Revisiting World War II battle sites

August 18, 1991|By Boston Globe

Memories of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, linger over the partially sunken remains of the battleship USS Arizona.

Ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the air attack will be held in December at the memorial, which sits just above the remains of the Arizona, where 1,100 servicemen and civilians are entombed. Thousands of Americans who were part of the battle of the Pacific will probably include a pilgrimage to Honolulu and the sites of other battles in their 1991 travel plans.

Also, with the opening of borders throughout Europe, thousands of other former military personnel are making plans to revisit the battlefields they served on.

The observances at Pearl Harbor will cover the period Dec. 4-7. President Bush and many survivors of the attack are expected to attend. Because of the crowds expected, visitors to the Arizona Memorial during this period should expect long delays. The free shuttle boats to the memorial, which leave every 15 minutes from a.m. to 5 p.m., carry only 150 passengers at a time. For information on the events, write to the USS Arizona Memorial, 1 Arizona, Honolulu, Hawaii 96818; telephone (808) 422-2771.

Many tours are planned for those wishing to be part of an organized program. American Hawaii Cruises, on the Dec. 7 sailing of both the Independence and the Constitution, will have survivors of Pearl Harbor on board to recall the events of 1941, and will show films of the period.

Among tour operators with programs to Hawaii as well as other Pacific sites:

Valor Tours, P.O. Box 1617, Schoonmaker Bldg., Bay 1 Suite 126, 10 Liberty Ship Way, Sausalito, Calif. 94965; telephone (415) 332-7850.

Galaxy Tours, P.O. Box 234, Wayne, Pa. 19087; (800) 523-7287.

Many tours also are organized each year to visit European battlefields. In addition to firms mentioned, Northstar Tours -- P.O. Box 810, Lakeville, Minn. 55044; telephone (612) 469-4398 -- is planning an Invasion Tour of Europe for 1992 that will begin in Amsterdam and continue through France and Germany.

Northstar is planning a June 1994 tour to mark the 50th anniversary of D-day. Northstar notes that many spouses come along on its trips as a favor but end up having a good time. The firm also notes that places not included on its tours generally can be added.

In Europe, travelers might also consider touring on their own. Roads are well marked, and renters might use a firm such as Avis, which has a "Personally Yours" program that prepares a made-to-order itinerary with routing, lodging, dining and other useful information. Perhaps the strangest sight for former (and present) service personnel would be to pass, quite peacefully, Russian military vehicles and bases in the former East Germany.

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