Places such as Guadalcanal, Saipan, Corregidor and Okinawa, as well as Normandy, Cherbourg, Bastogne and Arnheim have a fascinating appeal to a distinct type of mature traveler--the World War II veteran.
The attraction and lure of visiting old battlefields, landing beaches, airfields, even prison camps of more than 40 years ago has fostered many anniversary tours, unit reunions and individual pilgrimages. It also requires a special type of tour operator, a combination historian and travel agent, one who knows the ins and outs of visiting some rather off-the-beaten-tourist-path destinations.
One such operator is Bob Reynolds, once the district sales manager for British Airways in Los Angeles during a 21-year airline stint. Following several years with the Pacific Area Travel Assn., Reynolds founded Valor Tours in 1977, specializing in group and individual tours for World War II veterans, their families, historians and others interested in that era.
London-born Reynolds specializes solely in World War II tours and has taken or arranged travel for several thousand veterans to Europe, Asia and the Pacific, mostly on group tours and cruises.
Among the tours Reynolds has put together and led are ones to Great Britain (where Reynolds served in the Royal Air Force as a bomber pilot) and France for a "D-Day, the Longest Day" tour, tours to the Philippines for veterans of the 37th Division, South Pacific and China airfields for the veterans of the 4th Air Force and a "Pacific Memories" South Pacific cruise on the Royal Viking Star.
This last proved so popular that it's being repeated (March 26 to April 22). It takes in Guadacanal nd the Solomon Islands, including "The Slot," where many air and naval battles took place; Guam and Saipan; Truk Lagoon; the Philippines, including Leyte Gulf, Manila and Corregidor, Okinawa and then goes on to Hong Kong and Tokyo.
In addition to specially arranged shore excursions just for tour members, Reynolds also arranges for special shipboard entertainment with the accent on the World War II era, plus guest speakers including distinguished military experts from that era.
Tour prices, which include air fares from the West Coast to Sydney, where the cruise begins, and from Tokyo back to the West Coast, where it ends, begin at $5,724 per person based on two to a cabin and go up to more than $7,000 and $8,000 for larger, more deluxe, shipboard accommodations.
Regular Cruise Activity
"While the accent is on those World War II days," Reynolds says, "there's much more, including all the regular cruise activities, plus port stops such as Hong Kong and Tokyo. About half of last year's more than 100 veterans brought their wives, who thoroughly enjoyed the trip."
Another of Valor Tours annual trips, one that began as a historical World War II tour but has grown to overall appeal, is its "Bridge on the River Kwai" tour to Thailand, Burma and Singapore.
Tour members visit the infamous bridge made widely known by the movie of the same name, but the tour also includes such popular attractions as the elephant round-up in Thailand and such exotic cities as Bangkok, Rangoon and Singapore, among others. This year's dates are Nov. 12 to 30, and the tour price, including top accommodations and most meals, is $2,900 per person, share basis. There is a $295 single supplement charge or Valor Tours will arrange a share basis.
Still other tours coming up for veterans include another "D-Day, the Longest Day" tour to Great Britain and France that will visit several airfields of the 8th Air Force and embarkation ports for the invasion as well as the famous beachheads of Normandy. The trip, set for May 30 to June 9, also includes London and Paris. Price is still to be finalized.
Family Tours, Too
In addition to planned and personally escorted tours, Reynolds has also planned dozens of land tours for thousands of World War II veterans and their families to almost every theater of operations of that war.
For more information, contact any travel agent for Valor Tours brochures or write to Valor Tours Ltd., P.O. Box 1617, Sausalito, Calif. 94966. Phone (415) 332-7850.
San Diego-based Atlas Hotels, which in addition to three hotels in the Los Angeles area has five others in San Diego plus more in Scottsdale, Ariz., and in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, has inaugurated a senior discount program called its Gold Club. Previously the chain offered discounts on an individual hotel basis.
Though its name suggests otherwise, you do not need to be a member or have a card to get discounts. You do have to be 55 years of age or over (or at least one spouse must be 55) and ask for the Gold Club discount when making reservations.