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Tom Hanks backs restoration of WWII paratrooper camp

Jun. 14, 2013 - 12:50PM   |  
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TOCCOA, GA. — Actor Tom Hanks has donated $25,000 to Camp Toccoa at Currahee Inc. for its ambitious restoration of the World War II paratrooper training camp.

He joins retired Gen. David Petreaus as the second big name linked to the organization, which is raising money for the $7.5 million project.

Hanks’ connection is that he and Steven Spielberg served as executive producers of “Band of Brothers,” a 2001 HBO miniseries depicting Easy Company’s journey from intense training at Camp Toccoa to airborne landings in Normandy.

Easy Company was part of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. A march from Toccoa to Atlanta, including through Gainesville, Dec. 1-3, 1942, featured the entire battalion.

“I cannot imagine a more fitting site to recreate and honor as would a refurbished Currahee — a stop for all history students, no matter the age,” Hanks said in an email to Robin Sink McClelland, president of Camp Toccoa at Currahee’s executive committee.

The actor finished the email by saying, “Bravo — and Currahee!”

The soldiers’ training was highlighted by their march up Currahee Mountain with the shout “three miles up, three miles down.”

Cynthia D. Brown, who heads a Camp Toccoa committee on the restoration efforts, confirmed Tuesday receiving the check from Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, who are involved in other charitable work.

“It was a surprise for all of us,” said Brown, director of institutional advancement at North Georgia Technical College Foundation in Clarkesville.

Hanks had been invited to join Camp Toccoa’s board of trustees, she said.

“I am in (New York City) doing a run of a play, which precludes me from making a visit to Toccoa/Currahee,” Hanks said. “But by all means, include my name in any and all mailings/attempts at fundraising.”

In May, Petraeus, the former four-star Army general who commanded coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, agreed to serve on the Camp Toccoa at Currahee Board of Trustees.

Petraeus, 60, became CIA director in September 2011, after a long career in the military, including his much-vaunted leadership of the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq in 2008.

In a memo to board members, McClelland quoted the general as saying he was “delighted to have been invited to support the effort to remember and honor the members of the four great airborne regiments that trained at Camp Toccoa during World War II.”

Camp Toccoa’s steering committee unveiled the master plan in 2012 for Camp Toccoa. The first phase calls for restoring the last remaining structure and rebuilding barracks from the early training days on 6 acres donated by Pacolet Milliken Enterprises.

Garland Reynolds, a Gainesville resident and executive committee vice president, has served as architect on the project.

Brown said about $75,000 has been raised “from our website and personal contacts.”

“We’re going to have to have some professional help (in the effort), but the main thing is we’ve got to get to the right people who respect, love and want to see this project available to generations.

“We have got to have that place where people can come and be awed.”

___

Information from: The Times, http://www.gainesvilletimes.com

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