.
70th Anniversary Commemoration
Capture of Remagen Bridge
March 7, 2015
.
One of this year's highlights for our Living History Group was participation in the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the capture of Ludendorff Bridge (also known as Remagen Bridge after the nearest town) by American troops during World War II.  During this event, which was also held in conjunction with the 35th anniversary of the Peace Museum, the main presentation in the Rheinhalle of Remagen was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the actual bridge towers.
.
Official U.S. Army Painting of the
Capture of Remagen Bridge
..... The Rhine River forms a natural geographic barrier against invasion of inner Germany from the West. However, the Americans largely sidestepped this defensible terrain by capturing a bridge over the river on March 7, 1945. This railway bridge, known as the Ludendorff Bridge, was dubbed the "Bridge at Remagen" by the wartime American press, a name that became famous to history. Its capture marked the first large-scale Allied crossing of the Rhine, which enabled a rapid advance into the German heartland and led to the war's more rapid conclusion in Europe. 
.
The German defenders had delayed the destruction of this last bridge over the Rhine in order to allow their retreating forces more time to cross from the other side of the river. The bridge was deliberately not bombed by Allied aircraft but German demolition specialists rigged it with explosives to prevent possible capture. Nevertheless, the demolition blasts failed to collapse the structure and the Americans unexpectedly seized the damaged bridge in a still-standing condition.
.
... The vanguard of the U.S. 9th Armored Division, led by 22-year-old Lieutenant Karl H. Timmermann of German ancestry, reached the still-intact bridge in rapid order. This stroke of luck in seizing a critical Rhine crossing point was a total surprise. The feat was quickly penned as the "Miracle of Remagen" by journalists reporting the unique military success. ...
Karl H. Timmermann
(US Army)
.
Within just one day, the Americans pushed 8,000 soldiers across the Rhine deeper into Germany. The leader of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, ordered as many American divisions as possible to switch their routes of advance and cross the Rhine at Remagen in quick succession.
.
American troops crossing the Ludendorff Bridge, the Bridge at Remagen. (US Army)
....
 9th Armored Division soldiers with their sign on the bridge tower declaring it secured. (US Army)
.
The Germans retaliated with desperate attempts to destroy the bridge with an array of "wonder weapons" to include jet fighter-bombers and combat swimmers. In spite of all counterattacks, American combat engineers managed to repair and stabilize the heavily damaged bridge for many crucial days. Finally, the stressed bridge reached its breaking point and suddenly collapsed into the river on March 17, 1945. The Americans suffered 28 deaths and 93 injured among its soldiers when the bridge finally buckled. By then, 18 Allied regiments had taken advantage of this vital crossing point for 10 full days by racing across the Bridge at Remagen.
.
Final bridge repair work just hours before its sudden collapse. (US National Archives)
.....
The collapsed Bridge at Remagen as it appeared on March 17, 1945. (US National Archives)
.
Today the only parts of the former bridge which are preserved are the bridge towers on both sides of the Rhine River as well as portions of the access ramp.

The west-side bridge towers now house the Peace Museum documenting the history of the Ludendorff Bridge from its construction until its destruction. There is also a reminder of the large U.S. internment camp for German prisoners at Remagen and Sinzig. Visitors can find much material to reflect about war and peace, including information on conflicts and peace offers in modern times.

......
The Remagen Bridge towers
on the east side
.
The preserved access ramp
to the Remagen bridge.
...
The Remagen Bridge towers on the west side
of the Rhine are memorials.
.
Our distinguished Living History Group member Gero arrived with his own authentic army jeep, along with friends owning their own World War II military transportation, to reenact the entry of American troops to the bridge site. The Chairman of the Peace Museum Mr. Kurten was very pleased with our group's participation and personally thanked us for the realism that our dress and vehicles gave the commemorative event.
.
.
.
This was a very impressive experience for everyone who attended. Our visit to the historic bridge remains with its memorial for peace; attendance at the Rheinhalle memorial service with wreath-laying ceremony, and conversations with surviving time-witnesses about their experiences gave us all pause to reflect on the importance of history in current events.
.
..
..
.
..
.
..
.
..... We also met an American veteran, Paul Schumacher, who is one of the few remaining surviving Americans who served at Remagen. He was a member of the 9th Infantry Division whose unit began to cross the bridge in the early morning hours on March 8, 1945. They secured the bridge and widened the bridgehead across the Rhine. 

Now 92 years old and living near Memphis, Tennessee, he told us about crossing the bridge with his comrades at the age of 22. He recalled how a few days later his troops began marching along the highway towards the Elbe River.

.
.. Paul was also impressed by our distinguished Living History Group member Katy, who wore authentic uniform attire of female army personnel of World War II. This led to a discussion about the role of women in the military, and Paul recounted that his wife completed as a Navy nurse during that time. 

Katy has written well-recognized scholarly uniform volumes and has a forthcoming one on U.S. naval personnel pending future publication. Please check Amazon.com.

..
.
The emotionally touching highlight of the commemoration came when a German veteran, who was then a 20-year-old combat engineer stationed in Erpeler Railway Tunnel on the other side of the bridge, took the opportunity to offer his erstwhile enemy the handshake of reconciliation.

It was a gracious moment that confirmed the humanity and goodwill of the United States and Germany today.

...
.
..... We also met with another time-witness who was then a 19-year-old German Army soldier when he surrendered and arrived in Remagen as an American prisoner of war. 

He is shown at the Peace Museum next to a newspaper picture which was magnified and shows him during captivity. 

.

More pictures of the day
.
(Many thanks to Shelby L. Stanton for English translation ) 

Copyright © 2015 LG3949.de
.

 [Homepage