Ludendorff Bridge
The Ludendorff Bridge (known frequently by English-speakers during World War II as the Bridge at Remagen) was a railway bridge across the River Rhine in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, connecting the villages of Remagen
Remagen is a town in Germany in Rhineland-Palatinate, in the district of Ahrweiler. It is about a one hour drive from Cologne , just south of Bonn, the former West German capital. It is situated on the River Rhine. There is a ferry across the Rhine from Remagen every 10–15 minutes in the summer...

 and Erpel
Erpel is a municipality in the district of Neuwied, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany....

 between two ridge lines of hills flanking the river. Remagen is situated near and south of Bonn
Bonn is the 19th largest city in Germany. Located in the Cologne/Bonn Region, about 25 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990 and the official seat of government of united Germany from 1990 to 1999....


The bridge is notable for its capture on March 7–8, 1945, by American forces during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Battle of Remagen
Battle of Remagen
The Battle of Remagen was a World War II battle between the forces of the United States of America and Nazi Germany in and around the German town of Remagen, particularly centred on the Ludendorff Bridge, the short-term reason why the Americans were fighting the Germans in Remagen.The fighting...

, which allowed the Allies to establish a bridgehead
A bridgehead is a High Middle Ages military term, which antedating the invention of cannons was in the original meaning expressly a referent term to the military fortification that protects the end of a bridge...

 across the Rhine.

The bridge capture was an important strategic event of WW2 because it was the only remaining bridge over the Rhine River into Germany's heartland and was also strong enough that the Allies could cross immediately with tanks and trucks full of supplies. Once it was captured, the German troops began desperate efforts to damage it or slow the Allies' use of it. At the same time, the Allies worked to defend it, expand their bridgehead into a lodgement
A lodgement is an enclave taken by and defended by force of arms against determined opposition made by increasing the size of a bridgehead, beachhead or airheadOxford English Dictionary lodgement, lodgment "3. The action of establishing oneself or making good a position on an enemy's ground, or...

 sufficiently large that the Germans could no longer attack the bridge with artillery, and kept it in repair despite the ongoing battle damage.

The ensuing engagement continued for more than a week, including a huge artillery duel, a desperate air battle, and scrambled troop dispositions for both sides along the entire defensive front along the River Rhine as both sides reacted to the capture. One effect of those redeployments was that the Allies were able, within a fortnight, to establish other lodgements using pontoon bridge
Pontoon bridge
A pontoon bridge or floating bridge is a bridge that floats on water and in which barge- or boat-like pontoons support the bridge deck and its dynamic loads. While pontoon bridges are usually temporary structures, some are used for long periods of time...

s in several other sectors of the Rhenish front, again complicating the defense for the Germans and hastening the end of German resistance on their western front.

On March 23 the long prepared Operation Plunder
Operation Plunder
Commencing on the night of 23 March 1945 during World War II, Operation Plunder was the crossing of the River Rhine at Rees, Wesel, and south of the Lippe River by the British 2nd Army, under Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey , and the U.S. Ninth Army , under Lieutenant General William Simpson...

, commanded by Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO, PC , nicknamed "Monty" and the "Spartan General" was a British Army officer. He saw action in the First World War, when he was seriously wounded, and during the Second World War he commanded the 8th Army from...

, crossed the Rhine in force to the north near Rees
Rees, Germany
Rees is a town in the district of Cleves in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located on the right bank of the Rhine, approx. 20 km east of Cleves...

 and Wesel
Wesel is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is the capital of the Wesel district.-Division of the town:Suburbs of Wesel include Lackhausen, Obrighoven, Ginderich, Feldmark,Fusternberg, Büderich, Flüren and Blumenkamp.-History:...

 (North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany, with four of the country's ten largest cities. The state was formed in 1946 as a merger of the northern Rhineland and Westphalia, both formerly part of Prussia. Its capital is Düsseldorf. The state is currently run by a coalition of the...


Pre-World War II

Under the Schlieffen Plan
Schlieffen Plan
The Schlieffen Plan was the German General Staff's early 20th century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future war in which the German Empire might find itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the east...

, a bridge was planned to be built here in 1912, as well as bridges in Engers
Engers is an district of Neuwied on the right banks of the river Rhine in Germany located next to Koblenz in Rhineland-Palatinate.Engers has 5,367 inhabitants. It is highwater-endangered by its direct contact with the river Rhine.- City history :...

 and Rudesheim. The bridge was designed by Karl Wiener .
Work on the bridge pillars and arches was done by leading construction companies Grün & Bilfinger
Bilfinger Berger
Bilfinger Berger is a large, internationally active construction and services company based in Mannheim, Germany.-History:Bilfinger Berger dates back to 1880 when August Bernatz founded an engineering business which became known, from 1886 as Bernatz & Grün and, from 1892, as Grün & Bilfinger.In...

 and Philipp Holzmann with the steel bridge built by MAN (Gustavsburg). It was constructed between 1916 and 1919 with two railway lines and a walkway (during WW2 one railway was covered by planks to allow truck traffic). Russian prisoners of war were used in construction work. The bridge section had a total length of 398 m and had two massive foothills on the left bank vault openings, each 30 m internal diameter.
The main part formed a 325.41 m long steel bridge which consisted of the central two-hinged truss arch bridge
Truss arch bridge
A truss arch bridge combines the elements of the truss bridge and the arch bridge. The actual resolution of forces will depend upon the design. If no horizontal thrusting forces are generated this becomes an arch-shaped truss, essentially a bent beam — see moon bridge for an example...

, flanked on both sides by parallel anchor arms. The arch span was 156.21m in length and arms each 84.6m. The highest point of the arch bridge was 28.5 m above the ground. The height above the normal water level of the Rhine was 14.80 m. The 4642-ton structure cost about 2.1 million Marks. As the bridge was a major military construction, both abutments of the bridge were provided with the still-preserved fortified bridgeheads. These towers were equipped with loopholes for the bridge crew, stores and accommodation for troops. From the flat roofs there is a wonderful view over the valley.
It was named for the German World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 general Erich Ludendorff
Erich Ludendorff
Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff was a German general, victor of Liège and of the Battle of Tannenberg...

, one of the bridge's proponents. It was designed
to connect the Right Rhine Railway, the Left Rhine Railway and the Ahrtalbahn to facilitate transport to the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...


It was one of three bridges built to improve railway links between Germany and France during World War I, the other two being the Hindenburg Bridge at Bingen am Rhein
Bingen am Rhein
Bingen am Rhein is a town in the Mainz-Bingen district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.The settlement’s original name was Bingium, a Celtic word that may have meant “hole in the rock”, a description of the shoal behind the Mäuseturm, known as the Binger Loch. Bingen was the starting point for the...

 and Urmitz Bridge near Koblenz
Koblenz is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck and its monument are situated.As Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus about 8 BC, the...

. This was one of the four bridges guarded during the Third United States Army occupation at the end of World War I.

U.S. Capture during World War II

During Operation Lumberjack
Operation Lumberjack
Operation Lumberjack was a military operation conducted in the last stages of the war in Europe during World War II. It was launched by the First United States Army in March 1945 to capture strategic cities in Germany such as Cologne, and to give the Allies a foothold along the Rhine River.With the...

, on March 7, 1945, troops of the U.S. Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

's 9th Armored Division reached one of the two damaged but usable bridges over the Rhine (a railway bridge in Wesel
Wesel is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is the capital of the Wesel district.-Division of the town:Suburbs of Wesel include Lackhausen, Obrighoven, Ginderich, Feldmark,Fusternberg, Büderich, Flüren and Blumenkamp.-History:...

 in today's North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany, with four of the country's ten largest cities. The state was formed in 1946 as a merger of the northern Rhineland and Westphalia, both formerly part of Prussia. Its capital is Düsseldorf. The state is currently run by a coalition of the...

 was the other one), after German defenders failed to demolish it, despite several attempts.
Sergeant Alexander A. Drabik
Alexander A. Drabik
Sgt. Alexander A. Drabik was the first American soldier to cross the Rhine River into Germany. Under heavy machine-gun fire, Drabik dashed across the Ludendorff Bridge near Remagen on March 7, 1945, while Germans tried desperately to detonate it. For his heroism, Drabik was awarded the...

 of Holland, Ohio
Holland, Ohio
Holland is a village in Lucas County, Ohio, United States. The population was 1,306 at the 2000 census.-History:The first name of the village was Drakes, which possibly came from the name of a family or was in reference to the large number of geese that did and still fly over the area...

, under heavy fire, was the first American soldier to cross the bridge, thereby becoming the first American soldier to cross the Rhine River into Germany; German-born Lieutenant Karl Timmermann was the first officer over the bridge. Both were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree...

 for their actions. Combat Command B of the 9th Armored was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for capturing the bridge. The first unit not of the 9th Armored Division to cross, and therefore neither infantry nor armor, was the 438th Artillery Battalion.

The German commandant at Remagen, Lieutenant Willi Bratge, wanted to demolish the bridge as early as possible to avoid capture. He had only 36 soldiers at the bridge on the morning of March 7, 1945. To add to confusion on the German side, Bratge was unaware until 1100hrs of the transfer of authority in the night to Major Hans Scheller, the adjutant of the area between Remagen and Schleiden. Scheller was ordered by his commanding general to assume the important task at the bridgehead. The Major wanted to keep the bridge open as long as possible, so that as many German soldiers as possible and their heavy equipment (tanks and some artillery pieces) were able to cross the bridge. The responsible bridge officer, Captain Friesenhahn, demanded a requisition of 600kg of demolition explosives, receiving at 1100 hrs only 300 kg of Donarit, a considerably weaker industrial explosive used in the mining industry. He tried to use them for a quick blast on the right bank side.

At 1340 hrs the main American attack began. The first blast of the Germans, who set fire to a portion of the charges, tore a 10-meter-wide crater in the left bank ramp. At 1540 hrs, the bridge itself was blown up by order of Major Scheller, but remained standing. It lifted a bit and then dropped safely back in place, as an explosive cable had been destroyed. One of the last intact Rhine bridges had been taken by the Allies.

Allied journalists termed the capture the "Miracle of Remagen." General of the Army
General of the Army (United States)
General of the Army is a five-star general officer and is the second highest possible rank in the United States Army. A special rank of General of the Armies, which ranks above General of the Army, does exist but has only been conferred twice in the history of the Army...

 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 declared the bridge "worth its weight in gold" and "one of those bright opportunities of war which, when quickly and firmly grasped, produce incalculable effects on future operations". It remained functional (but weakened severely), despite the German detonation of a small charge and a stronger charge a few minutes later. The Allies used the bridge for truck and tank traffic. Eight thousand soldiers crossed it during the first 24 hours after capture.

A large sign was placed on one of the stone towers marked "CROSS THE RHINE WITH DRY FEET COURTESY OF 9TH ARMD DIVISION." The sign is now displayed at the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox
Fort Knox
Fort Knox is a United States Army post in Kentucky south of Louisville and north of Elizabethtown. The base covers parts of Bullitt, Hardin, and Meade counties. It currently holds the Army Human Resources Center of Excellence to include the Army Human Resources Command, United States Army Cadet...

, Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, above an M26 Pershing
M26 Pershing
The Heavy Tank M26 Pershing was an American heavy tank briefly used in World War II and in the Korean War. It was named after General John Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force in Europe in World War I....

 tank, a type used in the battle. Of the ten Pershing tanks attached to the 9th Division, there is only one surviving example, which is on permanent view at the Wright Museum of WWII History in Wolfeboro, N.H. During the days after the bridge's capture, the US 9th, 78th and the 99th Infantry divisions crossed the bridge.

A flying court-martial
A court-martial is a military court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment.Most militaries maintain a court-martial system to try cases in which a breach of...

 chaired by Lieutenant General Rudolf Hübner found five officers guilty of "cowardice" and "dereliction of duty" under sentence of death four of whom, Major Scheller, Lieutenant Karl Heinz Peters, Major Herbert Strobel and Major August Kraft, were executed on the day of sentencing in the Westerwald (two in Rimbach, two in Oberirsen). Their family pension rights were revoked but reinstated after the war. The fifth officer, Hauptmann Bratge, was convicted and sentenced in absentia
In absentia
In absentia is Latin for "in the absence". In legal use, it usually means a trial at which the defendant is not physically present. The phrase is not ordinarily a mere observation, but suggests recognition of violation to a defendant's right to be present in court proceedings in a criminal trial.In...

, having become an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 by this time.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's main reaction was to dismiss Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was a Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army during World War II. He held some of the highest field commands in all phases of the war....

 as commander-in-chief of the western front (OB West
OB West
The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West (Oberbefehlshaber West (German: initials OB West) was the overall command of the Westheer, the German Armed Forces on the Western Front during World War II. It was directly subordinate to...

), replacing him with Field Marshall Albert Kesselring
Albert Kesselring
Albert Kesselring was a German Luftwaffe Generalfeldmarschall during World War II. In a military career that spanned both World Wars, Kesselring became one of Nazi Germany's most skilful commanders, being one of 27 soldiers awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords...


Bombardment and collapse

After its capture, the Germans made repeated unsuccessful efforts to destroy it via aerial bombardment, field artillery and the use of floating mines. On March 9, 1945 a German counter-attack of the LXVII Armeekorps began, but was too weak to ensure success.
The German High Command tried desperately to destroy the bridge in the following days, even using frogmen to plant mines and a railway gun which missed the target. In one of the few deployments of the type as tactical bombers, Arado Ar 234
Arado Ar 234
The Arado Ar 234 was the world's first operational jet-powered bomber, built by the German Arado company in the closing stages of World War II. Produced in very limited numbers, it was used almost entirely in the reconnaissance role, but in its few uses as a bomber it proved to be nearly impossible...

 jets attempted to destroy the bridge
(observed by Stars and Stripes
Stars and Stripes (newspaper)
Stars and Stripes is a news source that operates from inside the United States Department of Defense but is editorially separate from it. The First Amendment protection which Stars and Stripes enjoys is safeguarded by Congress to whom an independent ombudsman, who serves the readers' interests,...

 newspaper reporter Andy Rooney), and on March 17, 1945, eleven V-2 rocket
V-2 rocket
The V-2 rocket , technical name Aggregat-4 , was a ballistic missile that was developed at the beginning of the Second World War in Germany, specifically targeted at London and later Antwerp. The liquid-propellant rocket was the world's first long-range combat-ballistic missile and first known...

s were launched at the bridge from the Hellendoorn
Hellendoorn is a municipality and a town in the middle of the Dutch province of Overijssel.- Population centres :The municipality comprises:Towns:* Hellendoorn* NijverdalHamlets:* Daarle* Daarlerveen* Eelen en Rhaan* Egede* Haarle* Hancate...

 area of the Netherlands, about 200 kilometres (124.3 mi) north of Remagen, destroying a number of nearby buildings and killing at least six American soldiers.

Later on March 17, ten days after its capture, the bridge suddenly collapsed into the Rhine. Twenty-eight U.S. Army engineers were killed while working to strengthen the bridge, and 93 others were injured. However, by then the Americans had established a substantial bridgehead on the far side of the Rhine and had additional pontoon bridge
Pontoon bridge
A pontoon bridge or floating bridge is a bridge that floats on water and in which barge- or boat-like pontoons support the bridge deck and its dynamic loads. While pontoon bridges are usually temporary structures, some are used for long periods of time...

s in place.

The collapse was not caused by a direct hit from a V-2, as the nearest 'strike' was 270 metres (295.3 yd) away. However, the bridge had been weakened by the earlier bombing attacks. Some speculate that the wear and tear of weeks of bombardment, combined with the vibrations produced when a V-2 slammed into the earth at 4800 kilometres per hour (2,982.6 mph), was enough to cause the collapse of the bridge.

The next day, Hitler sent a congratulatory telegram to the officer in charge of the V-2 rocket launching team at Hellendoorn. It is unknown whether Hitler was aware that there had not been a direct hit by a V-2 rocket, but the fact that the bridge collapsed on the same day as the attack, was probably enough for Hitler to associate the collapse directly with the V-2 bombardment.

State today

The surviving towers of the old bridge now house a museum dedicated to peace. The two piers were removed from the river in the summer of 1976, as they constituted an obstacle to navigation.

In media and popular culture

  • A Hollywood film inspired by a book written about its capture, The Bridge at Remagen
    The Bridge at Remagen
    The Bridge at Remagen is a 1969 war film starring George Segal, Ben Gazzara and Robert Vaughn. It was directed by John Guillermin and was shot on location in Czechoslovakia....

    was made in 1969.

  • The Ludendorff Bridge features prominently in the final mission of the game Call of Duty: Finest Hour
    Call of Duty: Finest Hour
    Call of Duty: Finest Hour is a first-person shooter developed for the Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube. It was released on 16 November 2004. It was the first console installment of Call of Duty, developed by Spark Unlimited and published by Activision. It was followed up by a sequel, Call of Duty...

    , in which the player must cross the bridge in order to capture it.

  • In the final mission of the American scenario in the tank simulation game Panzer Front
    Panzer Front
    Panzer Front is a World War II tank simulation game first released in Japan by Enterbrain for the PlayStation and Dreamcast game consoles in 2000.-Gameplay:...

    , the player can only finish the campaign if his or her tank destroys enemy forces on the other side of the river before attempting to cross the bridge itself.

  • In Battlefield 2142: Northern Strike, the bridge was rebuilt as a suspension bridge and sections collapsed. A similar bridge design in the game was seen in Anzio.

Further reading

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