72 years ago today, on March 17th 1945, the Remagen Bridge finally succumbed to the damage inflicted on it during the previous weeks and collapsed into the Rhine, killing 28 American engineers and injuring 93 others.
Dubbed the "Miracle of Remagen," the capture of the Ludendorff Bridge in 7th March 1945 opened the way for Allied troops to drive into the heart of Germany and marked the End Game of the War in Europe.
In the first 24 hours, and while engineers from the US 51st and 291st Engineer Battalions battled to repair the damage caused by the demolition charges and battle to seize it, over 8,000 men flooded across the bridge to gain a foot hold on the east back of the Rhine.
In the months preceding it’s capture, the bridge had been under continues air attack as Allied tried to destroy every bridge over the Rhine. During the battle to capture the bridge sustained major damage from a failed demolition attempt. And while in Allied hand the German High Command, desperate to destroy the bridge, targeted it with everything at their disposal including jet powered Arado Ar 234 bombers, massive Karl-Gerät 600mm mortars and V-2 ballistic missiles. Final, 10 days after its capture, the bridge could take no more and collapsed.
There are no accurate records of the number of tonnage put across the bridge, but during those 10 days 6 Armoured Divisions; totalling over 25,000 men, with tanks, trucks and armour, crossed and established a 25 mile wide bridgehead on the east back of the Rhine. The capture of the Ludendorff Bridge had removed the last obstacle to the Allied advance. Seven weeks later German finally surrendered and the War in Europe was over.
To quote an Officer from the US 51st Engineering Battalion. “The real mystery is not why it fell down, but how it ever stood up under the weight of traffic we sent across”