soldier with citizens

Soldiers and Spies

WWII Sacrifice and Espionage Featuring Best-selling Author Alex Kershaw
May 4 — 10, 2020
Normandy to Paris

Tour Overview

We embark on a unique seven-day, six-night tour of France, visiting sites from Alex Kershaw's New York Times best-sellers—Avenue of Spies and The Bedford Boys—with the author himself serving as lead historian. Guests get an up-close experience at the beaches of Normandy and in the streets of Paris, hearing the stories of espionage, sacrifice, heroism, and tragedy along the way.

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FROM NORMANDY TO PARIS

On this exclusive seven-day tour of France, guests get an up-close view of the beaches of Normandy, while hearing stories of sacrifice about the “Bedford Boys” who came ashore with Company A, 116th Regiment, 29th Infantry Division during the first wave at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Tour members also roam the breathtaking streets of Paris with Kershaw, who provides depth and context to the espionage that occurred there more than 75 years ago. Avenue Foch, one of the most upscale and elite streets in Paris, was home to Avenue of Spies protagonist Dr. Sumner Jackson and his family. Their address at Number 11 was both a meeting place for the French Resistance and a drop site for crucial information. High-ranking Nazis took up residence nearby, putting the Jacksons in constant danger. Kershaw’s stories will bring to life the Jackson family’s courage at a time when “never had so many psychopaths and sadists been based on one street in Paris.”

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Tour Inclusions

  • Full-time access to author Alex Kershaw, who will personally guide guests through the locations that inspired his best-selling books Avenue of Spies and The Bedford Boys
  • Presentations from the Museum’s Digital Collections, including a collection of video oral histories and digital artifacts curated exclusively for the Soldiers and Spies tour
  • Special access to sites not offered on other tours, including Kershaw’s selections of France’s most fascinating WWII sites
  • Full-time logistical tour manager & expert local battlefield guides
  • Round-trip airport transfers (when arriving and departing on scheduled group tour dates)
  • 5-star boutique hotel accommodation in Normandy
  • 4-star luxury accommodation in the heart of Paris
  • Private, first-class, air-conditioned motor coach transportation
  • Personal listening devices on all included touring
  • Included gratuities to guides, drivers, porters, and servers
  • 6 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, and 4 Dinners
  • Beer, wine, and soft drinks with included lunches and dinner
  • Personalized luggage tags and customized name badge
  • Personal journal and pen to document your journey
  • Autographed copy of Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi Occupied Paris
  • Keepsake travel guide including maps, photographs, and historical information from the Museum’s collections

ADDITIONAL SERVICES

  • Additional pre- and/or post-hotel nights
  • Travel insurance
  • Flight assistance
  • Private transfers

We’re pleased to assist you with additional services you may require, ensuring you a worry-free journey with The National WWII Museum.

Soldiers and Spies

The Books

Alex Kershaw

Avenue of Spies

The leafy Avenue Foch, one of the most exclusive residential streets in Nazi-occupied France, was Paris’s hotbed of daring spies, murderous secret police, amoral informers, and Vichy collaborators. So when American physician Sumner Jackson, who lived with his wife and young son Phillip at Number 11, found himself drawn into the Liberation network of the French Resistance, he knew the stakes were impossibly high. Just down the road at Number 31 was “mad sadist” Theodor Dannecker, an Eichmann protégé charged with deporting French Jews to concentration camps. And Number 84 housed the Parisian headquarters of the Gestapo, run by the most effective spy hunter in Nazi Germany.

From his office at the American Hospital, itself an epicenter of Allied and Axis intrigue, Jackson smuggled fallen Allied fighter pilots safely out of France, a job complicated by the hospital director’s close collaborationist ties. After witnessing the brutal roundup of his Jewish friends, Jackson invited Liberation to officially operate out of his home at Number 11 — but the noose soon began to tighten. When his secret life was discovered by his Nazi neighbors, he and his family were forced to undertake a journey into the dark heart of the war-torn continent from which there was little chance of return.

Cover of Alex Kershaw's book Avenue if Spies
Alex Kershaw

The Bedford Boys

June 6, 1944: Nineteen boys from Bedford, Virginia, population just 3,000 in 1944, died in the first bloody minutes of D-Day. They were part of Company A of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division, and the first wave of American soldiers to hit the beaches in Normandy. Later in the campaign, three more boys from this small Virginia town died of gunshot wounds.

Twenty-two sons of Bedford lost—it is a story one cannot easily forget and one that the families of Bedford will never forget. The Bedford Boys is the true and intimate story of these men and the friends and families they left behind.

Based on extensive interviews with survivors and relatives, as well as diaries and letters, Kershaw’s book focuses on several remarkable individuals and families to tell one of the most poignant stories of World War II—the story of one small American town that went to war and died on Omaha Beach.

Cover of Alex Kershaw's book The Bedford Boys
Soldiers and Spies

Tour Itinerary & Map

Full Tour Itinerary

May 4, 2020 - Day 1

Paris Arrival & Transfer to Bayeux

After individual arrivals into Paris, guests meet the tour manager at Charles de Gaulle Airport before heading directly to Normandy. After arriving in Bayeux and checking into the Hotel Villa Lara, the group enjoys an optional walking tour of the historic medieval city before dinner. The walk includes stops at Cathédrale de Bayeux and the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux, home of the “Bayeux Tapestry” that portrays William the Conqueror’s victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. A welcome dinner at Le Lion d’Or Restaurant, where famous photographer Robert Capa and reporter Ernie Pyle ate and first celebrated the success of D-Day, ends the first day of the journey.

Overnight at Hotel Villa Lara (D) 

May 5, 2020 - Day 2

The First Waves

Today’s tour of Normandy begins where the first shots of the invasion were fired by British glider troops at the crucial Pegasus Bridge. Learn about Major John Howard and his men of the “Ox and Bucks,” and how they were able to secure and hold the bridge. Next drive along the British sector to Sword Beach, which is now the port village of Ouisterham. After lunch on your own in the area, continue to Juno Beach, the five-mile stretch of beach assigned to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 2nd Armored Brigade. Faced with rough seas, strong winds, and numerous mines, the Canadian soldiers persevered and achieved the deepest advance into Normandy of any of the five invasion beaches. This afternoon, explore the remains of a “Mulberry Harbor” at Arromanches and learn more about this great feat of engineering and ingenuity. End the day with a visit to the German gun battery at Longues-sur-Mer. Return to Bayeux for an evening at leisure.

Overnight at Hotel Villa Lara (B, D)

May 6, 2020 - Day 3

Sainte-Mère-Église & Utah Beach

Following breakfast at the hotel, touring focuses on the combined efforts of various airborne assaults that took place on June 6, 1944. The first stop is La Fière, where members of the 82nd Airborne fought off four days of attacks from German troops trying to retake this strategic bridge. Guests hear the stories of Bob Murphy and Johnny Marr in their own words, from The National WWII Museum’s oral history collection. The next stop is Sainte-Mère-Église, where paratroopers landed during the predawn hours of D-Day. After touring the Musée Airborne and visiting the church made famous in the film The Longest Day, guests enjoy time on their own before continuing to Brécourt Manor, where Dick Winters and his men from “Easy Company” made their famous assault on the German guns portrayed in the book and miniseries Band of Brothers. Today’s final visit is to the Utah Beach Museum, where the story of Teddy Roosevelt Jr. and the men who landed on Utah Beach will be told. This outstanding museum is nestled in the sand dunes and seagrass that once held German defensive positions. Dinner this evening is enjoyed at a quaint Bayeux restaurant.

Overnight at Hotel Villa Lara (B, D)

May 7, 2020 - Day 4

Vierville-sur-Mer/The Bedford Boys: One Town’s D-Day Sacrifice

The morning tour begins at Omaha Beach, where the landing craft transporting the Bedford Boys came ashore. While standing on the “Dog Green” sector of Omaha Beach, Kershaw will recount the horror that awaited them at H-Hour on D-Day, bringing these men and their histories to life. En route to the next destination, listen to the oral history of Dr. Harold “Hal” Baumgarten, who trained with Company A and landed immediately after them. Visits to other sites along Vierville-sur-Mer and at St. Laurent-sur-Mer follow, providing a close-up view of the intricate German defense system and giving a sense of the overwhelming odds the American soldiers faced on D-Day. After a special lunch, visit the Normandy American Cemetery and pay respects at the graves of some of the Bedford Boys. The tour continues to Pointe du Hoc, a strategic point that overlooks the surrounding coastline. The 2nd Ranger Battalion successfully scaled the cliffs to neutralize this heavily fortified German position. Guests learn about the desperate battle that took place between the unified 2nd and 5th Rangers fighting against multiple German counterattacks before returning to Bayeux for an evening at leisure.

Overnight at Hotel Villa Lara (B, L)

May 8, 2020 - Day 5

Paris Arrival: Following Kershaw’s Avenue of Spies

This morning begins with breakfast at the hotel before enjoying a scenic drive to Paris for a full day following Kershaw’s Avenue of Spies. Upon arrival, guests visit Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides before touring the “Nazi Triangle,” the upscale area where the Gestapo occupied several offices, including the leafy Avenue Foch, which was one of the most exclusive residential streets in Nazi-occupied France. During the tour, Kershaw brings to life the tales of intrigue, deception, and danger that took place at various addresses along the avenue, beginning with American physician Sumner Jackson, the protagonist in Avenue of Spies. Jackson lived with his wife and young son Phillip at Number 11, performing dangerous deeds for the French Resistance right under the Nazis’ noses. Down the street at Number 72, Kershaw recounts Colonel Helmut Knochen’s orchestration of the crushing of Resistance forces from this imposing white villa. Across the street at Number 31, Captain Theodor Dannecker and Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann spent much of June 1942 planning the Grand Rafle — the Great Roundup — of July 16–17, in which German forces took more than 13,000 Jews to a velodrome, before shipping them off by train to death camps. Continuing to Number 84, Kershaw relays the stories of horror that took place as brutal Gestapo operatives tortured their “enemies,” including legendary British Special Operations Executive agents Violette Szabo, “The White Rabbit,” and “Madeleine,” in efforts to keep their sinister regime in power. This afternoon, after checking into the Westin Paris Vendôme, guests enjoy an evening at leisure in Paris.

Overnight at The Westin Paris Vendôme (B, L)

May 9, 2020 - Day 6

The Liberation of Paris

The morning tour of Paris begins at Père Lachaise, the famous cemetery where guests pay respects to French Resistance heroes and the victims of Nazi rule, many of whom, like Dr. Jackson and his family, were deported to concentration camps. After free time for lunch, an afternoon tour of Paris includes sites with a focus on the occupation and liberation of the city more than 74 years ago. Guests follow in the footsteps of the Führer, visiting several of the landmarks that Hitler admired during his victory tour in June 1940, which proved to be his one and only visit to the “City of Light.” In addition to the Opera, Notre Dame, and the Pantheon, the tour includes a stop at the Hotel de Ville, where liberating American troops fought fiercely in August 1944, and Hôtel Le Meurice, where the high drama of the German surrender played out, as portrayed in the movie Is Paris Burning? Gather this evening for a farewell dinner.

Overnight at The Westin Paris Vendôme (B, D)

May 10, 2020 - Day 7

Return to the United States

After breakfast at the hotel, guests are transferred to Charles de Gaulle Airport.

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Destination Map

Soldiers and Spies

Tour Historians

Featured Historian

Alex Kershaw

Alex Kershaw is the author of the widely acclaimed best sellers The Bedford Boys, The Longest Winter, The Few, The Liberator, and Escape from the Deep, as well as biographies of Jack London, Raoul Wallenberg, and Robert Capa. An honorary colonel in the 116th Infantry Regiment, Kershaw began his research for his latest book, Avenue of Spies, while leading a tour of Europe for The National WWII Museum, and helped design this itinerary. He is currently researching a follow-up book to The Bedford Boys about D-Day.

Alex Kershaw, photo credit: Michael Carroll
Kershaw Describes the Tour
Soldiers and Spies

Accommodations

Bayeux

Hotel Villa Lara

The only five-star boutique hotel in the region, the Villa Lara is centrally located and offers a breathtaking view of the Cathédrale de Bayeux within a short stroll of the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux and the Musée Mémorial de la Bataille de Normandie. The elegant rooms are equipped with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and tea- and coffee-making facilities.

The Westin Paris Vendôme

This luxury property offers the best of the “City of Lights” at its doorstep. In addition to magnificent views of the city from the hotel, the hotel is moments away from the Louvre Museum, Tuileries Garden, the Eiffel Tower, and many of Paris’s other beloved sites. The upscale rooms offer plush furnishings, flat-screen TVs, and access to complimentary Wi-Fi in public areas.

Soldiers and Spies

Tour Pricing

Program Pricing

Price per person based on Double Occupancy 

$6,495 $5,495

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Price per person based on Single Occupancy 

$8,195 $7,695

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$229 per person taxes and fees will be included on final invoice

Soldiers and Spies

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