Date: Monday, the 11th of April 2011
Title: Visit to the Ludendorff-Brücke von Remagen
The Ludendorff Bridge (known frequently by English speaking people during World War II as the Bridge at Remagen) was a railroad bridge across the Rhine River in Germany, connecting the villages of Remagen and Erpel between two ridges of hills flanking the river. Remagen is located close to and south of the city of Bonn.
At the end of Operation Lumberjack (1 through 7 March 1945), the troops of the American 1st Army approached Remagen and they were much surprised to find that the bridge was still standing.
The Ludendorff Bridge was notable for its capture on 7–8 March 1945 by the U.S. Army during the Battle of Remagen of World War II. This enabled the U.S. Army to establish a bridgehead on the eastern side of the Rhine.
The capture of this bridge was an important event of World War II in Western Europe because this was the only significant bridge still standing over the Rhine from the West into the heartland of Nazi Germany. Since it was a railroad bridge, this bridge was also strong enough that the U.S. Army could cross it immediately with heavy tanks and artillery pieces and trucks full of military supplies. Once the bridge was captured, the troops of the Wehrmacht began strenuous efforts to destroy or damage it, or to slow the U.S. Army’s use of it. Among other things the Wehrmacht used heavy artillery and V-2 rockets against the bridge and it also sent frogmen at night to sabotage it. However, these were discovered and shot by soldiers of the U.S. Army Military Police Corps attached to the 9th Armored Division using strong floodlights.
At the same time, the U.S. Army worked to protect and reinforce the Ludendorff Bridge by expanding their bridgehead into a perimeter large enough that the Germans could no longer attack the bridge with artillery or rockets. U.S. Army Air Forces fighter planes also kept a strong defensive umbrella over the bridge to keep the Luftwaffe from attacking it in desperation. U.S. Army military engineers and their technicians worked strenuously to reinforce the bridge, welding in many tons of reinforcing beams to repair it from its ongoing battle damage and overwork. All the while as Military Police were organizing troop, equipment, and traffic flow over the bridge.
The ensuing battle between the U.S. Army and the Wehrmacht continued for more than a week. The battle included a huge, ongoing artillery duel, a desperate air battle between the American and German air forces, and the use of some V-2 rockets against the American bridgeheads.
Units of infantry, artillery, and armour, both US and German, scrambled along the Rhine Valley while both sides reacted to the capture of the bridge and its failure to be destroyed by German explosives experts. One effect of those troop movements was that the Americans were able, within two weeks, to establish other crossings by using their pontoon bridges along their front on the Rhine. This complicated the Wehrmacht’s job of defense, for their soldiers were cut off from their meager supplies, partly surrounded, and exposed to aerial bombing. All of this hastened the end of German resistance along the Rhine, forced many Germans to surrender, and opened the door for the U.S. Army to overrun the industrial areas of the Ruhr Valley.
After its capture, the Germans made repeated unsuccessful efforts to destroy it via aerial bombardment, field artillery and the use of floating mines. On 9 March 1945 a German counter-attack of the LXVII Armeekorps began, but was too weak to ensure success. The German High Command tried desperately to destroy the bridge in the following days, even using frogmen to plant mines and a railway gun which missed the target. In one of the few deployments of the type as tactical bombers, Arado Ar 234 jets attempted to destroy the bridge,and on 17 March 1945, eleven V-2 rockets were launched at the bridge from the Hellendoorn area of the Netherlands, about 200 kilometres (120 mi) north of Remagen, destroying a number of nearby buildings and killing at least six American soldiers.
Later on 17 March, ten days after its capture, the bridge suddenly collapsed into the Rhine. Eighteen U.S. Army engineers were killed while working to strengthen the bridge, and 93 others were injured. However, by then the Americans had established a substantial bridgehead on the far side of the Rhine and had additional pontoon bridges in place.