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One Tank Trip: Explore "Band of Brothers" in Toccoa

8:42 AM, Aug 5, 2013   |    comments
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  • Harvey Gainer is a Vietnam vet who brought his children to climb Currahee Mountain so they could all see what it took to become a "Toccoa Man."
  • About five miles from the mountain, the Curahee Military Museum houses thousands of artifacts from Camp Toccoa and World War II.
  • Cynthia Brown stands inside the last building left at what was Camp Toccoa at Currahee. She's leading an effort to restore part of the camp.

TOCCOA, Ga. -- If you head to the top of Currahee Mountain just outside of Toccoa, you're following the footsteps of the Greatest Generation.

"This was the back-breaker. If they couldn't run this in 50 minutes or under 50 minutes, they wouldn't make it," said Harvey Gainer, a Vietnam vet who brought his children to Currahee so they could all see what it took to become a Toccoa man. "We're impressed."

As many as 18,000 men came to Camp Toccoa at Currahee between 1942 and 1945 to go through intensive paratrooper training.

"This is the last building on the property that was left over from Camp Toccoa," Cynthia Brown told 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie.

Brown is chair of Camp Toccoa at Currahee, Inc. It's a nonprofit set up to raise money to restore part of the camp, starting with an original canteen building.

"I've yet to speak to a Toccoa man who didn't tell me that this was the place where they learned how to become a man," Brown added. "They learned how to work with others. They learned to be independent thinkers, but they worked together. And that's where the band of brothers idea came from."

"Band of Brothers" was an HBO series that debuted in 2001. It told the story of soldiers who trained at Toccoa.

The series focused on members of Easy Company of the Army's 101st Airborne Division who took on critical roles during World War II.

Their training runs on Currahee Mountain became legendary.

"It's rolling, and it's steep," Brown explained. "It's a challenge, but they were expected to be tough... because they were going to be the ones to help win the war."

Local historian Ray Ward agreed to take Leslie up Currahee in his four-wheel drive jeep.

"I was like 12 years old when they were training here," he told her.

The soldiers ran along an old road that was built in the 1930s for a fire lookout tower. Near the top, there's an incredible view.

"On a clear day here, you can see North Carolina, South Carolina and sometimes you can see Tennessee," Ward added.

Leslie did walk part of the way up to get a feel for the mountain.

It's no wonder most of the men who came to Currahee never finished their training.

"I can't imagine running up that, that was hard enough for me," Leslie told Ward.

"I know, I know," he responded.

About five miles from the mountain, the Currahee Military Museum houses thousands of artifacts from Camp Toccoa and World War II.

The most impressive exhibit is a 75-foot-long stable that was moved to Toccoa from Aldbourne, England.

"They kept this one because easy company and a company of the 506th stayed in it," said Executive Director Brenda Carlan. "Here you had these young men, they were in a foreign country, didn't even know where they were, but they would do whatever it took."

The executive producer of "Band of Brothers" understood that.

In June, Tom Hanks gave a big financial boost to the effort to restore Camp Toccoa.

"Out of the clear blue, a check showed up from Tom and his wife's foundation," Brown said. "The two of them gave us $25,000."

The money will go toward a multi-million dollar capital campaign to make sure no one forgets about Currahee Mountain or the men of Camp Toccoa.


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- Pine Mountain Gold Museum

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- Ga. Aquarium Sea Otter Encounter 

- Senoia 

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- Historic Banning Mills 

- Consolidated Mine 

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