Former U.S. Marine James Ware atop Mt.
Surabachi on Iwo Jima where the famous
flag-raising photograph was taken.
The late Stephen Ambrose, one of the greatest historians and
storytellers of our time, left us with award-winning books and
documentaries ... as well as a unique set of travel itineraries.
Ambrose believed that the best way to understand history was to
study the places where it was made. In 1979, he began tours to
places that he deemed important for Americans to learn about the
heritage of their own nation. This belief soon evolved into Stephen
Ambrose Historical Tours (SAHT). For instance, the research for
Ambrose’s book, “Undaunted Courage,” about the travels of Lewis and
Clark, is the basis for a SAHT tour that follows the path of the
famous duo through Montana and Idaho. Likewise, Ambrose’s
best-selling books about World War II are the basis for several
European tour itineraries.
Along the same lines, I recently joined SAHT’s War in the
Pacific tour, which included visits to Pearl Harbor, Saipan,
Tinian, Guam and Iwo Jima. Tour members are given rare access to
areas on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, adjacent to Battleship Row.
The trip also includes visits to the Utah Memorial, the Pacific
Aviation Museum, and the USS Missouri. The group also visits the
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and the Honolulu Memorial
in Puowaina Crater which loosely translates as “Hill of
The capture of Saipan was a major turning point for the war in
the Pacific. In Saipan, the group visits the invaded beaches and
battle sites of Operation Forager. The island took 24 days of
bitter fighting to secure in places with appropriate names such as
Death Valley, Purple Heart Ridge and Harakiri Gulch.
The tiny island of Tinian is famous for being the departure site
for the Enola Gay, the airplane carrying the atomic bombs that
ended World War II. The bomb-loading pits at the North Field and
adjoining runway stand as silent testimony to the day when that
B-29 ascended into the sky toward Japan and changed the world
From there, the tour continued to Guam a particularly poignant
place for me since my uncle fought there and then on to the
volcanic island of Iwo Jima via a Continental Airlines charter
SAHT joined forces with Military History Tours (MHT) for the Iwo
Jima part of the tour. MHT has coordinated this once yearly trip
for U.S. veterans since the 50th anniversary of the battle. The
company’s founder and president, Colonel Warren Wiedhahn (USMC,
Ret.), a Korean and Vietnam War veteran, designed the concept for
MHT from his vision to enable fellow veterans, their families and
friends, historians, educators and students the opportunity to
visit the battlefields of past conflicts. Like Stephen Ambrose
tours, MHT’s tours are designed to cultivate an understanding of
the events that transpired and how they connect to both American
and world history.
Among the tour members to the Pacific was former Marine James
Ware who had last stepped foot in these islands 62 years ago during
WWII. It was incredible to hear him recount his experiences in the
very places where the battles he fought took place. This was truly
As a photographer, one of the most memorable moments of the trip
for me came on Iwo Jima when I stood with Ware atop Mt. Surabachi,
the place where the U.S. flag was raised by six soldiers an iconic
image that was frozen in time by Associated Press photographer Joe
Rosenthal. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, an
in-person experience like this coming face to face with history is
worth a million.
Military Historical Tours
Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours
The next offering of the tour “Iwo Jima: War in the Pacific”
will be March 3-14.