Battle of Remagen
||It has been suggested that this article be merged into Operation Lumberjack. (Discuss) Proposed since July 2013.|
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (November 2010)|
|Battle of Remagen|
|Part of the Invasion of Germany in World War II|
American forces cross the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen
| United States
|Commanders and leaders|
|Courtney Hodges||Erich Brandenberger|
|1st Army||7th Army|
The fighting resulted in the capture of the bridge intact by American forces and allowed the Western Allies to begin their first major crossing of the Rhine, the last natural line of defence that the Germans thought could be used to substantially hold up the Western Allied advance. Previously crossings had been limited to small infantry reconnaissance patrols by boat. Importantly, the battle convinced the Allied high command in Western Europe that they could envelop the German industrial area of the Ruhr as opposed to focusing primarily on General Bernard Montgomery's plan, Operation Plunder, which would bring the British 21st Army Group across the Rhine into northern Germany.
The battle started on 7 March 1945, when American forces entered Remagen, on the south-west side of the river. The American force also included two battalions of soldiers from recently-liberated Belgium belonging to the Fusilier Battalions.
German soldiers assigned the task of blowing up the bridge were positioned on the north side of the river. They wanted to wait until all the German force, on the south side of the river, had retreated across the bridge before they destroyed it. Just as the Americans approached, the Germans set off the explosives but most failed to detonate and the damage to the bridge, while significant, could be quickly repaired.
A three-man detachment from 2nd Platoon, B Company, 9th Armored Engineer Battalion (Lieutenant Hugh Mott, Staff Sergeant John Reynolds, and Sergeant Eugene Dorland) moved with the first squad of A/27th AIB to reduce the remaining explosives after the first unsuccessful bridge demolition by the Germans. Crossing with lead elements, Dorland destroyed the main demolition switch box on the far bank. The remainder of B Company, with the rest of A/27th AIB, succeeded in finding and reducing more explosives on the bridge. After the crossing was initially secured, Lt. Mott led B Company in the hasty bridge repairs that allowed the first Sherman tanks to cross the bridge by 22:00hrs that evening.
After the capture of the bridge, the Germans attempted to destroy it through a variety of methods, including air attacks by Arado Ar 234 jet bombers of KG 76, escorted by Messerschmitt 262 jet fighters. Over fifty sorties a day were flown during the roughly week-long bombing campaign, with the 262s usually running flak suppression for the bombers. Frogmen were also employed to implant explosives on the bridge supports, and in a final desperate move even a handful of V2 ballistic missiles were fired at the bridge. None of the missiles came close to the intended target, with the rockets landing in and around Remagen town and killing large numbers of civilians as well as German and American troops. The battle ended on 25 March 1945 when the allied forces could break out of their bridgehead and advance into the rest of Germany.
Military Policeman John "Jack" Hyde commanded a detachment of MPs in the 9th Armored Division. Only four months prior, he was serving in the Battle of the Bulge when he refused George Patton access to a restricted area. Patton demanded to be let through and asked for his name. Patton saw that Hyde was promoted, and Patton stopped by the bridge to make sure he was promoted. Hyde was the division's officer in charge of the flow across the bridge and established a rigid traffic control that his soldiers enforced. Hyde even refused to stop traffic for Field Marshal Montgomery, the highest-ranking officer in the British Army, who demanded traffic be stopped so he could take a picture. After Hyde's stiff refusal, William Hoage commended him for his obedience to his post and orders. Hyde received a Silver Star for his effort.
The bridge collapsed due to structural damage on 17 March, after six US divisions were in place in the bridgehead. By then the Allies had already built three pontoon bridges about 1,000 yards down river from the bridge. Several German officers who had been assigned the task of destroying the bridge when ordered were court-martialed for their failure and were convicted, sentenced to death and executed.
The bridge was not rebuilt after the war. However, the towers for the bridge are still there, and can be visited.