Archive for Tuesday, July 24, 2001

WWII ‘Brothers’ reunite at training site

506th regiment survivors take sneak peak of Spielberg-Hanks miniseries

July 24, 2001


— Nineteen surviving members of an elite Army unit that trained in this small town for some of World War II's most harrowing missions returned Sunday for a peek at a television miniseries portraying their exploits.

The 506th regiment of the Army's 101st Airborne Division trained at Camp Toccoa for 13 weeks beginning in August 1942. Its missions ranged from parachuting behind enemy lines on D-Day to capturing Hitler's mountain chalet in southern Germany.

The miniseries, "Band of Brothers," produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, traces the story of Easy Company from its first meeting through the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 D-Day to the liberation of concentration camp survivors.

The 10-part series, produced with a $120 million budget at the same British studio where Spielberg made most of "Saving Private Ryan," debuts Sept. 9 on Home Box Office. It is based on the book by historian Stephen Ambrose.

After training in Toccoa, the men marched 110 miles southwest to Atlanta en route to jump school at Fort Benning, near Columbus.

"They told us the Japanese made 100-mile marches, so we wanted to go better than them," said Forest Guth, a retired teacher from Wilmington, Del. After learning to parachute, the men received additional training in Alabama before heading to England.

Trained to fight while surrounded by the enemy, Easy Company parachuted into France to neutralize German positions five hours before Allied troops charged the beaches on D-Day.

They also fought behind enemy lines at the Battle of the Bulge and later captured the Eagle's Nest, the Alpine home that served as Hitler's retreat and the secondary Nazi headquarters.

"It was a magnificent view," said Don Malarkey, an Easy Company veteran from Salem, Ore.

Sunday's event was among two dozen screenings of excerpts of the miniseries planned by HBO around the country. The first was June 6 in Normandy, France.

Cast member Donnie Wahlberg said he was struck by the humility among the survivors at Sunday's gathering.

"The greatest thing that these men have given us is sacrifice," Wahlberg said.

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