The Band of Brothers "Currahee" Story
Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, was one of the most renowned units of the U.S. Army during World War II. Various books, films, and television series, including the highly acclaimed miniseries "Band of Brothers," document the exploits of this famed Army unit. From 1942 to 1945, this legendary and inspiring group of men lived, fought, and died together as they strove to protect the free world. These soldiers fought on some of the most notorious battlefields of World War II – from the beaches of Normandy to the snowy forests of Belgium to the mountains of Hitler’s Eagle's Nest. Despite the overwhelming odds against them, they always rose to the occasion and achieved their objectives. In this article, we will delve into the history and achievements of Easy Company and explore the reasons why their story has captivated audiences for decades.
The formation of Easy Company dates back to 1942 when the U.S. Army was in the midst of its pre-invasion training for the Normandy landings. Each man assigned to Easy Company was there of his own accord because he’d volunteered for the Airborne and wanted to be the best of the best. Despite their diverse backgrounds, these men quickly bonded through rigorous training, forming close-knit relationships that would serve them well in combat.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Easy Company was its airborne training. The men of Easy Company underwent intense physical and mental training and were taught to drop from the skies behind enemy lines to disrupt enemy defenses and support ground troops. This training would prove invaluable during the Normandy landings, where Easy Company was one of the first units dropped behind enemy lines.
One of the most challenging aspects of the training, the actual paratrooper jumps, required the soldiers to jump from airplanes at altitudes between 1200 and 1500 feet, sometimes in complete darkness, and land with their equipment and weapons intact. Another demanding element of the training was the practice of combat assaults, in which the soldiers would jump from airplanes and immediately engage in simulated combat scenarios upon landing. These exercises were designed to test their ability to work as a team and to think on their feet in high-pressure situations. The soldiers also had to navigate unfamiliar terrain and maneuver to their objective while avoiding enemy fire. Another component of training included live-fire exercises, in which the soldiers would jump into a drop zone and immediately engage in simulated combat against opposing forces. These exercises were crafted to test their ability to respond to enemy fire and to work as a cohesive unit.
This grueling training took place at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain range. One of the most iconic and memorable locations at Camp Toccoa was a small mountain known as Currahee. The mountain – which featured a steep, winding path to the top – was used as a training ground for the soldiers of Easy Company and became a symbol of their strength and determination. The soldiers were required to run up and down Currahee as part of their training, and as a result, they forged inseparable bonds with one another, derived through enduring physical pain. "3 miles up, 3 miles down."
The name "Currahee" comes from the Native American word "stands alone" – an apt description of the mountain and the soldiers who trained there. Despite the challenges they faced, the soldiers of Easy Company stood tall, pushed themselves to the limit, and emerged a formidable band of brothers. Camp Toccoa and Currahee hold a special place in Easy Company’s history. This iconic training site forged the legendary unit into a highly skilled and disciplined fighting force. Today, Currahee symbolizes the sacrifices and achievements of Easy Company and testifies to the bravery, perseverance, and camaraderie of the soldiers who served there.
Easy Company in Europe
In the spring of 1944, its training complete, Easy Company began its true mission: Operation Overlord – the invasion of Normandy. On the night of June 5th, 1944, the paratroopers climbed aboard Douglas C-47 Skytrain aircraft at Upottery Airfield in Devon, England, flew across the English Channel, and jumped behind enemy lines into Normandy to support the ground troops landing on the beaches the following morning. Despite the chaos and confusion of missing the planned drop zones and facing fierce resistance from German forces, Easy Company successfully regrouped and soon cut its teeth in several direct action operations against the Nazis.
On the morning of June 6th – the company commander still missing – 1LT Dick Winters assumed command of Easy and led a small patrol to eliminate a German artillery battery at Brécourt Manor. With minimal direction from higher headquarters and facing an enemy force triple the size of his own, Winters improvised and personally led the assault. The attack yielded a decisive victory for Winters and Easy Company and prevented further enemy artillery from reaching the GIs landing on Utah Beach. Today, the United States Military Academy at West Point uses the example of Winters at Brécourt Manor to illustrate a textbook assault on a fixed position.
Just days later, in what Winters would later describe as "without a doubt the toughest fight of the war," Easy Company engaged in fierce combat to take the heavily-fortified town of Carentan. The Allies needed to capture the town and surrounding terrain to consolidate the Utah and Omaha Beachheads and establish a continuous line of defense to ward off German counterattacks. Easy Company successfully took the town and pushed southwest to establish a defensive perimeter. The Germans soon counterattacked, launching everything they had at Easy Company and the battalion. Refusing to be overrun, Easy Company fought off an attempted out-flanking maneuver and was eventually reinforced by the 2nd Armored Division, forcing a German retreat.
Three months later in September 1944, the Allies launched Operation Market Garden, a daring and ambitious airborne operation designed to capture several key bridges over the River Rhine in the Netherlands. The Allies hoped Market Garden would allow their forces to outflank the German defenses and advance into Germany. Easy Company was tasked with capturing and securing one of these critical bridges, requiring them to engage in intense combat and navigate through enemy territory. Although Market Garden would prove an unsuccessful operation, it is nonetheless remembered as one of the most famous battles of the European Theatre today, largely due to the bravery and determination of the Allied paratroopers – particularly those of Easy Company.
On December 16th, 1944, Hitler and the Nazis launched one final offensive in an attempt to stop Allied use of the port at Antwerp, split Allied lines, circle and destroy Allied forces, and strong-arm their way into a peace treaty. Once again, Easy Company answered the call of duty and sped to the front lines to spoil the Germans' surprise attack.
Initially achieving overwhelming surprise and setting the Allies back on their heels, Nazi forces soon came to a grinding halt when they encountered fierce resistance from American troops to the north around Elsenborn Ridge and to the south around Bastogne. Suffering from broken and inadequate supply lines, and unable to displace the dug-in Allies, the Nazis slowly lost ground each day of the 5-week campaign, eventually leading to their decisive defeat on 25 January. Demonstrating incredible courage and determination, American soldiers — particularly the gritty paratroopers of Easy Company — endured unimaginable suffering and overcame overwhelming odds on their way to victory.
Although combat operations continued after The Battle of the Bulge, for Easy Company, the worst was behind them. By May of 1945, Easy Company had been awarded the privilege of capturing and occupying the town of Berchtesgaden, home of Adolf Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" mountain villa in the Austrian Alps. Here, the men celebrated Victory in Europe – announced May 8th, 1945 – with picturesque mountain views and the finest bottles of wine and liquor from Hitler’s personal collection. Soon after, Allied leaders on the European front began transitioning their focus to war in the Pacific, making plans for Easy Company and the rest of the Allied forces to redeploy to the Pacific Theatre. Fortunately, that time never came, and the war was over.
MAJ Dick Winters: "The Biggest Brother"
Although we honor and remember the bravery and selfless service of every Easy Company paratrooper, we pay special tribute to Richard "Dick" Winters, Easy Company's commander during its first combat operations during the war, and its "Biggest Brother," as described by Larry Alexander in his book The Biggest Brother: The Life of Dick Winters, The Man Who Led the Band of Brothers. Winters led with distinction during the war and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, 2 Bronze Star Medals, and the Purple Heart. In the words of Don Malarkey – one of the original "Toccoa Men" – "[MAJ Winters] was absolutely willing to go through whatever we went through. I always thought he was happiest when he was with us in the foxholes."
Every member of Easy Company was a hero in his own right, and the camaraderie and brotherhood formed among these men have captured the hearts and imaginations of audiences worldwide. The story of Easy Company has been told and retold in various forms, including books, films, and television series. The "Band of Brothers" series by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks will ensure that the men of Easy Company will be honored and remembered forever.
The exploits of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, will forever be remembered as a testament to the bravery and determination of the American soldier. The men of Easy Company faced some of the most brutal battles of World War II and won, earning respect and admiration from their fellow soldiers and the world at large. Their story has been told and retold, inspiring generations of Americans to follow in their footsteps and serve their country with honor and distinction. That’s why we created The Currahee Band of Brothers T-Shirt: to honor their legacy, remember their sacrifice, and celebrate their undaunted spirit.
CURRAHEE! WE STAND ALONE.
On the left is a photo of me in The Band of Brothers Currahee T-Shirt standing atop Currahee Mountain outside Toccoa, GA, in 2022. On the right is a photo of me in The Operation Overlord T-Shirt in Normandy, France, during the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in 2019 with the actor Ross McCall who portrayed Joseph Liebgott in the "Band of Brothers" series.