Your entertaining and enlightening historical vacation begins with the expert Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours team in New Orleans, who work together to make your trip a seamless experience from the very beginning. Our home base staff includes one of our historians, Director Mark Bielski, who can answer any questions you may have about the historical aspects of our American history, Civil War, World War II, WWI and D-Day tours.
Stephen Ambrose always said that the best way to understand history is to study the places where it was made. Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours has the most qualified historians lead our historical, WWII, WWI and D-Day tours, including our chief historian Captain Ronald Drez, who assisted with Dr. Ambrose’s research. Our historians are leaders in their field and world-renowned authors. Their extensive research and interviews with thousands of WWII and D-Day veterans on the very battlefields where they fought gives a soldier’s perspective to our tours.
Exclusive Local Guides
Because we were founded by Stephen Ambrose, we have long-standing relationships with the very best local guides in the countries in which we operate (we have been working with our beloved bus driver for 20 years!). As part of our expert team, they ensure that we can offer you exclusive opportunities to visit historic places and other sites that were crucial in WWII, something that no other WWII or D-Day tour company can offer.
Experienced Tour Escorts
Our American history, Civil War, WWII, WWI and D-Day tours always have a full-time, experienced tour escort, who is available to answer your questions and take care of any special requests you may have during your journey.
Our Tour Historians
Ronald Drez is an award-winning and best-selling author and historian. With Stephen Ambrose, he designed the original D-Day to the Rhine tour. Dr. Ambrose hand-picked his Eisenhower Center deputy to lead those tours, and to develop other tours like the Band of Brothers Tour and The Italian Campaign Tour. Drez, a decorated Marine combat veteran from the Vietnam War, was the first to encounter the now legendary Band of Brothers in 1988, and has interviewed over 4,000 WWII veterans, showcasing their stories in his many writings: see www.ronalddrez.com. His passion and enthusiasm leave our guests with the memories of a lifetime. To quote one of our travelers, “Ron Drez was the history professor you wanted in college, but couldn’t get because his classes were always full. His stories are fascinating.”
Chris Anderson is a historian who is well versed in many aspects of American history with special expertise in the Normandy Invasion, Band of Brothers, and 101st Airborne as well as the American Revolution. As the former editor of WWII Magazine he edited and wrote about all areas of the U.S. involvement in that war. Chris was also one of the original creators of the Stephen Ambrose Band of Brothers Tour and was a personal confidant of Major Dick Winters, commander of Easy Company, as well as many other veterans of WWII.
Rick Beyer is an award winning documentary filmmaker, New York Times best-selling author, and long-time history enthusiast. His most recent book, Rivals Unto Death, explores the intricate thirty-year rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
Rick has been researching the Ghost Army for more than a dozen years, and has led our Ghost Army Tour since 2014. He produced and directed the award-winning PBS documentary The Ghost Army, and co-wrote (with Liz Sayles) of The Ghost Army of World War II. The book is now being developed as a Hollywood movie by the producers of American Sniper.
Over the last 20 years Rick has made numerous history documentaries for The History Channel, National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution, and others. He is the author of thef The Greatest Stories Never Told series. He has shared his unique take on history with audiences around the country and appeared on CBS News, Fox News, NPR, CNN and elswhewere. A graduate of Dartmouth College, he lives in Chicago.
Mark Bielski, Ph.D., Director
Mark Bielski, Ph.D brings a wealth of professional experience in academics, journalism and executive management to Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours, where he is involved in business development, guiding, lecturing and tour itinerary design. His ability to relate history in an engaging way coupled with his warmth and sense of humor, make him a favorite among our guests who have traveled with him. Mark has personally designed the WWII: Poland and Germany, D-Day to Berlin and The Civil War Eastern Theatre tours.
He also hosts the History with Mark Bielski Podcast, where he and his guests, experts in their field, delve into the characters, backstories and intrigues that drove events throughout history. His first book, Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation, describes the fascinating story of nine transplanted Poles who participated in the American Civil War. Mark’s second book, which covers the Civil War in Louisiana, a subject that has not garnered the attention it deserves, will be published in 2019.
The privileges and pleasures of Mark’s work are having the opportunity to interview and travel with numerous veterans and their families from WWII, the Korean conflict and Viet Nam. He received his Ph.D. in war studies at the University of Birmingham, England.
Steve Bourque, Ph.D.
Stephen A. Bourque is Professor Emeritus of military history at the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He left the U.S. Army in 1992 after twenty years enlisted and commissioned service, with duty stations in the United States, Germany, and the Middle East. Dr. Bourque has taught at several colleges and universities including Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, California State University-Northridge, the University of Kansas, and the Command and General Staff College. His publications including Jayhawk! The VII Corps in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, The Road to Safwan, and Soldiers’ Lives: The Post-Cold War Era and, most recently, his book Beyond the Beach, the Allied War Against France (2018). Currently, he is writing a history of the Northwest Europe Campaign as experienced by a senior officer who began the war as a corps chief of staff and ended it as an infantry regimental commander.
Charles Brower, Ph.D.
A graduate of West Point, General Charles (Casey) Brower, USA, Ret. received a Master of Arts degree in American History and a Doctorate in diplomatic and strategic history from the University of Pennsylvania. Among assignments over his Army career he served in Germany, Vietnam, and as Army Aide to President Ronald Reagan. He has taught history and strategy at West Point, the Naval War College, and the Virginia Military Institute and has led groups to Normandy and other European battlefields for over two decades. Casey has published books and articles on American history and World War II. He is the former Deputy Superintendent for Academics and Dean of the Faculty and Professor Emeritus of International Studies and Political Science at VMI.
Don Farrell’s writing career began on Guam with the 1981 publication of The Americanization of Guam: 1898-1918, which was followed by The Sacrifice of Guam: 1919-1943 and Liberation—1944. He moved to Tinian in 1987, publishing the first History of the Northern Mariana Islands in 1991. In 2011, Don published History of the Mariana Islands to Partition. He is now completing a Modern History of the Northern Mariana Islands. He has also written numerous magazine and newspaper articles on the history of the Mariana Islands.
Don credits his understanding of Marianas history to years of teaching and 35 years of government service on Guam and Tinian. He is also a member of the board of director of the CNMI Humanities Council and the CNMI Historic Preservation Review Board. Don is now in the process of publishing his own history of the Manhattan Project on Tinian.
Erik Flint is our historian for the Operation Overlord Tour. He is the Director of the Lewis Army Museum at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. A veteran of 30 years in uniform, Erik deployed twice to Iraq as a Combat Historian for the U.S. Special Operations Command History & Research Office and is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve where he is a lead Command and General Staff Officer Course instructor. Erik holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Washington, a Master’s degree in International Land Warfare Studies from American Military University, and is currently working on a Doctorate in Modern History at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Erik resides in Tacoma, Washington with his wife Caroline, and his daughter Willow.
Parker Hills served almost 32 years in the U.S. Army uniform in active and reserve components, and retired as a brigadier general, Mississippi Army National Guard in 2001. He owns Battle Focus, a leadership training company, and trains soldiers, Marines, airmen, tourists, and corporate leaders. He is the author of A Study in Warfighting: Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads; co-author of the Vicksburg Campaign Driving Tour Guide; co-author with Edwin C. Bearss of Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg; a contributor to Vicksburg Campaign: March 29-May 18,1863; and author of Vicksburg: Art of Commemoration.
Kevin 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.
Leonard J. Fullenkamp, M.A.
Colonel, U.S. Army (retired) Len Fullenkamp is professor of military history and strategy at the Army War College. He also taught history at West Point. Len served two combat tours in Vietnam. He has taken numerous army officers on study trips to European battlefields, including the Normandy landings, the Battle of the Bulge and Hurtgen Forest. He has also led groups to Waterloo, the Somme, Verdun, and other Napoleonic and World War I battles.
John W. Mountcastle, Ph.D.
John W. (Jack) Mountcastle was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. Graduating from the Virginia Military Institute in 1965, he began serving as an Army officer in 1966. During his Army career, he commanded tank units at all levels from platoon through armored brigade. He served twice in Vietnam and spent ten years in Germany during the Cold War. During the 1970s, Jack earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University and taught Military History at West Point. After service on the faculty at the Army War College, he was promoted to Brigadier General in 1994 and assumed the duties of the Army Chief of Military History in Washington, D.C. He and his wife Susan returned to Richmond upon his retirement from the Army in 1998. He teaches Civil War history courses at the University of Richmond, lectures at the Virginia Historical Society, and is past president of the Richmond Civil War Round Table. General Mountcastle maintains his interest in leadership studies and leads professional development programs for military and corporate groups at selected battle areas in the United States and in Europe.
Gerald J. Prokopowicz, Ph.D.
Gerald J. Prokopowicz is the author of Did Lincoln Own Slaves? Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Abraham Lincoln and All for the Regiment: The Army of the Ohio, 1861-1862 as well as the online host of Civil War Talk Radio. He served for nine years as the resident Lincoln Scholar at the Lincoln Museum, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he helped create the award-winning exhibit, “Abraham Lincoln and the American Experiment,” and edited Lincoln Lore. Dr. Prokopowicz is a member of the Advisory Boards of the Lincoln Studies Center and the Lincoln Forum, and holds a law degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. He is currently a professor and chair of the history department at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.
Johnny Rickett was born in Wales and entered Military Service in 1959. He became a regular in the Welsh Guards and left the Army as a Brigadier after 35 years. He has served all over the world principally in the Middle East, Far East, East Africa, Europe and the USA. He speaks Arabic, German and French fluently. Johnny saw active service in Aden, Northern Ireland and commanded his battalion in the Falklands War in 1982. His final job in the Army was Military Attaché in Paris where he began intense study of WWI and WWII.
After leaving the Army in 1994 he ran the Union Jack Club in London for 15 years. Since retirement he has been active in charity work as Honorary Life President of Veterans Aid and the President of Colonie Franco-Britannique near Paris. He is President of the RAF Air Cadets Squadron at Chipping Norton near his home and is a Freeman of the City of London.
While his passion is military history, his hobbies are shooting, fishing, falconry and gardening. He is married and has two children and three grand children.
Hal Stearns, Ph.D.
Hal Stearns is a teacher, historian, outdoorsman and storyteller who has been a lifelong scholar of the American West. One of his loves is to retrace the Lewis and Clark Expedition from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Hal has led Lewis and Clark tours across the expanse of the entire trail. He has presented a performance of William Clark to groups at the U.S. Capitol, Department of the Interior, and the Smithsonian, and was a speaker at 13 of the national signature events during the Commemoration of the Lewis and Clark expedition. He has spoken in 43 states, Japan, Korea, England, Germany, Argentina and Brazil. In 2012, Hal was recognized as one of Montana’s “Humanities Heroes” for his unique and expressive interpretation of the exploration and settlement of the American West. Among the boards on which he has served are the Nebraska and Montana Lewis and Clark commissions and the National Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation Board, and the Montana Coal Board. Achieving the rank of General, Dr. Stearns spent 35 years in the Montana National Guard and retired as a brigadier general. He is a graduate of Officer Candidate School and attended the Command and General Staff College, National Defense University and the Army War College.
Our Home Base
Yakir Katz, President
Yakir’s passion for history began as a student at the University of New Orleans in the 1980s where he met Professor Stephen E. Ambrose. He viewed Dr. Ambrose as a mentor and friend. Together they designed and planned the itineraries for Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours over the course of two decades. Under Yakir’s leadership, the company has continued to carry on Dr. Ambrose’s legacy. His youth on a kibbutz in Israel, experience as an IDF paratrooper, and extensive travel in the U.S. and Europe have given Yakir a keen understanding of international cultures, travel, and the military. He has applied this experience and knowledge to help earn Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours the reputation for offering the highest quality historical and military tours in the United States and Europe. He lives in New Orleans with his wife, Edie Ambrose, and two daughters, one of whom he hopes will carry on his love for historical travel that he shared with Dr. Ambrose.
Edie Ambrose, Ph.D., Historian
Edie Ambrose, Stephen Ambrose’s niece, served as his teaching assistant at the University of New Orleans. She received her Ph.D. in history at Tulane University and helped her uncle with the formation and development of Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours. Edie is a regular consultant to our team of historians and is instrumental in designing new tours to offer to our guests as well as in creating deeper historical perspectives for our existing tours. She currently teaches American History and Western Civilization at Southeastern Louisiana University.
Mark Bielski, Ph.D., Director, Historian
Mark brings a wealth of professional experience in academics, journalism and executive management to Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours, where he is involved in business development, guiding, lecturing and tour itinerary design. He received his Ph.D. in war studies at the University of Birmingham, England. His ability to relate history in an engaging way coupled with his warmth and sense of humor, make him a favorite among our guests who have traveled with him. Mark has personally designed the WWII: Poland and Germany, D-Day to Berlin and The Civil War Eastern Theatre tours. The privileges and pleasures of Mark’s work are having the opportunity to interview and travel with numerous veterans and their families from WWII, the Korean conflict and Viet Nam.
Claire Aubrey, Operations Director
Claire brings an impressive expertise in travel logistics, as well as a love of culture, to her position as Operations Director for Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours. As the daughter of a Ballerina of the Paris Opera, Claire learned to speak French before English while growing up in Louisville, KY. She has traveled and lived in France, spending months in Nice before moving to New Orleans as a teenager. Her fluency in French and understanding of the culture has been an asset in booking hotels, chateaux and transportation on our WWII tours. Her extensive experience in the hospitality and travel industry includes working at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Hollywood and Embassy Suites in Atlanta, as well as 20 years as the Director of Operations for Spectacular Sports Specials, where she organized tours to major events throughout the world—Super Bowl, Masters, Final Four, Kentucky Derby, All-Star game, World Cup Soccer and the Olympics.
Olga Degtjarewsky, Operations
Having studied abroad in Florence, lived in Thailand, and gallivanted through Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa and Greece, travel is second nature to Olga. So it was only natural that when she decided to settle down in New Orleans to be part of its rebirth post-Katrina, that Olga would accept a position with Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours. While her degree may be in Art History, it is history that she has fallen in love with since joining the company. Olga handles all of the logistics for the tours, making each one a seamless experience for our guests.
Terri Sercovich, Customer Service and Marketing
As the Customer Service and Marketing representative for Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours, Terri is the go-to person for information and requests for all of our guests. She recently traveled on the Civil War: Mississippi River Key to the Confederacy tour, where everyone fell in love with her warm personality. Terri brings both a love of travel and a deep appreciation for the military to her work. She has lived in Nice, France and along the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. A native of Louisiana, she comes from a long line of relatives who have proudly served in the armed forces. Her grandfathers, uncles, father and brother have represented almost every branch of the military from WWII to Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. Prior to joining us, Terri spent 10 years as an award-winning reporter and photographer, covering modern historical events, including Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill. She now uses those skills as editor of the Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours newsletter.