Guest Tour Memory: D-Day to the Rhine

WWII veterans and D-Day tour guest
Rowan with Joe Reilly and Clayton Nattier

We have had many guests who have traveled on a tour with Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours tell us that it was a memory of a lifetime. As we are all armchair travelers for the moment, today we share guest Patti Erickson’s photos and sentiments about her and her son Rowan’s experience on our D-Day to the Rhine Tour.

Guest Tour Memory: D-Day to the Rhine

In the fall of 2015, my son, Rowan, and I joined a D-Day to the Rhine tour led by Ron Drez. I have been interested in WWII for my entire life. I was fortunate to have a mother who indulged my interest in military history, even though it wasn’t considered a “girl” thing in that time period. When my son started showing a similar interest while he was quite young, I promised him if I ever had the money, he and I would go on a WWII history tour. My initial goal was to take him on a trip with actual veterans who could share some of their experiences with him. Years passed, though, and my son was 18 before I could make the trip happen for us. I had no expectation, by then, that there would be any veterans accompanying us and, sadly, there were not. 

Kehlsteinhaus Dining Patio
Dining Patio at Kehlsteinhaus

As we travelled from site to site, country to country, everyday was a like fabulous history lesson, taking things from a static page and bringing them to life. Ron did a fabulous job of leading our trip, giving us detailed information about all of our destinations and relating anecdotes from many of the veterans who had travelled with him over the years. From visiting each museum, monument, cemetery, and battlefield, crawling through bunkers, sitting in foxholes, and honoring the dead by retelling their stories, each day was extraordinary. Still, at every stop, we looked for any veterans among the other tourists but never saw any.

As we neared the end of the trip, we were scheduled to see Kehlsteinhaus, Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. That day proved to be dreary and rainy, so it was decided to postpone visiting until the following day (our last) and hope for better weather.

WWII veterans on D-Day tour
L-R: Joe Reilly [501Btl, 101st AB], Clayton Nattier [306 BG, 8th AF B-17 Pilot POW], John Foy [347th Inf, 87th ID], Peter DuPre [ 114th Gen Hosp]

The next morning we headed up the mountain to the parking area where we would catch the elevator. Rowan went to get in line and I stopped to take photos. I overheard a gentleman near me say something about “his veterans.” He was a photographer with an Honor Flight group and when he told me he had some veterans who were about to come down, I grabbed my son and pulled him out of line. We waited with the photographer from the Honor Flight, who then kindly introduced my son to some of his group. They were Joe Reilly, 501st PIR, 101st Airborne, Clayton Nattier, 306th Bomber Group, 8th Air Force, John Foy, 347th Infantry, 87th Infantry Division and Peter DuPrey, 114th General Hospital. Each of them shared stories and answered my son’s questions about their wartime experiences.

We then went up to the top where we met another veteran, Joe Myers, B Company, 692 Tank Destroyer Battalion, who also graciously answered questions and shared stories with my son. Those few moments of shared time with these men gave us the ultimate souvenir and the perfect finale to our trip-of-a-lifetime. 

Patti Erickson

Dallas, Texas

D-Day tour guest and WWII veteran
Rowan with Jack Myers, 692 Tank Destroyer Battalion
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