SMU Center for Presidential History
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Date(s) - 19/05/2019 - 27/05/2019
All Day


History 3385 D-Day: Operation OVERLORD & Europe's Liberation
A Travel Course for Students, Alumni & Friends of SMU

MAY 21-28, 2018

Join Southern Methodist University’s (SMU’s) Center for Presidential History’s Jeffrey A. Engel and Essential History Expeditions’ Brian DeToy for an on-site exploration of London, Cambridge, Portsmouth, Normandy and Paris, walking the cities and beaches where Churchill schemed, Ike commanded, flyers downed pints and soldiers fought for Europe’s liberation.  This intergenerational tour offers three credits for students, and for alumni and friends the opportunity to see the places history took place — and to relive a bit of college life.

Join us for a fully guided and immersive tour of the people and places of Operation OVERLORD, the June 1944 invasion of Normandy that began Europe’s liberation from Nazi rule. Participants will walk the beaches and cliffs, learn from local experts and guest lecturers, and be assigned a renowned (or reviled) figure from history to investigate and role-play. Plus plenty of time to explore these iconic sites on your own and to reconnect with SMU friends and students in some of Europe’s most scenic sites.

This trip features in-depth guided tours and lectures for all sites, all admission fees and transportation, all lodging and most meals (as detailed on the itinerary). Airfare not included.

Trip preparation: Pre-departure lectures and study groups led by Dr. Jeffrey Engel, mandatory for students and optional for alumni and friends of SMU.

History 3385 D-Day: Operation OVERLORD & Europe's Liberation
A Travel Course for Students, Alumni & Friends of SMU

MAY 21-28, 2018

Long before they launched across the Channel, the Allies transformed Great Britain into a vast armed camp, with millions of soldiers, sailors and airmen poised to assault Hitler’s Fortress Europa. We begin in London, examining the War Rooms of Winston Churchill’s Cabinet along with centuries of history and culture in the capital of the British Empire. In Cambridge we will hear from renowned scholars and discuss allied air preparations while visiting the famed university. On our last day on the island we will visit the grounds of Bletchley Park where, secret for decades, the ULTRA codebreakers worked tirelessly for allied victory. Then, it’s off to Portsmouth on the Channel coast, to discuss seaborne preparations, and visit the invasion headquarters of Dwight Eisenhower along with the British D-Day museum. From there we board the large, modern MV Normandie for the overnight crossing to the beaches of France!

The events of June 6, 1944, continue to inspire long after the guns have fallen silent. The largest invasion in history, on the isolated Normandy coast, drastically altered the conduct of the war and demonstrated the unflinching resolve of freedom-loving peoples. This D-Day tour will bring guests to the beaches, cliffs and fields; and villages, towns and cities where the Greatest Generation made their most indelible mark. From British glidermen at Pegasus Bridge, to the American infantrymen assaulting the beaches at Bloody Omaha; from American paratroopers jumping behind enemy lines at Ste Mere Eglise and Brecourt Manor to the Rangers climbing the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc to the building of the artificial harbors at Arromanches. And so many other iconic sites.

The culmination of the Operation COBRA breakout from the Norman hedgerows was the capture of Paris in late August 1944. We will trace the route of George Patton’s soldiers from Brittany across the plains to the French capital. In the City of Light we will visit numerous sites connected with the war, along with time to sample the treasures of several millennia of Western culture. From Ernest Hemingway’s bar in the Ritz Hotel to the Holocaust Memorial to the chance to visit the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and so much more, or simply stroll the right or left banks of the Seine as you wander from one amazing location to another.

normandy france tours
normandy tours


Day 1, Monday, May 21st: Introduction to London in WWII

  • Welcome and overview of the expedition
  • Group visit to Churchill Cabinet War Rooms — from this location, near both to Parliament and No. 10 Downing, the War Cabinet received information, held high-level meetings and conducted its world-wide imperial war effort
  • Walking tour of central London from Parliament Square along Whitehall, the center of British government, to Trafalgar Square and its iconic monuments, museums and public buildings (mandatory for students and optional for alumni/friends)
  • Group dinner and lecture “Churchill and Attlee’s View” with John Bew, King’s College
  • London hotel: Grosvenor House JW Marriott (alumni/friend) or Holiday Inn London Oxford Circus (student)

Day 2, Tuesday, May 22nd: Cambridge/ USAAF Preparation for OVERLORD

  • Breakfast
  • Cambridge: Stage-setting lecture “FDR and American War Aims” with Andrew Preston of Clare College
  • Walking tour of the quaint and historic town and visits to some of the famed university’s colleges
  • Group lunch at The Eagle, the famous American pilot pub, with lecture “Hitler and German War Aims” with Brendan Simms of Peterhouse College
  • Dinner on your own
  • West End show (opt out if desired)
  • London hotel: Grosvenor House JW Marriott (alumni/friend) or Holiday Inn Oxford Circus (student)

Day 3, Wednesday, May 23rd: ULTRA at Bletchley Park, Portsmouth & Seaborne Preparations for OVERLORD

  • Breakfast
  • Bletchley Park: Visit the ULTRA Code Breakers compound — a vital component in Allied victory and real-life inspiration for the recent Oscar-winning film “The Imitation Game”
  • Lunch on your own at Hut 4 Cafe in Bletchley Park
  • Southwick House: HQ of the Allied High Command in the days before the invasion, and the location where, in the dark hours of night with torrential rains beating against the windows, Ike made the decision — “Let’s go!”
  • Group dinner at the Red Lion Inn in Southwick Village
  • MV Normandie Channel Crossing: enjoy private ensuite stateroom cabins through the night from Portsmouth, England, to Ouistreham, France

Day 4, Thursday, May 24th: Allied Airborne and SWORD & UTAH Beaches

  • After breakfast aboard ship, we will arrive at dawn just as the Allied soldiers and sailors did on June 6th, on the same SWORD beach!
  • British 6th Airborne Division at Pegasus Bridge
  • Coffee at Cafe Gondree, the first house liberated in France and Mme Arlette Gondree, a child in the house at the time of liberation, may well join us for conversation
  • Ranville British Cemetery
  • Caen Memorial Museum
  • Lunch on your own at the museum cafe
  • Canadians and Free French at JUNO Beach
  • British at GOLD Beach and Mulberry Harbor; option to visit museum on your own
  • Discuss June 6 capture of Crepon (the only VC awarded on D-Day!) and La Ferme’s use as logistics point and air field
  • Four-course dinner at the charming La Ferme de la Ranconniere with lecture “De Gaulle, the Resistance, and French War Aims”
  • Normandy hotel: La Ferme de la Ranconniere
D-Day tour EHE
WWII normandy tours
normandy wwii tour
Pointe du Hoc Normandy D-Day Tour
Abbaye aux Hommes D-Day Tour

Day 5, Friday, May 25th: Pointe du Hoc & OMAHA Beach & Bayeux

  • Breakfast
  • UTAH Beach and the 4th Infantry Division
  • 101st Airborne Division and Dick Winters’ statue/Easy Company (Band of Brothers) and assault on Brecourt Manor
  • 82nd Airborne Division at La Fiere Bridge outside Ste Mere Eglise
  • Walking tour of the central part of Ste Mere Eglise, the first town liberated by Americans
  • Lunch on your own in Ste Mere Eglise
  • La Cambe German Cemetery
  • Bayeux Tapestry Museum — millennium old story of William the Conqueror
  • Walking tour of old town Bayeux, including the Cathedral and a ciderie
  • Dinner on your own in one of the many great restaurants in old Bayeux
  • Hotel: Le Ferme de la Ranconniere in Crepon

Day 6, Saturday, May 26th: Battle for Normandy, Operation COBRA Breakout & Magical Mont Saint-Michel

  • Breakfast
  • Capture of Pointe du Hoc by the 2d Ranger Battalion in a cliff assault
  • OMAHA Beach: Western end — 29th Infantry Division and 5th Ranger Battalion, and American Mulberry Harbor with group lunch on the beach
  • OMAHA Beach: Eastern end — 1st Infantry Division
  • Climb the cliffs from the beach to the American Cemetery (bus is available to drive those who do not want to hike up the ridge)
  • Visit the profoundly beautiful and moving American Cemetery
  • Arrive in Paris, dinner on your own
  • Hotel: Marriott Opera Ambassador (alumni/friends) or Holiday Inn Paris Grand Boulevard (students)

Day 7, Sunday, May 27th: Paris in WWII and the City of Light

  • Breakfast
  • Walking tour of WWII Paris, including Ritz Hotel and the Hemingway Bar, Gestapo HQ near Louvre, and Holocaust Memorial near Notre Dame
  • Lunch on your own and time to explore Paris to visit any of the following:
    • Myriad museums, including the Louvre, Legion d’Honneur, Invalides/Army/Napoleon, Musee d’Orsay
    • Famed cemeteries
    • The Americans in Paris — a walk along Montparnasse
    • Shakespeare’s bookshop on the Left Bank
    • The Latin Quarter
    • Walk and shop along the Champs Elysees — Arc de Triomphe, Tuileries
    • Notre Dame and Ste Chapelle churches
    • Market at Les Halles and St Eustache church
    • Eiffel Tower
  • At a minimum, students will have a guided tour of the French Resistance Museum, the 2nd Armored Division Museum and the Memorial de la Shoah (Holocaust Museum)
  • Farewell group dinner with lecture “France and the Future of Europe” with Frederick Bozo, Sorbonne

Day 8, Monday, May 28th, Departure and Onward Journeys

  • Breakfast
  • Check-out of lodgings and begin onward journeys
Paris history tour EHE
French Countryside

Optional Add-On Day 1, Sunday, May 20th: Exploring Historical London

  • Breakfast
  • Visit the Tower of London, William the Conqueror’s Castle
  • Guided walk through the olde City of London to St Paul’s Cathedral (2nd largest in Christendom) with lunch enroute; visit St Paul’s with its incredible monuments and crypt where so many British heroes are buried
  • Travel from St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey
  • Visit Westminster Abbey, home to a millennia of English history and culture
  • Guided tour of the highlights of the National Gallery
  • Dinner on your own

Optional Add-On Day 2, Monday, May 28th: Reims in Beautiful Champagne

  • Breakfast
  • Visit V-E Day May 8, 1945, World War Two surrender site in Map Room of Eisenhower’s SHAEF HQ
  • Notre Dame de Reims, the great cathedral where nearly half of all French monarchs were crowned
  • Lunch and cellar tour of famed vineyard in the capital of the Champagne region
  • Return to Paris


Jeffrey A. Engel is founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and a Senior Fellow of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies. Author or editor of ten books on American foreign policy, his latest is When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War.

Essential History Expeditions’ president, expert historian and guide, Lt Col (Ret) Brian DeToy, PhD served as Director of the Defense & Strategic Studies program at the United States Military Academy, West Point from 2007-13. He has appeared in numerous documentaries for programming such as History, Discovery, A&E and Military channels. He is also an accomplished author and presenter at international history conferences.

Bayeux normandy france tours


  • In-depth guided tours and lectures for all sites by professional historians
  • All lodging
  • All transportation
  • All admissions fees for museums and activities
  • Tickets to West End play in London
  • Meals as indicated
  • Full-time tour manager for personalized support
  • Airfare not included but Essential History Expeditions can arrange if desired
  • Optional travel insurance through Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection
American Cemetery Normandy d day tour


  • For more information and to register, contact the SMU Center for Presidential History at, call 214.768.3210 or see
  • Alumni and friends of the university: $4,920 double occupancy ($750 single supplement); $1,500 is tax deductible and used for student scholarships
  • Students: Contact the Study Abroad office for pricing
  • Optional add-on days in London and Reims: $350 each, lodging not included
  • Itinerary subject to minor changes
  • Down payment: $1,500 per guest due upon registration
  • Terms & Conditions available at the SMU Center for Presidential History
  • Contact for information on travel insurance through Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection
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