What’s “three miles up, three miles down?” (Hint: It’s in the photo at right.)
In our Memorial Day post, we mentioned taking a little trip to Westminster, South Carolina; but about 20 miles west of there lies Toccoa, Georgia, and that Army Airborne hallowed ground known as Currahee. During World War II, Camp Toccoa was the place where a brand-new breed of soldier would train – paratroopers. Known as the “Toccoa Men,” the 501st, 506th, 511th, & 517th Parachute Infantry Regiments, the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, and others, trained for Europe & the Pacific.
As in World War I, many of the training camps and cantonments were demolished and sold off after the War. One of the unique things about Toccoa is that it is currently undergoing a massive building and revitalization project to preserve its rich history for generations to come.
The Camp Toccoa at Currahee project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to rebuilding Toccoa. The organization has already been able to purchase back some of the camp’s land, rebuilt the camp gate, guard house, pavilion, and one barracks building (with the foundations for three others) and restored the only remaining original building, the 506th Regimental HQ. Also at the site is the Parachute Infantry Memorial and the Col. Robert Sink Memorial Trail, where you, too, can have the experience of running up Currahee.
Located at the Train Depot in Downtown Toccoa, where all the Paratroopers first arrived and began their five-mile hike to camp, is the Currahee Military Museum. We were very fortunate, being the only visitors at the time of our arrival, to spend a few hours on a personal tour with docent and local legend, Mr. Ray, soaking up all the knowledge he had to offer.
The museum is another 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, reliant on donations, sales, and admissions fees to operate the museum and acquire artifacts – and it is an excellent museum. One of the most impressive artifacts is a stable from Aldbourne, England that housed members of the 501st and 506th before the invasion of Normandy. They were able to bring it from England and reassemble it at Toccoa, serving both as an original piece of history and as an exhibit space for each of the parachute infantry regiments.
There are so many great artifacts to discover, and it is absolutely worth it to spend some of your time to visit the museum and the camp site. If you won’t be able to make a visit to northeast Georgia anytime soon, please consider making a donation to help them in the important work of preserving this history.