| Starting in December 16, 1944, as the Allied Forces approached the Rhine River, Adolph Hitler ordered all the bridges blown up to prevent a crossing of this wide river. |
The 9th Armored Division, which had been ordered not to cross the Rhine River but to turn south along the west bank in order to join up with General Patton's Third Army, found a bridge still standing at the little town of Remagen halfway between Cologne and Koblenz. The defending Germans had left this bridge open in order to retreat some of their tanks and big guns to save them from being captured by the Americans.
When the head of Combat Command B, General William Hoge, observed that the bridge was still standing, he ordered the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion to go down the hill and attack the town of Remagen prior to possibly crossing the bridge before it was blown up.
Hitler ordered an all-out attack on the Americans who had crossed the bridge. He sent in jet planes for the first time in the war, and they tried in vain to bomb and destroy the bridge.
Werner Von Braun, who later became the architect of the American moonlanding, at that time was working for the Nazis and had developed a very powerful guided missile called the V2 which was fired from Holland in an attempt to destroy the bridge. Eleven V-2z landed near the bridge, shaking it like an earthquake.
The 51st and 291st Engineer Battalions immediately began to build
pontoon and treadway bridges on both sides of the weakened railroad bridge.
This was very fortunate, because on March 17, 1945, the seriously damaged Ludendorff Bridge collapsed into the Rhine River, killing twenty-eight engineers who had been trying to strengthen the bridge.
The surprise crossing of the Ludendorff Bridge probably saved 5000 American lives that otherwise would have been lost by an assault crossing of the river. In addition, the capture of the bridge helped shorten the war by enabling the Americans to encircle and trap 300,000 Germans east of the Rhine, thereby, causing the war to end earlier on May 8, 1945.