogne when asked to surrender to superior German numbers and firepower. Plenty to see in this now peaceful town, whose residents gratefully remember the incredible American courage and sacrifice! We’ll visit the actual barracks of General McAuliffe and see the very room in which he made his memorable pronouncement.

McAuliffe and the “Battered Bastards of Bastogne” held out heroically for 7 days, when elements of General Patton’s Third Army fought their way to Bastogne to relieve the 101st.

As small as it is on a map, Bastogne was a crucial logistical crossroads that Hitler needed if his plan to reach and capture Antwerp was to succeed. Our victory in The Bulge came at a heavy cost: nearly 20,000 Americans died in this battle that lasted one month. We’ll get a comprehensive view of the battle at the Battle of the Bulge Museum at Deikirch. Hitler’s gamble was lost, as the American forces cut off German supply lines and the German forces literally ran out of fuel for their tanks and transport vehicles. It was on to Berlin!

The D Day Beaches

The massive German guns at Longues Sur Mer have gone silent on the bluffs overlooking the sea, but they’re still there for all to see. Mulberry Harbor stuns the first time visitor as we climb the hill to reach the plateau above the village of Arromanches. Private John Steele is still snagged up on the church steeple in Sainte Mere Eglise. The cliffs of Pointe du Hoc remain ever imposing – just as the Rangers left it and Omaha’s pain and sacrifice are made real to succeeding generations by our men interred on the bluff overlooking the sacred stretch of sand known as Omaha.

We’ll walk the D Day beaches to commemorate that fateful day. I will be by your side constantly with the requisite historical narration, with one exception. I never walk the cemetery (OUR CEMETERY) at Colleville sur Mer with you. You decide how to visit this pristine patch of Normandy, granted to America in perpetuity. Undoubtedly we’ll meet others from around the world who will similarly convene to both remember and honor the sacrifices that were made. Many vestiges of the battles remain intact and we will carefully and thoroughly explore them. We’ll start on Pegasus Bridge where Major Howard earned fame as he led the gliders to crash landings next to the Orne River and the Caen Canal. This bridge was of great strategic importance; and we’ll explain why once there.

While at Pegasus we’ll try to arrange our usual photo opportunity or greeting with Madame Gondree. Madame was there the night our troops (British) captured the bridge, thus kicking off the invasion just after midnight on the morning of June 6th.
Madame Gondree was just 6 years old that night and now she welcomes visitors from the four corners of the world to the same house in which she resided then. The house, as duly noted with a plaque hung on its exterior, is officially recognized as the “first house” liberated during the D Day Invasion. Today Madame Gondree makes one mean omelette for visitors as the ground floor has been converted to a café and a British Military museum, full of any and all manner of D Day memorabilia!

We’ll visit Cozy’s Corner (also known as Cosy’s Bunker) at Juno beach and learn of the role our brethren from Canada played in the invasion. This will be the first German bunker we’ll visit up close and you won’t believe the position it’s in after the Canadians scored a direct hit. I’ll also tell you the story of my friend Will Delude, who was there the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, at Juno. Remind me to tell you about Will’s rosary beads he wore the morning of the invasion.

The story of the “disinterred tank” is one you will never forget. Like most visitors, including myself back in 1982, you’ll probably have no idea what kind of a tank this was by looking at its odd gun. It doesn’t matter though……..when you learn about what this tank and its men went through on June 6th you’ll be amazed.

On a lighter note: you’re in oyster country now, as you shall see. It’s France: indulge a little!

On to the promontory above the sea that gives you a bird’s eye view of the Mulberry Harbor. Careful where you walk……the plateau is honeycombed with German tunnels.

To conceive of the harbor today is really not that difficult: a man-made wharf, or pier, sitting parallel to the shore line just off-shore, and perpendicular road sections (strung together) emanating from the wharf to the beach.

The conception is easy. Making it functional was the great challenge. We’ll show you the element that made it all possible: the Kite Anchor. Without the Kite Anchor it’s possible that the promise made to Stalin in Tehran by Roosevelt and Churchill (to finally open up a second front in the West) would not have been honored. That’s how crucial the Mulberry was; and I’ll give you the time to visit the highly informative, small museum here at Gold Beach where you’ll understand how the Mulberry was built, complete with an undulating pool to simulate the tides.

The story of Longues Sur Mer, the 4 massive German batteries, is little known. The mayor of the village had the foresight to retrieve the big guns from the scrap yard post-war and put them back in their place in the bunker…….but it’s the bunker that took the direct hit that will surprise, and sadden you.

When in Normandy we usually reside in the pittoresque village of Port en Bessin. From our lovely, modern hotel you may walk to the shoreline 200 meters away, past the colorful fleet of scallop fishing trawlers. This village is the scallop capital of France, and thus a very active commercial fishing port.

The sunset here is phenomenal.

Omaha is divided into three parts: The Beach. The Visitor Center. The Cemetery. The Visitor center will bring you to tears. Enough said. The cemetery needs no elaboration. The Beach DOES need a lot of elaboration from your tour leader. Why? Because all five beaches have become pleasure beaches down through the decades. Aside from Gold, there is virtually nothing on the sandy beaches by way of remnants or detritus. All the bunkers, sniper posts, tanks, cannons, Widerstandnesten, Higgins boats and subterranean German passageways are all just off the beach, in the bluffs, the dunes (Utah) and lining the all-important ravines (or “draws” as the military termed them.)

You are not simply going to the D Day Beaches. You are going to UNDERSTAND how the invasion unfolded, with a particular emphasis on Omaha and Utah. What went wrong? Too much. What went right? Who saved the day?

Pointe du Hoc. Your homework assignment before we head over to France is to google Pointe du Hoc and see the aerial view. Then you may walk into the craters or between them once there.

Yes: I will take you to the Granite Spike where President Reagan spoke to “our boys” in 1984. It sits atop one of the most elaborate German positions in all of Normandy and you may go inside its labyrinth and see for yourself.

JFK once said “life is unfair” when he spoke about the awful human loss during war and the fact that some, and some generations, are never called for war.

Well…..on another lighter note…..Private John Steele never had to buy a beer post-war in Normandy. There are inns, squares, schools, hotels, restaurants and shops named for Private John Steele, and the focal point of all this attention is Sainte Mere Eglise, the little village 10 miles inland from Utah Beach, heading up the Cotentin Peninsula towards Cherbourg.

Private Steele had the good (odd) fortune that night (British at Pegasus, Americans down the other end) of gliding towards the ancient church and having his parachute snag on the church steeple. Given the way he’s feted in Normandy you would think he was MacArthur and Patton all rolled into one!

Utah Beach. In a word: everything that went awry on Omaha went well on Utah. So well in fact, that the larger risk became too many men successfully landed on the beach before our engineers could demine the beach. Utah is also critical to understanding the issue of the “white bread” German soldier versus the others wearing Hitler’s colors that day in Normandy. Teddy Roosevelt’s eldest son and namesake had a roaring debut during the invasion here on Utah, but sadly didn’t live long thereafter to savor the eventual victory.

The military museum at Utah has been tripled in size and houses one of the best collections of souvenirs, armament and personal objects anywhere.

We will conclude our D Day visit with the vast, audio-visual collection known as the MEMORIAL TO PEACE museum. This is a perfect encapsulation of the history of the whole war, with of course a special section devoted to the D Day Invasion. This is also where I recommend you purchase any books or CD’s about the war as it has the largest selection. This museum was built by the French government during the Mitterand presidency and it covers the whole war very well, including the Rape of Nanjing, the Holocaust, Stalingrad, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guadalcanal and Nuremburg, just to name some of the highlights.

It was called Operation Overlord. It was, in fact, a battle to determine whether man would live in freedom or be condemned to live under the regime of national socialism of Adolph Hitler.

We’ll retrace the battles of that strip of coastline in lower Normandy, only 54 miles wide but chock full of American and allied gallantry. We’ll visit the hallowed ground of the D-Day Beaches, where in 1944 our young men, from every corner of our glorious nation, braved murderous odds to throw back the Wermacht and liberate not just a nation but all humanity. The freedom of mankind was in the balance. Our young men, side by side with our British and Canadian allies, stormed ashore that fateful day in June, 1944. We’ll retrace their steps and finish by paying homage and respect at the site where our countrymen were interred.

The War Memorial Museum in Caen is a splendid visit for military historians as it lays out the events, in video, photography and sometimes rare audio, that drew the world into the first and then the Second World War.

Omaha Beach

You’ll see a Higgins Boat that took part in the landings, along with tanks—American, British and German—-both intact and some having taken direct hits. The amphibious tanks that were designed to be an integral part of our landing on Omaha are still there to observe.

The hallowed ground of our cemetery in Colleville on the bluff above Omaha Beach will be an emotional focal point of our itinerary in Normandy. It needs no description here. Recently, a visitors’ center was added next door. It is a worthwhile visit and sets the stage in one’s mind and heart for what you’re going to see as you exit the building and walk the gentle slope up to the cemetery.

Pointe Du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc—-considered by the war planners as singularly the most difficult of all D-Day assignments. See the cliffs where Colonel Rudder’s Rangers took the Germans by surprise. See the craters left untouched since June 6th, 1944. Understanding the importance of the Mulberry Harbor is understanding one key reason we are free today! It’s still there in the water. It’s a sight to behold as we come up over the hill above the village of Arromanches and see out in the sea the massive U-shaped structure. Below in the village we’ll see the famous mechanical joint (anchor) that made the whole Mulberry Harbor the engineering success that it was! Without this anchor element there would have been no D Day invasion in Normandy. Without this anchor D Day would likely have been much more costly in American lives lost. We’ll explain why.

All along our 54 mile coastal drive we’ll see dozens of German bunkers, blockhouses, and pillboxes. We’ll finish in Sainte Mere Eglise, where a life-sized replica of Private John Steele still hangs from the church steeple. This is where our paratroopers came in just after midnight to cut off the German reinforcements that would have come down from the Cherbourg area. The Airborne Museum at Sainte Mere Eglise is one of the best and also contains a glider that our men used that night in battle. Of course we never intended for our paratroopers to land in the village of Sainte Mere Eglise; but at least in the case of Private Steele his misfortune was only temporary and as luck would have it his misfortune led to his becoming a folk hero in France, through no effort of his own!

Paris

“I will take my conservative American friends by the hand and show them the best that France has to offer. The beauty and charm of the City of Light. The Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Trocadero, Les Champs Elysees, Le Louvre, L’Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, and one of my very favorites: Place Vendome. Paris is everything beautiful and enchanting you’ve ever imagined and more. It is, as most visitors agree, the most beautiful city in the world. We’ll visit the city by motor coach but also take the time to pause, visit, stroll, and take in the sights and sounds of this magical city.”

Ken Chase, your Conservative Tours host and full time Parisian guide.

What do say we start on Les Champs Elysees savoring a café “grand crème?” I would award a prize to the first person who can pass by a “patissierie” (pastry shop) without stopping to gaze in awe but I’d never actually have to award the prize because no one can resist the beauty. This is Paris!!! You will fall in love with this jewel of civilization the way I have time and time again.

Eiffel Tower

Have you ever phoned a loved one from the top of The Eiffel Tower? Now’s your chance! Would you like to see where the insurrection by the French Resistance fighters started in the heart of Paris (next to Notre Dame) against the Nazi occupiers? Did the Roman Empire make it this far north? Yes; it did, and you’ll see the proof.

Paris is the quintessential walking city, and you’ll have free time to stroll the medieval passageways near Saint Michel and the grand boulevards like the Champs Elysees. During our night tour of the city you’ll see every jaw-dropping beautiful monument illuminated in a way that only Paris knows how: L’Opera, Place de la Concorde, L’Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides, La Mairie, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, and of course, La Tour Eiffel.

The Imperial War Museum, London

The Imperial War Museum in London is one of the very best for military aficionados. We’ll take the Bullet Train from Paris to London in the morning, dedicate most of the day to the rather expansive Museum, enjoy a motor coach tour of the city landmarks before heading back to Paris in the early evening.

“Les Invalides” is the French equivalent of London’s Imperial War Museum. It has recently seen the addition of the Charles deGaulle wing of the museum and for students of World War II it’s a superb complement to all our other activities during this tour event on the Continent. It’s a very large museum with many different eras covered in French military history and of course, also contains the casket—in full view—of Napoleon.

Bullet Train

A visit to France, however, would not be complete without a ride on a genuine bullet train, known as the TGV. You will take the bullet train to London. You will also take the bullet train to Luxembourg City to start the Battle of the Bulge tour. We’ve also arranged an optional day trip to Reims, which is a beautiful small city that serves as the world headquarters of Champagne. We’ll visit the caves to see how this special drink is made, and then we’ll enjoy a tasting session of a world renowned brand, like Veuve Cliquot or Moet Chandon. Next we’ll see a Roman arch that’s as well preserved as the arch of Constantine in Rome itself! We’re not done! We’ll enjoy lunch at perhaps the best known restaurant in the whole region: Le Boulingrin, a bistro style diner right out of the 1920’s. The manager, Denis, will take good care of his friends from America. He always does!

Nazi Surrender

Before we board the bullet train for our 45 minute shot back to the City of Light there is one more stop to make just around the block from the restaurant. We will visit the red brick school house that General Eisenhower used to convene the allied high command as well as the remnants of the Nazi regime, in the person of General Jodl, to accept the unconditional surrender of the Third Reich. The room has remained unchanged (giant wall map used by Ike, furniture, fixtures, etc.) since that historic day.

Bon Voyage!

Price:  $4,589.00 per person

Deposit:     $500.00 per person

What’s Included:

  • ROUND TRIP AIRFARE……NONSTOP……FROM CHARLOTTE TO PARIS ON AMERICAN AIRLINES
  • THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE
  • THE D DAY BEACHES
  • THE BULLET TRAIN
  • 7 NIGHTS IN A FIRST CLASS HOTEL IN PARIS
  • 2 NIGHTS IN MODERN HOTEL IN NORMANDY NEAR OMAHA
  • 5 DINNERS.  ALL BREAKFASTS.
  • ALL MOTOR COACH TRANSPORTATION AS PER THE ITINERARY
  • ALL ENTRANCE FEES AS PER THE ITINERARY
  • THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM IN LONDON
  • A SIGHTSEEING MOTOR COACH PRIVATE TOUR OF LONDON AND PARIS
  • LES INVALIDES (MILITARY MUSEUM IN PARIS AND SITE OF NAPOLEAN’S RESTING PLACE)
  • LE MEMORIAL DE LA PAIX MILITARY MUSEUM IN CAEN
  • NOTRE DAME
  • CONSTANT HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTARY FROM AMERICA’S LEADING EXPERT ON FRANCE, KEN CHASE
  • Deluxe Comprehensive Group Travel Insurance Policy from TRAVEL INSURED INTERNATIONAL

 

What’s Not Included: 

  • Government air tax
  • Optional day trip to Champagne country with tasting & cellar visit and lunch at Le Boulingrin! Bullet Train included!
    This is also the NAZI SURRENDER DAY TRIP
  • Optional one week extension to Provence

U.S. General Anthony McAuliffe

Gen. Anthony McAuliffe (left)

LETTER FROM A GERMAN COMMANDER TO U.S. GENERAL ANTHONY MCAULIFFE , BATTLE OF THE BULGE, DECEMBER 1944
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
(signed)
The German Commander.

RESPONSE FROM GEN. MCAULIFFE TO THE GERMAN COMMANDER

To the German Commander.
NUTS!
The American Commander

Bastogne is part of our optional Bulge day trip.