In Patton’s Footsteps
Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.
General George S. Patton believed in fulfilling the unforgivable minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. He proved it in his race across France, his relief of the besieged town of Bastogne and his drive into Germany. On the In Patton’s Footsteps Tour, a fascinating WWII Tour, we visit the sites and battlefields significant to Patton’s Third Army, including Normandy, Brittany, Mont-St-Michel, the battlegrounds of Falaise Pocket, Bastogne and Mainheim, Luxembourg, to understand how this maverick general helped win the war in Europe.
Our historian for this tour is Kevin M. Hymel. Mr. Hymel is the Research Director for WWII History and Military Heritage magazines and has written numerous articles for each. He is the author of Patton’s Photographs: War as He Saw It and has served as a historian at the U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Mr. Hymel has been a popular historian with Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours for more than 10 years, and has appeared in numerous documentaries on the History Channel and American Heroes Channel. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from LaSalle University and Master’s Degree from Villanova University, both in History. He lives in Silver Spring, MD.
- Brittany - Study the areas in Brittany where Patton’s Third Army staged their breakthrough and smashed an SS armored column.
- Mont-St-Michel - Visit the historic seaside medieval monastery at Mont-St-Michel that is completely surrounded by water at high tides.
- Battlegrounds of Falaise Pocket - See the museum and battlegrounds of Falaise Pocket where American, Polish and Canadian troops fought to prevent the German retreat.
- Bastogne - Tour Bastogne and the area where Patton came to the relief of the encircled 101’st Airborne and the famous “Nuts” Museum where General McAuliffe refused to surrender.
- Manheim, Luxembourg - Drive to Mannheim to the very corner where Patton’s eventually fatal accident occurred as well as the American Cemetery in Luxembourg where he is buried.
DAY 1 Overnight flight to Paris
Please contact our office for help coordinating flights.
DAY 2 Normandy
Arrive at Charles De Gaulle airport in the morning, meet Historian Kevin Hymel by 9 a.m. in airport hotel lobby, and drive to our hotel in Normandy.
DAY 3 Normandy
We will spend the morning at Omaha Beach where the Americans took the German fortifications after a fierce fight. Losses were especially high in the first wave of landings. Today the American Cemetery stretches along the bluff. We will study the battlefield, traverse the beach, analyze the maps and imagine the courage that saved our freedom that day. We also will pay our respects (at the thousands of crosses and Stars of David) to the deceased. Pointe-du-Hoc is a sheer cliff some forty meters high where the elite Ranger Force scaled the German breastworks on D-Day. We will spend part of the afternoon there, trying to fathom how they did it.
DAY 4 Brittany, Mont St Michel
Our day will begin at Pattons Headquarters in Nehou where the general waited for the Third Army to become operational. From there we will drive to Coutances. From there, we will visit Avranches, where Patton first took command. We will stop at a statue to Patton where the Third Army broke into the Brittany Peninsula and headed east, west and south through the German lines. Finally, we will see the Pontaubault Bridge where Patton's troops poured into the Brittany peninsula.
DAY 5 Mayenne
We will visit Mont St. Michel, the medieval monastery which Patton visited during his honeymoon. It is a must for any visit to France. We continue to Mortain, the mountaintop town where the Germans attacked the 30th Infantry Division in an effort to cut off Pattons base of supplies. Although surrounded, the Americans held out for seven days until relief arrived. The mountaintop affords an excellent view of the surrounding countryside.
DAY 6 Reims
In the morning we will visit Mayenne, where one of Patton's hard luck divisions turned itself around by seizing a vital bridge. Then we will travel to Argentan where elements of the Third Army turned north to close the Falaise Gap. At Chambois, we will view where American, Polish and Canadian troops fought to stop the retreating Germans. The museum in Chambois provides an excellent overview of the battle at the Falaise Gap.
DAY 7 Metz
We begin our day at Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims where German General Alfred Jodl signed the unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945 ending WWII in Europe. We will then go to Verdun, site of some of the greatest battles of World War I, where here, in 1944 Patton, Eisenhower and Omar Bradley met to figure out how to defeat the German stranglehold on Bastogne, where the surrounded 101st Airborne Division, and other Army units, fought for its life.
We will then visit Essen and Pannes, two of the towns where Patton led his tanks into the battle of St. Mihiel, one of the first major engagements by the U.S. Army in the First World War. Outside of Essen, we will see the location where Patton, a 32-year-old Lieutenant Colonel, met Brigadier General Douglas MacArthur during an effort by the Allies to cut off a German bulge in their lines. Here the two bravely stood together as German artillery approached them. In Pannes, Patton rode a tank into battle and personally helped chase the Germans out of the town. These actions in World War I foreshadowed the future proved the abilities of tanks in warfare.
DAY 8 Luxembourg
In September 1944, with little fuel, supplies and replacements, Patton found himself stalled outside Metz, a city surrounded by six steep granite hills that were heavily fortified by many conquerors over the centuries. No army had ever overcome its defenses. From there we will see where Patton's forces crossed the Moselle River and fought off a German counterattack. After study and discussion in the field, we will retire to L'Horizon hotel for lunch. Later, we will tour Fort Hackenburg, part of the Maginot Line, France's defensive front in 1940 and fought over by Patton's troops in 1944. We will visit the Dragon's Teeth of the German Siegfried Line.
DAY 9 Luxembourg
When the Germans launched the Battle of the Bulge, Patton turned his Army north towards Bastogne where the 101st Airborne Division was holding the town. We will view the Patton statue in Ettelbruck and the Battle of the Bulge Museum in Diekirch. We will eat lunch in Clervaux, where the Germans broke through the 28th Infantry Division. From there we will travel to Longvilly and Noville, where armor and airborne forces slowed and stopped the German drive to Bastogne. We will complete the day with a visit to Patton's headquarters during the Battle of the Bulge.
DAY 10 Luxembourg
From Luxembourg City, we will retrace Patton's relief of Bastogne. We will see the site of the final attack by Col. Creighton Abrams to relieve the 101st Airborne Division. After a stop at McAuliffe Square where you will learn the history of the Sherman tank on display, we will drive to Houffalize, where Patton's Third Army helped close the Bulge. The day will end with a visit to Patton's grave in Hamm.
DAY 11 Mannheim – The Last Days of Patton
We will drive to Trier, Germany, where Patton seized the city despite orders to the contrary not to. When Bradley told Patton he did not have enough forces to take the city, Patton radioed back, What do you want me to do, give it back? We will visit a Roman coliseum and the Porta Nigra, the black gate that dates back to the second century erected by the Romans in 180 AD. After that we will drive to Mannheim and see the spot where a car accident paralyzed Patton and eventually cost him his life. We can review and reflect on our journey across Europe, and our travels in the footsteps of General Patton, at the Farewell Dinner on this last evening of the tour.
DAY 12 Flights Home
After breakfast, we say good-bye to our new friends; an airport transfer will be provided to the Frankfurt Airport in Germany (FRA).