R is for… the first Allied crossing of the Rhine

Allied planners realised that they would have to undertake an amphibious crossing of the Rhine in order to infiltrate effectively into German territory.[1] Although American, British and French forces had occupied most of Germany west of the Rhine, the Rhine itself, at 766 miles in length and an average width of about 1,300 feet meant the Allies had been unable to cross into the Ruhr industrial area.[2]

Initially, the Allies focused on crossing the Rhine somewhere north of Bonn, with only slight consideration given to Remagen, however Remagen was eventually settled on.[3] On 3 March, 1945 the III Corp of the American First Army, led by Lt. Gen. Courtney Hodges drove down the valley leading toward Remagen from the West.[4] German resistance was weak, and by 6 March the majority of the German Fifteenth Army had retreated across the Ludendorff Bridge, however they did engineering explosives along the bridge to detonate as the Allies approached.[5]

Ludendorff Bridge and Erpeler Ley tunnel at Erpel (eastern side of the Rhine) – First U.S. Army men and equipment pour across the Remagen Bridge; two knocked out jeeps in foreground. Germany, 11 March 1945

On 7 March, Lt. Col. Leonard Engeman ordered the 9th Armoured Division’s 14th Tank Battalion and 27th Armoured Infantry Battalion to “Go down into the town… reach the bridge,” which was entirely possible on account that the bridge was still surprisingly intact.[6] Furthermore, despite the Allied advance being terribly slow, the local German commander still refused to blow the bridge, in order to let more of his troops escape across it to the east.[7]

As the men approached the bridge the German engineers blew the explosives, temporarily making it impassable for tanks.[8] However, the infantry still pressed on, with Sergeant Alexander Drabik given credit as the first American to cross the bridge onto the east bank of the Rhine.[9] Further setbacks and poor strategic decisions meant that much time passed before the Allies managed to break out of their new bridgehead further into Germany.[10] However, the crossing of the Rhine at Remagen marked a decisive moment in the downfall of Germany, and the ending of World War Two in Europe.

U.S. First Army at Remagen Bridge four hours before it collapsed into the Rhine

[1] National WWII Museum, “Crossing the Rhine at Remagen,” last accessed 8 January 2022, https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/crossing-rhine-remagen

[2] National WWII Museum, “Crossing the Rhine at Remagen”

[3] Cristopher Woody, “74 years ago, US troops got their first foothold in Nazi Germany – here are 8 photos of the Battle for Remagen,” Business Insider, 7 March 2019, last accessed 8 January 2022, https://www.businessinsider.com/us-troops-capture-bridge-at-remagen-entering-nazi-germany-in-wwii-2017-3?r=US&IR=T

[4] National WWII Museum, “Crossing the Rhine at Remagen,”

[5] National WWII Museum, “Crossing the Rhine at Remagen,”

[6] National WWII Museum, “Crossing the Rhine at Remagen,”

[7] National WWII Museum, “Crossing the Rhine at Remagen,”

[8] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “US Troops capture Ludendorff Railroad Bridge at Remagen,” last accessed 8 January 2022, https://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1942-1945/remagen

[9] Woody, “74 years ago, US troops got their first foothold in Nazi Germany”

[10] National WWII Museum, “Crossing the Rhine at Remagen,”

[Image 1] “Remagen Bridge after capture,” Wiki Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Remagen_Bridge_after_capture.jpg

[Image 2] “U.S. First Army at Remagen Bridge before four hours before it collapsed into the Rhine,” Wiki Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WWII,Europe,_Germany,%22U.S.First_Army_at_Remagen_Bridge_before_four_hours_before_it_collapsed_into_the_Rhine%22NARA-_195341.jpg


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