D-Day to the Rhine Tour: Ghost Army of WWII Secret War

 4.8 - reviews
This is an excellent tour that will educate, entertain and expand your interest in the European World War II sites, battles and stories. The focus on the Ghost Army gives it a unique perspective.

– Harry Forsdick

This is a special edition of our popular D-Day to the Rhine Tour. As you follow the path of the American boys who liberated Europe, you will also discover the top-secret story of the deception troops known as “the Ghost Army” who made their own important contribution to ultimate victory. 

This “traveling road show of deception” used inflatable tanks, sound effects and illusion to fool the Germans more than 20 times from Normandy to the Rhine. Their very existence was a military secret until the 1990s, and a U.S. Army analysis categorized their exploits this way: “Rarely, if ever, has there been a group of such a few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign.”

The itinerary includes key sites in Great Britain, a channel crossing, the Normandy Beaches, the besieged city of Bastogne and much more.

The historian for this tour is Rick Beyer, who produced and directed the award-winning PBS documentary The Ghost Army, and co-wrote (with Liz Sayles) The Ghost Army of World War II. He has done extensive research on the unit, visited the battlefields of Europe many times, and with his wife Marilyn, has led this tour since 2014. Rick founded the Ghost Army Legacy Project, and is currently working as an advisor on a feature film based on his book that is being developed by the producers of American Sniper including Bradley Cooper. 

Watch Rick’s webinar, The Ghost Army: Holding Patton’s Line with Inflatable Tanks>>

Highlights

  • Churchill War Rooms: The underground nerve center for Britain’s war effort 
  • Bletchley Park, England: The intelligence nerve center where the Nazi Enigma machine is housed
  • Warwickshire, England: Inflate and lift a dummy tank at Walton Hall, where The Ghost Army bivouacked as they trained for their deception mission
  • Normandy, France: Visit many D-Day sites, including Pegasus Bridge, Ste-Mere-Eglise, Utah Beach, where most of The Ghost Army landed, and Trevieres, where the Ghost Army began their work in France
  • Luxembourg: Site of the only historical marker dedicated to the Ghost Army on the site of one of their most impressive missions
  • Bastogne: The headquarters of General McAuliffe, the foxholes of Easy Company, and much more

Day-By-Day Itinerary

DAY 1 Flight to London

Guests organize their overnight flight to London. Please call us if you need any help making these arrangements.

DAY 2 London

Check into the hotel where the group gathers for an evening welcome reception and dinner. Historian Rick Beyer treats us to our first lecture, with introductions all around.

DAY 3 London, Bletchley Park, Walton Hall

The morning features several key sites in London that formed the backdrop for the war effort, including a visit to Winston Churchill’s historic underground bunker:  Cabinet War Rooms. We then depart London for Bletchley Park, nerve center for Allied code breaking. Here we find the Enigma machine and the complex where Alan Turing and others decrypted Axis codes and cyphers. That night we settle in at Walton Hall, a few miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. Group Dinner at Walton Hall.

DAY 4 Walton Hall and Portsmouth

Walton Hall, a 16thcentury manor house tucked into unspoiled Warwickshire countryside near Stratford-Upon-Avon, welcomes tour guests as it did the Ghost Army. The deceivers bivouacked here as they readied for action in spring 1944. We walk the village and grounds in the morning dew, then test our skills with an inflatable tank and sonic deception on the very spot the GI’s trained. Ghost Army soldiers visited Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon – and we will, too – before heading to Portsmouth, a major embarkation site for the vast D-Day armada.

DAY 5 Crossing the Channel

At Portsmouth, we tour Southwick House, the advance command post of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. The invasion-day map room where SHAEF commander Dwight Eisenhower counted down the final hours before D-Day is beautifully preserved. Here we learn about his agonizing “go/no-go” decision in the face of terrible weather just before D-Day. Next, a visit to the newly refurbished D-Day Museum to examine the launch of the cross-channel invasion.

Then, it’s all aboard the Ferry. We head across the English Channel to Normandy ourselves, and enjoy a fine dinner as the sun sets.

DAY 6 Normandy

We begin at Ste-Mere-Eglise, a where the American 82nd Airborne dramatically descended on D-Day. We explore the iconic church memorialized by John Steele’s landing on its spire. 13,000 American paratroopers and nearly 4000 glider troops landed in Normandy in the early morning hours of June 6, and we will visit the Airborne Museum in Ste-Mere-Eglise to understand that daring feat.

Then it’s on to Ste-Marie-du-Mont where you can still see Renaissance-style steeple the Germans used as an observation post. Next stop, Brécourt Manor where Lt. Dick Winters with members of Easy Company successfully silenced German artillery firing on American troops landing at Utah Beach.

Finally, we come to Utah Beach itself where the 4thdivision landed on D-Day. A large portion of The Ghost Army landed there a few weeks later. At the Invasion Museum, we find a thorough and moving interpretation of the events of D-Day. Group Dinner.

DAY 7 Normandy

Our day kicks off by exploring Pointe du Hoc, where US Army Rangers scaled the cliffs in one of D-Day’s most thrilling actions. We then visit Omaha Beach where American GI’s faced the strongest German resistance on D-Day and incurred the greatest losses. Here too, several contingents of Ghost Army soldiers began their European operations. We visit key points to help us comprehend the enormity of this storied battleground. Fittingly, we then pay our respects at the American Cemetery. Atop the bluff overlooking the beach, a sea of white crosses mark 9,387 American soldiers’ graves. 

Unique to this tour is a stop in the Norman village of Trévières, the first Ghost Army base in Europe. We step inside the church in the town square that so many artists in the 603rdcaptured in photos, watercolor or pen-and-ink. Then a bucolic side-trip to Foret De Cerisy, site of the Ghost Army’s very first mission.

DAY 8 Normandy

Today we look at the British sector. We begin at Pegasus Bridge where the first shots were fired on D-Day. Here the British Sixth Airborne’s Major John Howard led a miraculous glider landing – a surprise attack that took this crucial bridge across the Caen Canal. Then we drive along the British beaches to Arromanche to see actual remnants of the Mulberry Harbor, and visit a museum installed in a German bunker overlooking the town.

After a visit to the battery at Longues-sur-Mer, a fine example of Hitler's Atlantic Wall, we will visit the ancient Norman city of Bayeux. There we’ll view the Bayeux Tapestry depicting William the Conqueror’s 1066 invasion of England – and even glimpse WWII parallels in this last successful cross-channel invasion before 1944. Plus, there’s time to visit the 11thCentury cathedral or shop for souvenirs.

DAY 9 Normandy to Paris

We get an early start for Paris, and arrive around noon, where you will have free time to explore “The City of Lights.” Like Ghost Army soldiers when they visited, you will be “at ease.”

DAY 10 Paris, Reims, Verdun, Luxembourg

As our bus proceeds east from Paris, we stop in Chateau Thierry, the incredible WWI monument where we’ll learn more about the war set the stage for WWII. Then on to Rheims, where German generals surrendered to Eisenhower in 1945. Here also is the famed cathedral. Many French kings were crowned here, including Charles VII on July 17, 1429, guided by Joan of Arc. 

Traversing France, we visit Verdun, the monumental World War I battleground. During the Battle of the Bulge, The Ghost Army withdrew to this French town and camped in dank World War I fortifications. We’ll see where they were, and tour the battlefield, monuments and cemetery. Then, on to Luxembourg City.

DAY 11 Luxembourg

From mid-September until the Battle of the Bulge in December, The Ghost Army was based in Luxembourg City. We take a morning walking tour of the Grund, the picturesque quarter painted and sketched by many Ghost Army artists. At the site of Operation Bettembourg, we pause at the first-ever Ghost Army historical marker (dedicated in 2018). From there it is a short ride to Hamm and the American cemetery. We visit General George Patton’s grave – as well as that of Sgt. George Peddle, a Ghost Army soldier killed in action. A nearby German military cemetery provides a study in contrasts. At The Seminary where Ghost Army soldiers stayed during their time in Luxembourg, we stand on the very stage where the great Marlene Dietrich performed for them.

DAY 12 Luxembourg and Belgium

The Battle of the Bulge: We visit Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne and elements of the 10th Armored held off 15 German divisions for six frigid days in December 1944. We’re invited into General McAuliffe’s HQ where he replied to German surrender demands with one word: “NUTS.” We’ll set foot on sites near Bastogne where the battle unfolded – including the foxholes occupied by the “Band of Brothers.” At the 101st Airborne Museum in town, we experience what the battle was like for both soldier and civilian. We also learn about a little-known Ghost Army operation designed to help General Patton’s drive on Bastogne. Later, we return to Luxembourg City for dinner at the hotel. 

DAY 13 Siegfried Line, Trier, Wiesbaden, Viersen

We seek out remnants of the Siegfried Line, the German pillboxes and dragon’s teeth that American GI’s fought so hard to take in late 1944. 

At last, it’s on to the Germany’s oldest city: Trier. The Ghost Army spent the final days of the war guarding Displaced Persons camps here. Many artist-soldiers captured scenes of the bombed-riddled city. Our visit includes time to shop and explore this Roman ruins – and even Karl Marx birthplace. That night  over dinner in Wiesbaden, we say farewell and recap our enriching foray into history. 

DAY 14 Home

Early morning airport transfer to Frankfurt International.

POST TOUR OPTION - OPERATION VIERSON

The Ghost Army’s last operation was the biggest and best. The 21stArmy Group under British General Bernard Law Montgomery, was picked to make the major thrust across the Rhine.Two divisions of the American 9thArmy would lead one wing of the attack. The Ghost Army’s job was to fool the Germans about where the 9thArmy would attack. In our post-tour, we focus on crossing of the Rhine and this final deception, which earned the unit a letter of commendation.

POST-TOUR DAY 1 Wiesbaden, Remagen, Dusseldorf

We drive to Remagen, site of the famous Luddendorf Bridge. Its dramatic capture by the 9thArmored Division in March 1945, enabled the U.S. Army to establish its first bridgehead across the Rhine. We’ll tour the museum housed in the remnants of the storied bridge.

From there, we travel to Dusseldorf, take a boat cruise on the Rhine, and discuss Operation PLUNDER, General Montgomery’s 21stArmy Group Rhine Crossing.

POST-TOUR DAY 2 Anrate, Dulten, Viersen, Wiesbaden

Explore sites related to Operation VIERSEN, the Ghost Army’s last deception. The unit audaciously impersonated two divisions, the 30thand 79th, to help them in a major crossing of the Rhine River. Late that afternoon, we return once more to Wiesbaden.

POST-TOUR DAY 3 Home

Early morning airport transfer to Frankfurt International. 

 

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Map for D-Day to the Rhine Tour: Ghost Army of WWII Secret War

Tour Dates

  • September 6 - 19, 2020
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Trip Cost $5,490

Prices are per person based on double occupancy. For a single room add $1,050. $300 deposit required.

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