April 12, 1945

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For younger Americans, the date Nov. 22, 1963, is etched in memory because it was the day JFK was assassinated.

But for my generation, today's date, April 12, is poignant because it was on this day 55 years ago that FDR died.

I was 10 years old, playing punch ball on a Bronx street. A fellow from the neighborhood interrupted the game, telling us we shouldn't be playing when our President had died.

I ran back to our apartment and found my mother crying. I had never seen her cry before but FDR meant a great deal to her. He was the President who had brought the country through the Great Depression and led it through the war that was now winding down. In fact, the European phase of the war was to end less than a month after his death and by late summer, the war in the Pacific was over, too.

Growing up during the war marked my life. To this day, I read a good deal about this period and watch films about it. My travel experiences also have included moments closely tied to the war years. Just last fall in Strasbourg, France, during the ASTA convention, some French friends described for me what it was like in the final days of the war in that part of France.

Perhaps my most memorable war-related travel experience came during a visit to Normandy. It was in the late sixties just after the 25th anniversary of D-Day.

The most sobering moment of a visit to Normandy comes at St. Laurent sur Mer, the site of the military cemetery where thousands of those killed during the D-Day landings are buried.

The market for veterans tours continues to be active, spurred by "Saving Private Ryan" and by the Internet, which allows tour operators to find a wider audience.

Two tour companies that specialize in this field are Tours of Historic and Important Places and Military Historical Tours.

Tours of Historic and Important Places specializes in the European area. This year, for example, the company will offer a tour that coincides with the 55th anniversary of V-E Day on May 8th. It includes prime seats at the Paris celebration parade as well as a visit to the Normandy area. The company's Web site is ww2tours.com.

Military Historical Tours takes veterans and others to the Pacific area. Information about that company can be found at miltours.com. E-mail comments to [email protected].

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