This week in the War, 5–11 March 1945: The bridge at Remagen
The Ludendorff bridge over the Rhine between Erpel (foreground, east bank) and Remagen (background, west bank) after it was captured by US forces, 7 March 1945 [Public domain]
On 7 March 1945, units of the 9th Armoured Division of General Courtney Hodges’ US First Army arrived at the German town of Remagen on the west bank of the Rhine. To their surprise, the Ludendorff railway bridge, which connected Remagen to the town of Erpel on the opposite bank, was still standing. The Germans on the Erpel side subsequently detonated the explosives that had been fixed to the bridge but the main charge failed to explode. The bridge remained in place.
The American vanguard raced across. By nightfall, US forces had expanded and strengthened their bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Rhine.
In a fury, Hitler dismissed Field Marshal von Rundstedt, Commander-in-Chief of German forces in Western Europe and ordered the execution of officers deemed responsible for failing to destroy the bridge.
In the days that followed, Hitler threw everything he had against the Ludendorff bridge, from V-2 rockets to the jet-propelled Arado Blitz bombers, but failed to bring down the bridge. It collapsed on its own on 17 March. By then, the Allies had constructed pontoon and Bailey bridges and were firmly established across the Rhine.
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