Toccoa & Currahee: Explore the original nest of the Screamin’ Eagles

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 Toccoa, Georgia hides history and fun in the Appalachian foothills

 By E. Adam Porter

 

Whether you know it as one of the “Top 200 towns for outdoorsmen” (Outdoor Life) or one of the “Top 100 hikes in America” (Backpacker), there is one word that encapsulates Toccoa, Georgia: BEAUTIFUL.

 

The name of the town comes from the transliteration of the Cherokee word for “beautiful,” and this enchanting little town in northern Georgia fits the bill. Often dismissed as “drive through country” by travelers on their way up to the Smokies or down to the Sunshine State, Toccoa is one of those off the path places you need to visit.

 

What will you see when you come to Toccoa?

 

First, you can catch a glimpse of one of those uniquely American small towns, a patriotic little city proud of its militant heritage and immersed in wilderness adventure. And there, at the center of it all, discover a lonely mountain and explore the nesting ground of the army’s original Screamin’ Eagles.

 

Downtown Toccoa (www.mainstreettoccoa.com)

 

  • Stop by the train station to learn about the Norfolk Southern, Hartwell and Amtrak Crescent lines.
  • Stroll historic Doyle Street to browse classic hometown galleries, boutiques and antique shops.
  • Enjoy the Whistle Stop Antique Market (142 N Sage Street) that features over 50 dealers showcasing items from the 1800s.
  • Fuel up at a corner café or one of several family diners
  • Find a photo op in the courtyard outside city hall to view a monument to the men of Toccoa and the surrounding communities who answered their country’s call to arms.

 

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Toccoa Military Museum

 

Every day tens of thousands cruise past Currahee Mountain on highways 17 and 184 never realizing they are passing a lasting monument to American freedom. Those who have stopped here might tell you it’s 3 miles up and 3 miles down, a six-mile round trip that took 17,000 brave young men directly into harm’s way.

 

Camp Toccoa, built at the base of Currahee Mountain in Toccoa, Georgia is the birthplace of the United States Army’s Parachute Infantry Regiments. Over 17,000 men from the 501st, 506th, 511th and 517th PIRs trained here, including the founding members of Company E of the 506th, EASY COMPANY, immortalized in HBO’s “Band of Brothers” as well as “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Dirty Dozen.”

 

When these pioneering volunteers trained in the untested tactic that would help the Allies crack Hitler’s Fortress Europa, the recruits ran the mountain that became their battle cry:

 

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“CURRAHEE!”

 

Currahee is another Cherokee word. This one means “to stand alone,” a translation that, in the predawn hours of June 6th would be redefined by these American heroes. Today, members of the 101st Airborne still shout “Currahee!” as they jump out of perfectly good airplanes.

 

Toccoa’s downtown Train Depot was converted into a museum to honor these men and many other American warriors from the Civil War to Iraq and Afghanistan. A statue of an Airborne G.I. in full battle dress greets you as you come down the ramp into what appears to be an endless hall of uniforms, weapons, photos, flags and countless other priceless memorabilia.

 

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A highlight of the exhibit is the Aldbourne stable, the place members of Easy and Able companies camped in the sleepless hours before the D-Day Invasion. Priceless memories in frames and lightboxes fill each stall in the rebuilt stable. Uniforms, medals, citations, flags signed by those whose bullets riddled them. A kimono mailed home to a lonely wife from a lonely soldier stationed in Japan. There are also letters, official and personal, creased and stained by time and tears.

 

In the next hall you will find displays dedicated to American conflicts dating back to the Civil War. Uniforms, pictures and weapons breathe life into that brutal family feud. Many of the items on display in exhibits dedicated to Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan were donated by local families, a memorial to Toccoa’s answer when her country called.

 

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But pride is not the only lesson here. There is also a stark lesson in the art and cost of war and, of course, a profound respect for those pioneering Eagles who have, for seven decades and counting, been standing together, alone.

 

Currahee!

 

Visit Toccoa Military Museum at 160 North Alexander Street Toccoa, GA 30577. GPS: 34.578473, -83.331779. Call 706.282.5055.

 

For more Wild Adventures and Campground Reviews in Toccoa, GA, click here!

 

by

I'm a storyteller. Fortunately, that is also what I get paid to do. Born on a boat and bred on the back of a horse I tend to see the world a bit differently ... and I sway when I walk.

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