HISTORY OF THE BATTLE OF THE REMAGEN BRIDGE
Remagen, Germany is a small town located on the West bank of the Rhine River. Its layout and size are very similar to Tidioute, Pa. The Rhine river is similar in size to the Allegheny River. The terrain features of Remagen, Germany, look very much like the Allegheny Region, rolling mountains, deep valleys and ridges. The bridge at Remagen was named, after a German hero, thus the name, Ludendorff Bridge. It was about 700 ft. long, a little longer then the present day Tidioute bridge, which is 551 ft long.
The time is March 1945, the Allied Forces are on the offensive, and the German Army is in full retreat. On March 7, 1945 lead elements of The 9th Armored Division arrive on a hill overlooking Remagen and the Ludendorff Bridge. To their surprise they find the bridge intact, with the German Army still retreating across it. The bridge at Remagen was the last remaining bridge on the Rhine River. All other bridges on the Rhine had been destroyed by either the advancing Allied Armies or the retreating German Army.
Their orders: “ Capture the bridge “ Lt. Timmerman’s column led by a company of Infantry, advanced into the lightly defended village and quickly made their way to the bridge. At about 3:30 p.m. the Germans detonated the charges that where in place. The high explosives blew, lifting the bridge off its foundation. When the smoke cleared the bridge was intact, still standing. The task of capturing the bridge was given to 9th Armored’s Infantry. Led by Lt Timmerman and Sgt. Drabic the company quickly assaulted and captured the bridge. Sgt. Drabic was the first American G.I. to step on to the eastern shore of the Rhine River. History was made that day. The following day a sign was placed on the bridge that read, CROSS THE RHINE WITH DRY FEET COURTESY OF THE 9TH ARMORED DIVISION. Ten days later the badly wounded bridge collapsed, killing many of the combat engineers who were trying to repair the bridge.
Shortly after the capture the 99th, 9th ,and 78th, Infantry Divisions crossed over, attacking and protecting the bridge from counter attacking German forces. The German Army was constantly bombing, strafing, and sending thousands of artillery shells trying to destroy the bridge. Hundreds of G.I.’s were killed and wounded fighting to protect this bridge.
Harry Arnold a member of Easy co, 99th Infantry Division, recalls the bridge crossing. Under constant artillery attack he quotes “ You took your chances, maintaining your position in the column, at the pace of the column. At the long curving approach to the bridge its self, it was not possible to walk the distance without your feet touching anything but human flesh.”
As the 9th Armored Division approached Remagen, hundreds of German civilians fled their homes and crossed the bridge to get to the eastern shore of the Rhine River. As the battle starts today you will see civilians carrying a few of their most prized possessions, trying to avoid the ravages of war. Remagen was left untouched by the U.S. Army. It was virtually destroyed by German forces trying to destroy the bridge.
Thank you for coming, we hope you enjoyed this little bit of World War II history. Remember our WWII Veterans. And also all of our Armed Forces still fighting today.
Today you will see Black Infantryman, these brave soldiers joined the front line G.I.’s of Easy Company, 99th shortly after the bridge was captured. The members of The 99th Infantry Division Historical Society 393rd Regiment, Easy Co. reenactors would like to thank all of our partners who made this day possible:
The Citizens and Borough Council of Tidioute, Pa.