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Germany's Wonder Weapons in WW2 and the Remagen Bridge, March, 1945
The bridge at Remagen played a critical role in the waning months of WW2 as the American forces fast approached the insurmountable RhineRiver. It is a dramatic setting, which was well captured in the movie, The Bridge at Remagen. With the German army in disarray and weakened, the US 9th Armored Division was ordered to probe in the direction of Remagen, the site of the LudendorffBridge. As the unit did so, it met with very light resistance. As it continued, much to American surprise, the bridge had yet to be demolished!
Operation Loralie, the codeword to destroy this key crossing and been fumbled. Fumbled badly by the Germans. Confusion reigned on the German side and the Americans seized the bridge but had not really secured its small bridgehead. Thus, began a race against time for both sides.
Now, the battle began. Germany’s “wonder weapons” were all directed at the bridge, from V-2 Rockets (which came close), jet bombers, massive Jagdtiger, Jagdpanther, Tiger II tanks and even SS Frogmen on suicide missions, all took their turn at sending the bridge to the bottom of the Rhine. The 9th, 11th and Lehr Panzer Divisions attempted to destroy the American bridgehead but were low of fuel. These last forces were truly threadbare, for instance, the 11th Pz Division had less than 25 operational tanks and no more than 2000 combat effectives.
Hitler's focused on the bridge became an obsession. More than 10 V2 rockets were fired hundreds miles away and attempted to hit the narrow span across the Rhine. Because the technology was in its infancy, at best, the rockets were pre-set with coordinates. The closest massive V2 hit several hundred yards away, but its massive impact startling for those who witnessed it. Witnesses stated there was very little indication anything was approaching until a sudden fireball explosion. Hitler then ordered the remaining jet bombers to fly at level and attempt to bomb the bridge. Hitting this bridge proved to be almost impossible flying at over 300 mph while dodging enemy anti-aircraft fire. Germany's far superior tank, the Jadgtiger, also was sent. US shells simply would bounce off the thick armor. While it was superior, it was no match for the numerous M10s the Americans had. The Americans aimed at the weakest point, the wheels, which were not protected. Soon, these monster tanks were immobile. Also sent were SS frogmen who would approach the bridge from underwater with submerged mini-subs, but none were able to place the charges in the correct locations.
The Ludendorf bridge would finally be damaged by the defending militia on the German side, but it never actually sunk into the river as was needed. Thus, the Americans were still able to cross the Rhine. The battle itself was not a necessary one, for just north and south of this bridge were viable river crossings!