VOLUME I, NUMBER 3

CURRAHEE MOUNTAIN 

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD

In the beginning, it was the 506TH, 511TH, 501st, 517 TH Parachute Infantry Regiments, then the 457TH and 460TH Parachute Field Artillery Battalions. Each new WWII unit faced a mountain, whose Choctaw Indian word was Currahee.

My name is Currahee. I am a mountain near Toccoa, GA. For centuries, I had a peaceful existence. I let little animals roam over me, happy to be their home. Then, came man. He lived in harmony with all of my other creatures. Later, the white men arrived with "killing sticks," which made a loud noise when killing my animals. They drove off my bronze men, cut my trees and made a road to my peak. During 1941, strange things began in the valley below me. I heard the growling earth movers. I saw trucks dumping concrete. One day the saws and hammers ceased. Apart from rectangular buildings were long rows of tents. The trucks came and dumped human cargo in the tent city. All were uniformed and hurried about. I could not understand this.

As activity picked up, I began to hear strange sounds: FALL IN - TENSION - RAT SHOULDER ARMS - RAT FACE - FWARD MAWTCH -SQUAD HALT - LEF FACE - PRAID REST - FALL OUT.

One morning, I thought at first that my mountain goats had returned and were stampeding up my rear slope. As I looked down, these man creatures were running out of the camp and up that miserable road. On they came, brown boots pounding. Some gasped and fell out. Reaching my peak most collapsed; sweating, heaving, cursing. Shortly, they were up and bounding back to camp. Those who could not reach my peak were sent to other places, as were those who refused to jump in harness from a mock airplane tower. After falling 20 ft., bodies were jerked upright, then road down a cable to a saw dust pile on the ground. They put knives on the end of rifles and tried to stab each other. They ran, ran everywhere and in ranks singing. Weekly, they formed in the streets with rifles and large packs on their backs and marched off into the darkness, returning early the next morning. I did not understand.

 

Some of these men were so intense that they would run up my road on their day off. On one such day, two of the younger men arrived on my peak and stayed to talk. I listened and suddenly knew what it all meant. Col. Sink was the creator of this madness, determined to build one of the finest fighting machines ever put together, making men out of boys fast, then on to Ft. Benning to learn how to jump from flying airplanes. I learned that a great war was going on all over the world. Soon, these men would parachute into enemy territory to fight and some to die. I wondered, what manner of men are these? What patriotism motivated them to push their bodies to the limit of human endurance? One said, I wonder what CURRAHEE means?" I would have told them, but decided that in time, they would learn that it means, STANDING ALONE." This condensed from "Currahee," by Robert Flory, B-506, in the FIVE-O-SINK Newsletter, Nov. 1984, Editor, George Vanderslice. Thanks.

EPILOGUE

In genealogy, it could be said that Mt. Currahee was the grandfather of the parachute units formed at Camp Toccoa. The father of the 506th PIR was Col. Robert Sink, who yelled to his men, "We want the Best." In the 511th Col. Orin Haugen shouted to his men, "We are the Best." In the 501st Col. Howard Johnson screamed to his men, "You are the Best." In the 517th, Col. Louis A. Walsh, Jr., and Maj. William J. Boyle, 1st Bn., encouraged their men, "If you make it, you are the Best." So, it seems that the men who ran Currahee were all some sort of the BEST.

The late Col. Sink was the only Parachute Infantry Regt. Commander who commanded his regiment from activation to the end of WWII. Col. Haugen was mortally wounded on Feb. 11, 1945 in the Battle of Manila, and on Feb. 22. 1945, died of wounds. Col. Johnson was KIA in Holland on Oct. 8, 1944. The late Louis A. Walsh retired as a Major General.

The separate destinies of two units organized at Camp Toccoa are known in history. At the same time, Dec. 1944, the 506th PIR, 101st Abn. Div. was Standing Alone, Together, besieged and battered in the freezing snow at Bastogne, Belgium, fighting Germans. Half way around the world, 511th PIR, 11th Abn. Div., was Standing Alone, Together, in the steaming jungles fighting Japs on Mt. Mahonag. Leyte, Philippines. Both regiments were victorious.

Camp Toccoa Marker at Currahee Mountain

Paratrooper Reunion, Toccoa, GA, Nov. 17-18, 1990

The Stephens County Historical Society has erected a historical marker commemorating the paratroopers who organized and trained at Camp Toccoa at the foot of Currahee Mountain during World War II.

Prominent citizen Lamar Davis and Veteran Paratrooper John Stowe, since deceased, headed the campaign to raise funds for marking the site of the U.S. Army paratrooper camp at Currahee Mountain from 1942 through 1945. During the years that the Army operated Camp Toccoa, thousands of young volunteers were individually selected and trained as paratroopers. The first parachute infantry regiment to train at Camp Toccoa was the 506th, followed by the 511th, 501st, 517th and the 457th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and others. Veterans of these units and the people patriots of Toccoa filled half of the local football stadium for the free fall parachute demonstration, marching high school band music and nostalgic ceremonies honoring the WWII paratroopers. The Stephens County Historical Society Museum in Toccoa, GA, commemorates the Paratroopers of WWII.

AIRBORNE, STAY TOUGH

JIM LORIO

 

Source: STATIC LINE, Mar. 1997, Don Lassen, Editor, Box 87518, College Park, GA 30357.

WINDS ALOFT, Aug. 1990, James W. Lorio, Editor, 3965 Drusilla Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70809.

 

Reproduced: James L. Dendy, Esq., and Mrs. Rhonda Graham, Baton Rouge, LA

Copyright 1998 Patrick O’Donnell