Over ten canicule in the bounce of 1945, Army Engineers expedited the aggression of Germany and appropriately beneath the Second World War in Europe by alarmingly capturing one of the last bridges larboard continuing beyond the River Rhine. It had been nine months back D-Day, and Allied armament had fought in several long, difficult campaigns beyond France and the highlands of the Ardennes backwoods and had aloof beyond the German border. The aftermost accustomed barrier to active added into German area was the Rhine. Starting in March, Operation Lumberjack, led by the U.S. Aboriginal Army, aimed to defended the west coffer of the river and adapt for a massive arch to be led by the British. In adjustment to attenuate German accumulation curve to the front, the Allies had systematically austere bridges up and bottomward the river for months, so the analysis of an complete WWI-era arch beyond the Rhine at the boondocks of Remagen (about 14 afar south of Bonn) was a big surprise.
Brig. Gen. William M. Hoge, an architect soldier, was in allegation of Combat Command B, 9th Armored Division, back its arch elements apparent the Ludendorff abuse arch still continuing at Remagen. “I got up to the Rhine and stood there on the coffer and looked down, and there it was,” Hoge recalled. “The arch was there appropriate aloft the town. I couldn’t accept it was true. I issued an adjustment appropriate abroad to go bottomward and grab that bridge, go bottomward through the boondocks and put tanks on both abandon of the bridge, battlefront alongside to it.” The accident was exceptional—what if the Germans destroyed the arch while Hoge’s armament were arch it or alike accustomed some to cantankerous afore acid off their retreat?
His superiors had tasked Hoge to advance south bottomward the Rhine, but he abandoned those orders on seeing the arch standing. “I knew it was, well, a alarming thing, exceptional of; but I aloof had the activity that actuality was the befalling of a lifetime and it allegation be grasped immediately,” remembered Hoge. “It couldn’t wait. If you had waited, the befalling [would be] gone. That was apparently the greatest axis point in my accomplished career as a soldier—to abduction Remagen.”
The Ludendorff Arch at Remagen, Germany. CEHO
Brig. Gen. William M. Hoge, 9th Armored Division. CEHO
Personnel advancing a recording for advertisement afterwards the bridge’s capture. CEHO
Combat Command B captured the boondocks on the west ancillary of the Ludendorff Arch on March 7. Afterwards witnessing German atomic accuse activity off but declining to abort the bridge, Hoge’s engineers bound started acid affairs and removing a thousand pounds of unexploded demolitions while German arms on top of the hills on the east ancillary of the river kept up a abiding battery of American positions about Remagen and the arch itself. Engineers again started acclimation the bridge’s railway and planking so that tanks could move across. Running to abstain assassin fire, an infantry army bound beyond the river and started establishing a bridgehead on the east side, at the bend of the German automated heartland. They were followed by the 27th Armored Infantry Regiment, as arresting the bridgehead became the top antecedence for the Aboriginal Army’s III Corps. Backward that night a catchbasin aggregation activated the structure, their aboriginal nine Shermans affective anxiously beyond the bridge, “accompanied by an apocalyptic and nerve-wracking creaking.” For the abutting several days, the arch remained about a precarious, one-way artery added into Germany as Hoge directed a abiding beck of soldiers, supplies, and accessories beyond the river.
Meanwhile, infantry units and engineers, with the abutment of landing ability acting as ferries, formed rapidly beneath connected adversary blaze to body alternating crossings abreast the Ludendorff Arch site, including a animate treadway arch and a heavy, able arch arch upstream. The fast-moving Rhine, with its abrasive bottom, appropriate engineers to assemble appropriate anchors to authority in abode the acting bridges and the logs and nets acclimated to assure them from mines and adversary swimmers. Lt. Col. H. F. Cameron allowable the 164th Architect Battalion, which was in allegation of river aegis at Remagen. “We put the aboriginal nets beyond and they started creeping. We about absent a arch of our own stuff, but we got it out of the way,” Cameron remembered. “So we ample there was alone one way to ballast our net and anticipate creeping. We took four Bailey panels, anchored them together, and again lined them with reinforcing animate wire…and again abounding boxes with rock. Well, with the four Bailey panels at 580 pounds a panel, abounding with rock, we ample there were six or eight bags in anniversary one of those anchors.”
Over the abutting ten days, the Germans fabricated several concerted efforts to abort the acting bridges and the Ludendorff Arch itself. These attempts included cutting out the floats from beneath the treadway bridge, abundant air raids, and alike ablution V2 rockets from the Netherlands—the alone time the missiles were accursed at a appropriate ambition in Germany during the war. They additionally beatific amphibian mines, explosive-laden barges, and alike appropriate operations swimmers bottomward the river. In acknowledgment to the aeriform bombardment, the Americans installed hundreds of anti-aircraft weapons to assure the bridgehead. American catchbasin companies additionally deployed a new technology at the arch that had been developed secretly—powerful searchlights able of throwing off adversary targeting while anecdotic abundant of the river basin to accredit assignment at night.
Collapsed Ludendorff Bridge, 17 March 1945. CEHO
On March 17 the Ludendorff Arch assuredly burst while two hundred soldiers from the 276th Architect Combat Army and 1058th Architect Port Construction and Adjustment Group were still badly alive to advance it. The arch collapse ultimately dead twenty-eight soldiers and afflicted sixty-three others; of those who died that day, eighteen were missing and acceptable drowned in the swift-moving river. By that time, however, the Allies had acquired a accurate ballast abysmal in German territory. Because of the aboriginal and acknowledged efforts to abduction and adjustment the bridge, bristles American capacity were able to cantankerous the Rhine in abutment of Operation Plunder, the all-embracing British advance beyond the river further arctic in backward March. The adventurous abduction of the arch at Remagen ensured the success of these operations and beneath the final drive beyond Germany appear Berlin by weeks, alike months.
Hoge, William M., Architect Memoirs: General William M. Hoge, U.S. Army. EP 870-1-25 (Washington, DC: Office of History, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1993).
H. F. Cameron, Jr. Oral History (1989), HQ USACE, Office of History, Oral History Collection.
***March 2020. No. 135.
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