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Posted on Aug 17, 2007 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

In the Footsteps of Heroes

By Chad Weisensel

Day 2. Atlanta to England:

The morning started out with a solid breakfast and a air conditioned bus ride to Toccoa, Georgia. As we drove down the highway our attention was quickly brought to the large hill coming up on the right side of the bus. Ahh, yes our first view of Mt Currahee. Camp Toccoa was the starting point for most of these men, here they would go through the rigors of Airborne training. The training was tough, some of the toughest in the world. It took 500 officer volunteers to produce 148 who made it through and 5300 enlisted men to get 1800 graduates for the 506th. First we arrived at the old train station that is now the Stephens County Historical Center. Inside they have many artifacts from hundreds of years of the area, we were there to see the Currahee Military Museum.


As you walk into the Airborne section the first thing you see is a paratrooper in all his gear suspended by his parachute. Paratroopers are a self sufficient fighting force and have to carry everything they can into battle and must use what they have until they are relieved or resupplied.

The museum had some of the original housing from Aldbourne, England flown in and rebuilt piece by piece, these rooms housed all the great artifacts collected over the years. Inside these rooms were tons of great photos of the men, young and old along with many of the great items these men liberated from the Germans. Many weapons, medals and uniforms line the walls along this great museum.

We grabbed a quick lunch that the nice people of the museum had put together for us and we boarded our bus to head to the foot of Mt Currahee. We disembarked the bus at the Camp Toccoa Monument just outside the entrance to Robert Sink Memorial trail. Colonel Bob was named commander of the 506th PIR in July of 1942 and commanded them until the end of the war.

Here we heard Bill talk of his experiences at Camp Toccoa, he was asked what his first impressions were of the hill that would soon become Mt Currahee, he knew at some point he would have to run up that hill and his reply was classic" Let’s just say I don’t think I was in favor of it".

Three miles up and three miles down was the famous saying from Easy Company’s first commander, Capt Herbert Sobel. Most men disliked Herbert Sobel for his harsh discipline, but many credit him for his ability get the most physically out of these men. Our Veteran Bill Wingett had a different impression of Capt Sobel. I asked Bill what his thoughts were on Capt Sobel? Bill was in a serious accident prior to enlisting and wasn’t quite ready physically, when he told Capt Sobel what happened Sobel could have easily reported him to the medics, instead Capt Sobel Told Bill; "Give it what you got". After that Bill had a great respect for Sobel and owes a lot to the Captain for letting him continue.

The terrain up the hill was extremely bumpy and there is no way a car would ever make it to the top. Once we reached the summit, the views were breathtaking. You could look over a large section of the Georgia countryside. After a few minutes of picture taking we hopped back in our bus and proceeded to the original area that housed the men for training. Unfortunately all that is left is some curbs and parts of the road.

Soon after we jumped back in our Air conditioned motor coach and headed back to the airport for our 8.5 hour flight to England. After check in we boarded our plane and were delayed 2 hours because of bad weather. It didn’t matter to any of us because we were on our way to England. Many of us had never been out of the country so we had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I had to try and sleep for a little bit because when we land we were going to start touring immediately and head for Littlecote house which was a command center for the 101st Airborne in World War II. Today it serves as a hotel in the beautiful Berkshire countryside.

Day 3. Sunday May 13th

After our overnight flight across the Atlantic we landed at London’s Gatwick Airport. I think I maybe fell asleep for an hour but I wasn’t tired, I was eager to get off the plane and start the tour. We all made it through customs and were greeted by our bus driver, Heije De Jong. Little did we know that he was going to be someone we all remembered as well. His bus was clean and stocked with plenty of beverages. We were in good hands. It was cold and raining when we arrived and it stayed that way for our entire time in England. As we drove through the countryside it was weird watching all the cars go down the wrong side of the road, I am glad I was not driving.

After everyone was on board and comfortable we headed for our first destination, Littlecote House. The history of Littlecote House is something that could be an entire discussion on its own. As we pulled up to the house there were 2-3 Willys jeeps, a quad .50 (M-16) and a 1/2 ton troop carrier outside. Lucky for us there were some British reenactors inside waiting for us to arrive. After learning some of the hundreds and hundreds of years of history and getting a tour of the building we were told about some of the things that happened in this building. This House was used by the 101st Airborne as Regimental Headquarters and many of the operations for D-Day were planned here as well, it also was a place in which the officers would have lavish parties, there was an indoor swimming pool and plenty of room to dance the night away. We were able to see Colonel Sinks office and this is the exact office in which he had to deal with all the non-commissioned officers and a possible mutiny against Capt Sobel. The Colonel also had a secret exit so when someone whom he didn’t want to talk to arrived he could sneak out!

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After touring the many rooms and learning a lot about the glorious and sometimes haunted history of the house we had the opportunity to either ride the bus to our next destination of Aldbourne or ride in one of the many authentic WWII vehicles waiting for us outside. Having had the opportunity to ride in a T-34/85 tank a few years earlier I thought it would be good to add another tracked vehicle to my list so I immediately sought out the man with the Quad .50, this is a 1/2 track vehicle that houses four .50 caliber machine guns, it is mainly used for anti-aircraft duties, today it was our ride into town.

Marcos, Joe and I hopped into the back of the uncovered quad .50 and held on, we were going to ride approximately 15-20 miles to our next destination, outside, uncovered in the cold driving rain. Others on the tour hopped into jeeps, troop carriers or got back on the bus. When we arrived at our destination we were soaking wet and cold but we arrived to cheers from the rest of the tour and from some of the reenactors at Aldbourne, the Americans had arrived and the British were happy to see us.

We then made our way into a very old church, this was the church in which Dick Winters would spend a lot of his time. Winters had met a local family early during his time in Aldbourne, he became fast friends with the family after learning that there son was killed as a member of the RAF in the Battle of Britain. When his unit requested billeting with the local community the Barnes family eagerly took Dick Winters and Lieutenant Harry Welsh in. The room in which Dick Winters stayed still stands only a few hundred yards from the church and the Cemetery in which he first met this family.

After an emotionally and physically draining day everyone was ready to head to the hotel in Newbury. Here we were once again treated extremely well by the locals. Inside the hotel pub we met some great people who refused to allow us to buy our own drinks, we exchanged stories and listened intently as these men told us about relatives that flew in the Royal Air Force. We then sat down for another excellent meal and most everyone was off to sleep by 10pm.

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  1. Hi, this is a great page and i was in the same museum: bastogne Historical Center
    it was the greatest museum ever!!!!!!!!!

  2. Hello Chad glad you enjoyed your tour! I,m the Brit who has Harold Webb’s helmet,(to jog your memory) That your veteran kindly added his name to, He
    was a good man and i bet very entertaining company, Also in ,y collection is the jeep cap and shoulder eagle belonging to Ed pepping one of the medics
    from BoB bye for now Chris Freeman.

  3. Hello, this site is exactly what I have been searching for. I share your passion for these heroes and especially their campaigns. I know that Stephen Ambrose passed away, however, are these tours still going on or are people on their own when they visit these sites. Our WWII veterans are getting up there and I am not sure if they are still a part of the tours. In any event, thank you for publishing these wonderful comments and pics as well.


  4. Kathy please contact me on the forums. My name is Chad and I am under the name creeping death. Thanks for your interest and I can answer all your questions.

  5. I am trying to find out if my Grandfather is in the jake Power’s book about the 101st airborne in Normandy. My grandfather is now deceased but I do know that we was there that day and part of that unit. Can anyone help me check and validate and let me know if my Grandfather is in the book before i spend this kinbd of money on it that I really don’t have at this time. Thanks
    I can be emailed at Thanks

  6. Chad,

    What a great briefing you gave, thank you! My wife and I want to go on this tour this May, but we were wondering if anyone has been on the tour this past year 2009?? I talked to the folks at Stephen Ambrose tours and was told that they may not have an Easy Co veteran going this May, and they have Ron dong the tour by himself. So I wonder if the tour woudl still be a good thing?
    Thank you for any feedback.

  7. Hi Chad,

    Do you have an email address or better yet, a phone number where I can reach you to discuss a band of brothers trip? I heard from you some time ago but the email address that you used wouldn’t let me contact you again.