Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - 32

2018 CURIOS

When Currahee
Mountain Went
to War
Camp Toccoa, a WWII training
camp from 1942 until 1944, is now
home to a museum, and presents
the opportunity for the fit among
us to replicate the six-mile run
undertaken by recruits hoping to
become part of the 506th Parachute
Infantry Regiment.
by Ray Chandler

Currahee Mountain, near Toccoa, Georgia, was the site of WWII military training.

In the earliest hours of June 6, 1944, several hundred young men of the
506th Parachute Infantry Regiment,
101st Airborne Division, jumped
from planes into the darkness over
Nazi-occupied France. Mostly lost
in the roar of the plane engines
was the motto of the 506th that
some yelled into the night as they
jumped: "Currahee!"
The word would have sounded
odd to any enemy who heard it, but
the men of the 506th-and other
paratrooper regiments-well knew
what it meant. The mountain in
north Georgia long known by that
name had had a part to play in preparing them for that moment.
"Currahee" is thought to be derived from "gurahiyi," which translates roughly as "stand alone" in the
language of the Cherokee, who first
made what's now north Georgia
their home. The 1,740-foot mountain does seem to stand alone, mostly because it is a tail end of the Blue
32 BlueRidgeCountry.com

Ridge as the chain peters out into
the upper Georgia piedmont.
From mid-1942 until 1944,
Camp Toccoa, named for the nearby
town, was the training base for what
began as an experiment, teaching
men to jump into combat from
airplanes. The rigorous training in
combat skills and parachuting was
only part of it, however. To combine those skills the troopers had to
be absolutely physically fit, and for
that the mountain overshadowing
the camp became a training ground
in its own right.
"Three miles up and three miles
down" was the saying, a challenge
for some, a curse for others, and often both to most before the training
was over. The six-mile winding road
to Currahee's peak and back was a
daily run for the troopers, at first an
ordeal separating of the fit from the
unfit, then a whetstone for sharpening the survivors' fitness mettle.
All the paratroopers who trained

on Currahee carried the tempering gained on its slopes into battle.
Some, like several in the 506th, carried it into legend. When Easy Company of the 506th was immortalized
in first the Stephen Ambrose book
and then the HBO miniseries "Band
of Brothers," the name Currahee
took its rightful place in their story.
Today, the mountain in a way
still looks down on the paratroopers it helped train. Following the
success of the "Band of Brothers"
book and miniseries, the Stephens
County Historical Society and town
of Toccoa sought to memorialize Camp Toccoa, its World War II
legacy, and the men who trained
there. The Currahee Military Museum, built around a former railway
depot, now showcases the time, the
place and the men. It hosts nearly
10,000 visitors a year from around
the world.
Some even climb Currahee
Mountain. 


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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - Cover4
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