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1940s Society Shop >  History >  Articles on the 1940s >  The Bridge at Remagen

The Bridge at Remagen

An important bridge over the Rhine and how the U.S. Army got accross it in 1945.

The Bridge at Remagen
Written By Neil Barber

All thats left of the Bridge at Remagen

The town of Remagen is situated on the western bank of the River Rhine, roughly mid-way between Cologne and Koblenz. Being an ideal location for a crossing point, the bridge was constructed during the First World War to speed up the transfer of troops from east to west. It was finished in early 1918 and named ‘The Ludendorff Bridge’ after the famous General of the time. The structure was a double-tracked railway bridge that could be boarded over to enable vehicles to be driven across. There were also walkways on either side.

When, in late February 1945, the Western Allies again took to the offensive, the only true geographical obstacle facing them before the heart of Germany was the Rhine. Knowing of its importance to the Germans, the Allies had hardly even contemplated the possibility of capturing a bridge intact. The strategy was to trap as many enemy troops as possible on the western bank of the river. With this in mind, on February 23rd the U.S. 1st Army began fighting its way towards Cologne, Bonn and Remagen. By the late morning of March 7th, the 27th Armoured Infantry Battalion of the 9th Armoured Division, had forced its way through to the heights above the town. Below, they were confronted with the spectacle of German units still hastily retiring across the bridge. Their initial thought was to destroy the bridge to prevent further enemy escaping, but they could not raise the necessary artillery fire. In the early afternoon, although few in numbers, an attempt was made to capture the town itself, fully expecting the bridge to be blown up in their faces. After a sharp battle, the troops closed in on the river bank and waited for its destruction. In the meantime, the news had filtered up the command chain and orders were given for an attempt to be made to capture it. Just as the force was preparing to set off, the Germans set the charges off. When the smoke and dust had cleared, amazingly, the structure was still standing. It had literally been lifted up and dropped back down on its supports. Immediately, under covering fire and smoke, the G.I.s, led by Lt Karl Timmerman, charged across, hoping to make it to the other side before the Germans exploded another charge. Fortune favoured them and the bridge was captured intact, albeit badly damaged.

Over the next few days the Americans rushed men and material across it to form a defensive perimeter, while the Germans fought hard to push them back and tried, without success, to destroy the crossing with bombs, artillery and other means.

A week later, 25,000 U.S. troops were across the river. However, the bridge had been severely weakened, and on March 17th, while engineers were attempting to strengthen the structure, it collapsed into the Rhine. 10 men were killed, 18 posted missing and 63 injured. Its loss did not unduly affect the transport of supplies because the sappers had by then built a pontoon bridge a little further along the river. The bravery of those few G.I.s almost certainly shortened the war and saved many of their comrade’s lives.

The Ludendorff Bridge was never rebuilt, but the towers remain. One of them on the western bank now acts as a Peace Museum. .

The plaques at Remagen Bridge.

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