WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Bob and Mike have been friends for nearly 20 years. Every spring, the duo of military history enthusiasts leads a regiment across the Civil War battlefields of Gettysburg, Pa.
Bob, or Dr. Robert Larson, Lycoming professor of history, and retired Army colonel Dr. Mike Ellicott first met while Ellicott was heading the ROTC program in which the College participates. The two developed a friendship fostered by their mutual interest and, when Ellicott took a position at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., they remained in touch.
Larson had been taking groups of Lycoming student to tour the battlefields of Gettysburg on an annual basis, and upon discovering that the War College had a similar program to visit other Civil War battlefields, began to explore them with Ellicott. Ellicott, in turn, readily attended the Gettysburg expeditions with Lycoming.
2011 marked the 20th anniversary of Larson and Ellicott's first trip. What began as a class trip consisting of a professor and a handful of students, has grown to an experience that welcomes more than 50 students, alumni, parents and friends led by the dynamic pairing of Larson and Ellicott.
The group goes rain or shine, avoiding the typical tourist experiences.
"When you actually get on the battlefield," says Larson, "you develop a much, much deeper appreciation of what is was like for the people who were there. If you really want to know, you have to walk the grounds – through the woods, over fences and through the brambles."
Larson and Ellicott base their marches on the post-battle action reports of commanding officers. The first-hand insights are invaluable.
During last year's outing, Lycoming alumnus Gary Sojka '77 proposed a new idea. Why not take a similar tour of the World War II battlefields? After careful consideration, Larson and Ellicott decided they could pull off the operation, and will, in fact, celebrate the 68th anniversary of D-Day next June by leading Lycoming College alumni and friends on a 10-day European battlefield adventure in London, Normandy and Paris, studying the history, strategy and tactics of the defining battle of WWII.
As part of the College's Homecoming and Reunion Weekend festivities, Larson and Ellicott will share experiences from their Gettysburg battlefield tours and plans for the D-Day trip on Sat., Oct. 15, during "Bob & Mike's Excellent Battlefield Adventures," from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Jonas Room, Wertz Student Center.