Time traveling: Lakeland travel agency offering World War period tours
LAKELAND — Carl Newman, a military veteran, has plans to get to the shores of Normandy to develop a sense of what it was like on June 6, 1944 — the day the Western Allies of World War II launched the largest amphibious invasion in history.
Newman, at 51 years old is too young to be a veteran of WWI or WWII, but from 1985 to 2015, he served in the U.S. Navy and later in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Commissioned Officer Corps. He said his experience in the military in Japan, the Persian Gulf and Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia gives him some interest in a Lakeland travel agency’s plans to bring its clients to the battlefields of world war.
Lugos Travel Inc. has launched WWI and WWII tours designed to take customers to the battlefronts, adding authenticity by staying in period accommodations and in some cases, taking transportation from the era.
In 2019, the 75th anniversary of the WWII invasion of Normandy will take place and the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI will be marked.
Newman, deputy director of the NOAA Operations Center in Lakeland, said a period tour like Lugos Travel is offering sounded interesting. He said he will visit Normandy, France, with his wife, Amy, in November.
“I think anything done to honor in a respectful way the sacrifice so many people made on any side (of the wars) would be well-received,” he said. “The (travel agency’s) idea is neat and it’s all about how it’s done, honoring the soldiers on both sides who were there is what matters.”
Shane Mahoney, Lugos Travel president, said his three-person company, located at 3825 S. Florida Ave., Suite 2, is the only travel agent in Florida and one of eight in the U.S. that was invited by the French tourism agency, Atout France, to travel to the country. From June 4–10, he and French travel experts spent a week learning how to best promote World War-era battle sites such as Aisne, areas along the Meuse River, Metz, Belleau Wood, Verdon and Douaumont.
Mahoney, in his seventh year at Lugos’ current location, said the purpose of the all-expenses-paid exploratory trip by Atout France was to give the travel companies ideas for ways to promote the areas and craft plans to get clients on the commemorative tours.
The concept is taking place in other areas of the country. For example, The Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission was created by the Virginia General Assembly to plan, develop and carry out programs and activities to commemorate the war anniversaries.
And to help prospective customers from Polk County get more into the spirit of the era, Mahoney said his company’s World War tourists will have options of leasing or riding in sports cars or classic cars of the era and staying in classic hotels and castles such as the Château de Condé, a private estate in Aisne, set in a park on the Champagne route about 62 miles from Paris.
Mahoney said his World War tours have been posted on the Lugos Travel website and are ready for bookings.
“Those from the WWI era are gone; the WWII veterans are dying. What’s happening is there is a need for a resurgence of this history to remind people of the significance of these wars,” he said. “People aren’t really asking for these (trips), but once they go, it surpasses anything that they could imagine.”
The Lugos war tours will have a maximum of 12 people per package. The WWII tours will take place in May and June for the Normandy Beach 75th anniversary. WWI tours will be taken September and October 2019 with visits in Brussels and Flanders Fields, Ypres, Belgium and the Meuse-Argonne Campaign and the Battle of Château-Thierry, both in France. WWI sites in France and Belgium, such as Flanders Fields, are also scheduled.
The period excursions will take place in museums, battlefields and cemeteries.
“We’re going to mix in the best of all the areas with the histories of the wars and battles,” Mahoney said.
Nationally, some of the most popular WWII day tours include the church and Airborne Museum at Sainte Mère Eglise, France, the Normany beachheads, Pegasus Bridge and military cemeteries. Normandy is also a starting point for many longer WWII tours, with a visit to the Museum of the Battle of Normandy often scheduled.
Gary Clark, chairman of the Polk County Veterans Council and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, said he’s familiar with organizations and travel agencies that have sponsored trips to WWII events and places in Europe. He said although he wasn’t personally aware of Lugos Travel’s commemorative anniversary tours, he thought the concept and idea are important.
“I think anything that serves to educate people and give them a greater appreciation for that part of history and the sacrifices made by those who participated is worthwhile,” he said. “I endorse the concept.”
Paul Catala can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7533. He can be reached at Twitter @pcat0226.