Overall, a very good blend of WWII-related things with some local cultural things.
Special D-Day to the Rhine Tour: Ghost Army of WWII— Secret War
Your Ghost Army Tour was one of the most enjoyable trips we have ever been on. We enjoyed the many unique sites and unique people.
Follow along the path of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, the extraordinary deception soldiers better known as the Ghost Army, on our Ghost Army of WWII Tour. On this “traveling roadshow of deception” tour, you will visit many World War II sites on a route that closely follows our D-Day to the Rhine Tour (two tours in one!), to offer a wider context for the story of these heroes.
We travel from Bletchley Park in England, to Normandy, where we visit Pegasus Bridge, Ste-Mere-Eglise and Utah Beach, and finish the tour in the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg and Germany. There is also a day in Paris. Ghost Army troops arrived there a few days after liberation, and you may explore the city on your own as they did.
The historian for the Ghost Army of WWII 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 is currently working as an advisor on a feature film based on his book that will star actor Bradley Cooper.
The story of the Ghost Army is one of the most intriguing stories of WWII. To give you an idea of what you will learn along the way, here are a few little known facts about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops.
- A top secret U.S. Army report on the Ghost Army done thirty years after the war 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.”
- They were a big help to General George Patton’s Third Army. In July 1944, they tricked the enemy about where Patton was headed, helping him to race across France and smash much of the German army. In September, they helped held a dangerously undermanned part of Patton’s line as he was attacking the fortress city of Metz. In December, during the Battle of the Bulge, they helped draw German attention away from Patton’s to relieve Bastogne.
- Their story remained classified for more than 50 years after the war. Some of the soldiers never even told their wives about it until 1996.
- Bletchley Park, England: Bletchley Park, 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
- Reims/Verdun and Luxembourg: Sites along their journey through this part of Europe include the Museum of the Surrender in Reims; WWI Verdun battlefield, where they camped in the fortifications; and the site of the Battle of the Bulge
- Trier, Germany: Visit to The Ghost Army’s final HQ, where they guarded several Displaced Persons camps
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. Rick Beyer treats us to our first lecture, with introductions all around.
DAY 3 London, Bletchley Park, Walton
The morning features key sites in London that figured prominently in the war. We then depart London for Bletchley Park, the nerve center for Allied code breaking and the operation code named Ultra. Here we find the Enigma machine and the complex where Alan Turing and others decrypted Axis codes and cyphers. This is the story depicted in the Benedict Cumberbatch film The Imitation Game. That night we settle at Walton Hall and view the Ghost Army documentary film.
DAY 4 Walton Hall
Today is Deception School at Walton Hall, the 19th Century manor house located a few miles outside of Stratford-Upon-Avon. The Ghost Army bivouacked here from April to June 1944, as they trained for their mission. We discuss the usage of artificial inflatable tanks, dummy aircraft, practice with camouflage and mount our own sonic and radio deception. A local re-enactment group demonstrates Ghost Army exercises. That evening we visit nearby Leamington Spa, where the soldiers went to blow off steam.
DAY 5 Crossing the Channel
This morning we drive to Portsmouth and tour Southwick House, the advance command post of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. In the months leading up to D-Day in 1944, the house was the headquarters of the main Allied commanders, including Naval Commander-In-Chief Admiral Ramsay, Allied Supreme Commander General Eisenhower, and the Army Commander-In-Chief General Montgomery. It was here that Ike faced the agonizing “go/no-go” decision in the face of terrible weather just before D-Day.
After dinner we board the cross Channel ferry and make our way to Normandy in an overnight crossing, just as so many American soldiers did in 1944. (Our accommodations will be better than theirs!)
DAY 6 Normandy
After an early morning arrival in Normandy, we proceed to Pegasus Bridge where the first shots were fired on D-Day. Here the British Sixth Airborne led by Major John Howard made a miraculous glider landing to carry out a surprise attack that took this crucial bridge across the Caen Canal. We then drive to Ste-Mere-Eglise, one of the villages where the American Airborne descended on D-Day. Here we view and explore the iconic church where John Steele and his landing on the steeple are memorialized. From there we visit Utah Beach itself, where a large portion of The Ghost Army landed a few weeks after D-Day, and the Invasion Museum that depicts the D-Day fighting there.
DAY 7 Normandy
We start the day in the village of Trévières, the Ghost Army’s initial base in Normandy. We visit the church in the town square that many of the men painted and sketched. From there we travel to the historic Norman city of Bayeux, where we view the Bayeux Tapestry that depicts William the Conqueror’s invasion of England (The last successful cross-channel invasion before 1944.) There will also be time to see the cathedral there. After lunch, we visit the German fortifications at Longues-Sur Mer.
Then we head to 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 examine what made this such a desperate battleground and pay our respects at the American Cemetery with its 9,387 American soldiers’ graves stretching along the top of the bluff overlooking the beach. After dinner, Rick Beyer will present the story of The Ghost Army’s operations in Normandy and Brittany.
DAY 8 Paris
After a final stop in Normandy, we head to Paris. We arrive in the late afternoon. Dinner at the hotel and orientation for those new to Paris.
DAY 9 Paris
After breakfast, guests are free to visit key historic sites in Paris throughout the day. The Allies, preceded by Free French troops, symbolically reclaimed the French capital from the Nazis in August 1944. Ghost Army troops arrived there a few days after liberation, and you may explore the city on your own as they did.
DAY 10 Reims-Verdun-Luxembourg
As our bus heads east out of Paris, Rick Beyer will give a presentation about the Ghost Army’s journey to eastern France and eventually Luxembourg. We stop in Reims to visit the Museum of the Surrender, where German generals surrendered to General Eisenhower in May 1945. We admire the famous cathedral where many French kings were crowned, including the July 17, 1429 coronation of Charles VII, guided by Joan of Arc.
On the way to Luxembourg is Verdun, site of the biggest battle of World War One. During the Battle of the Bulge, The Ghost Army withdrew to this French town, and camped in the World War One fortifications. We will see the spot where they bunked, and briefly tour the battlefield and cemetery. Arrive in Luxembourg City.
DAY 11 Luxembourg
From mid-September until the Battle of the Bulge in December, The Ghost Army was based in Luxembourg City. In the morning we take a walking tour of the Grund, the picturesque quarter painted and sketched by many Ghost Army artists. Then we visit the Seminary where many of the soldiers stayed (and Marlene Dietrich performed for them). It is now part of the University of Luxembourg.
After lunch, it is a short ride to nearby Hamm and the American cemetery. We visit the grave of General George Patton – as well as that of Sgt. George Peddle, a Ghost Army soldier killed in action. Nearby is a German military cemetery that provides a study in contrasts. From there we trace an important Ghost Army deception, Operation Bettembourg, to better grasp how it played out.
DAY 12 Luxembourg, Belgium
We drive to Bastogne, where the 101st Airborne and elements of the 10th Armored Division held off fifteen German divisions for six days in the Battle of the Bulge. We’ll explore General McAuliffe’s HQ where he replied to German surrender demands with one word: “NUTS.” At the 101st Airborne Museum in Bastogne 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. Then we return to Luxembourg City for dinner at the hotel.
DAY 13 Siegfried Line-Trier-Wiesbaden
We drive to the Siegfried Line to see remnants of the German communication trenches, pillboxes and dragon’s teeth that American GI’s fought so hard to take in late 1944. Then we visit Trier, where The Ghost Army spent the final days of the war guarding Displaced Persons camps, and where many of the artists captured scenes of the bombed out city. Our visit will include free time for shopping and exploring the oldest city in Germany. That night in Wiesbaden, we say farewell over dinner and discussion after an enriching campaign into history.
DAY 14 Home
Early morning airport transfer to Frankfurt International.