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World War II was the deadliest conflict in history. More than 100 million people served the war effort in various military and civilian capacities, and the total number of lives lost was about 60 million.
Wrapping your mind around numbers like that is nearly impossible. No matter how many documentaries you watch, or museums you visit, military history can still seem like a closed chapter in a textbook.
Not so for 21 Flying Longhorns, who recently got an intimate view of World War II history over 10 days this spring in the Celtic Lands (Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and France).
All Flying Longhorns trips enjoy private tours and special access, but this adventure went a step further: along for the ride were Dwight David Eisenhower II (grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and a nationally renowned historian) and Celia Sandys (granddaughter and biographer of Winston Churchill).
As the travelers visited war museums and historic sites—including the famous beaches of Normandy—Eisenhower and Sandys were there to provide in-depth commentary, from both their professional expertise and their personal experience as offspring of historic giants.
“We saw things from so many perspectives,” says Texas Exes Vice President of Finance Brigid Anderson, who hosted the trip with her husband, Kyle. “Celia talked about events from the British perspective, and David shared an American perspective. It brought the war to life in a completely new way.”
The trip wasn’t all solemn. Unusually sunny skies and calm seas made for a jovial mood as the travelers sailed the English Channel and the Irish Sea. One highlight was seeing Highland cattle in Scotland, Brigid says. The long-haired, scruffy cows look like Longhorns gone bohemian, right down to their burnt-orange fur.
On the last full day, May 8—which marks Victory Day, when the Allies declared the war won—the group gathered in Normandy’s American Military Cemetery for a ceremony of solemn remembrance. As a military group played taps and veterans stepped forward to be recognized, “there were a lot of tears,” says Kyle Anderson.
“I didn’t know much about World War II history before the trip,” says Brigid. “But this really made you realize the incredible sacrifices that were made by so many people.”
Photos by Brigid Anderson