506th Parachute Infantry Regiment 60th anniversary reunion, Toccoa, Georgia

2nd - 5th October 2002

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The 506th PIR was activated at Camp Toccoa, Georgia on 20th July 1942. To mark this momentous occasion a special reunion for surviving members of the regiment was planned. Joe Beyrle(I/506th) and his wife JoAnne were heavily involved with organising the event, helped in no small way by the Stevens County Historical Society and the US Rangers. The reunion took place between the 2nd and 5th October 2002 and 42 World War Two 506th veterans attended.

I was very kindly invited to the event by the Beyrle's and am indebted to Joe II (Joe and JoAnne's son) for showing me around Toccoa, Fort Benning, Atlanta and other parts of the 'deep south'. The following photographs were taken during my stay.

Camp Toccoa

In 1942 506th recruits arrived at Camp Toccoa (then called Camp Toombs) via the railroad station in the small town of Toccoa, about six miles north of the camp. Here they clambered aboard trucks which took them along route 13 past the casket factory and a couple of cemeteries to Camp Toombs. If they weren't apprehensive about joining the paratroopers when they left home, they most certainly were by the time they had been introduced to the area's 'places of interest'!

Above left: Toccoa Railroad Station, October 2002. Above centre: Stan Clever, Jim 'Pee Wee' Martin and Don Coil (4th, 5th and 6th from left) stand with friends and family in the newly named 'Joe Hobbs Way' on the eastern side of the old camp. Above right: The only surviving WWII building on site.

Above left: Kerb stones, marking the edge of wartime roadways, can still be found in woodland that now covers a large part of the old camp.
Above right:
Re-enactor Mike Bigalke poses in front of the only surviving building at Camp Toccoa for the benefit of Joe II's camera.

Camp Toccoa Memorial Site Dedication

On the morning of Friday 4th October representatives from Stevens County and the State of Georgia joined 506th veterans, friends and family for a dedication ceremony. Following the initial opening speeches the colours were raised above a very impressive memorial, shaped like a parachute, honouring all the men that passed through Camp Toccoa during the Second World War.

Above: Joe Beyrle addressing the assembled gathering.

Left to right: Dedication wreath, Col. Robert Sink Memorial and Camp Toccoa Memorial.

Book Signing

'The Simple Sounds of Freedom' is the title of Joe Beyrle's biography which was published on September 17th 2002. During the afternoon of 4th October a special book signing took place at the Stevens County Historical Society museum in the town of Toccoa.

Above left: The Stevens County Historical Society museum building. One room is devoted to Camp Toccoa and the US Paratroopers who were trained there. Above right: Re-enactors with a display of WWII equipment.

Above: Joe Beyrle signing copies of his book 'The Simple Sounds of Freedom'.

Walking Currahee

Camp Toccoa lies at the foot of a small mountain called Currahee (a Cherokee Indian word meaning 'stand alone'). During training the men would run, several times a week, up to the top of the mountain and back - a distance of seven miles. Sixty years later a number of veterans climbed the mountain again only this time at a slightly slower pace!

Above left: Mount Currahee. Above centre: Veterans pose on a rocky outcrop near the top of the mountain. Above right: Starting the walk down from the summit of a mist covered Currahee.

Other 60th Reunion activities at Toccoa

Above left: Jim 'Pee Wee' Martin talks to a re-enactor in the hospitality room at the Shoney Inn. Above right: Following the memorial dinner at the Elks Club all the veterans present gathered for a group photograph.

Above left: The author of this site with Robin Sink McClelland, daughter of Col. Robert Sink, at the Toccoa VFW Club. Above centre: Troy Decker, Malcolm Landry and Charlie Bolt in the reception area at the Shoney Inn. Above right: Hoyt Bruce Moore III (506th Currahee webmaster) and the author at the Elks club.

Fort Benning

The recruits spent about three months at Camp Toccoa before being moved to jump school at Fort Benning. Here the paratroopers learned how to use and pack parachutes, made their first descents from 250ft high towers and at the end of the three week course completed five jumps from a C-47 aircraft. They were then fully qualified paratroopers and were given silver wings to be worn above the left breast pocket of their dress uniform.

Above: Three of the original 250ft high training towers at Fort Benning survive and are still in regular use.

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© Copyright 2007 Roger Day