Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
Teaser Image

Remagen Bridge, Capture of (7 March 1945)

Title: U.S. troops cross Remagen Bridge, Germany
Button: Click to display an enlarged version of the image.
As the Germans retreated across the Rhine, they destroyed bridges over the river. Not expecting to find a bridge intact, American forces planned to pause along the Rhine while to the north, Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery's 21st Army Group drove between Düsseldorf and the Dutch frontier to secure the Ruhr. Such a delay was unacceptable to U.S. Generals Omar N. Bradley and George S. Patton, who wanted to cross the Rhine as soon as possible and maintain pressure on the German army. American forces narrowly missed capturing several bridges over the Rhine.

At noon on 7 March 1945, Task Force Englemann (commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Englemann), consisting of the U.S. 14th Tank and 27th Armored Infantry Battalions of Combat Command B of the 9th Armored Division, reached the Ludendorff Railroad Bridge at Remagen, 20 miles upriver from Bonn. The bridge, the last one still intact over the Rhine, had two rail tracks and a pedestrian walkway. When the French had occupied the region following World War I, they had poured large quantities of cement into the demolition chambers under the bridge, which made it difficult to destroy. Indeed, the Germans had failed to blow it twice before the Americans arrived. The bridge was held by an inadequate force of only a platoon of German soldiers.

At 4:30 p.m. on 7 March, the lead U.S. units received orders to take the bridge at all costs. The Germans detonated charges that cratered the approach to the bridge, but a U.S. tank round had severed the power cables between the electrical source and the main charge on the bridge itself. As the Americans dashed forward, the Germans did detonate a low-quality backup charge, but the explosion only shook the bridge.

Over the next 10 days, the United States rushed nearly 50,000 troops and dozens of vehicles across the bridge into Germany. Almost from the moment the bridge was captured, engineers began constructing supplementary crossings, including a large Treadway pontoon bridge. Begun on 9 March, the auxiliary bridge was completed 80 hours later.

The Germans tried to destroy the Remagen Bridge with aerial bombing, V-2 rockets, jet aircraft, and even an assault by frogmen. On 17 March 1945, the bridge collapsed with little prior warning, killing 28 Americans. Studies revealed that it had given way due to overuse, especially by heavy vehicles.

The dramatic capture of the Remagen Bridge facilitated the infusion of Allied forces into Germany and likely shortened the war in Europe. Later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that the bridge was "worth its weight in gold."

William Head


Further Reading
Hechler, Kenneth. The Bridge at Remagen. New York: Ballantine Books, 1957.; MacDonald, Charles B. The United States Army in World War II: European Theater of Operations—The Last Offensive. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973.
 

©2011 ABC-CLIO. All rights reserved.

  About the Author/Editor
  Introduction
  Essays
  A
  B
  C
  D
  E
  F
  G
  H
  I
  J
  K
  L
  M
  N
  O
  P
  Q
  R
  S
  T
  U
  V
  W
  X
  Y
  Z
  Documents Prior to 1938
  1939 Documents
  1940 Documents
  1941 Documents
  1942 Documents
  1943 Documents
  1944 Documents
  1945 Documents
  Images
ABC-cLIO Footer