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The Remagen Bridgehead Failure, March, 1945
Failure, you think. Must be a mistake because the capture by American units of the Remagen Bridge over the Rhine River in March, 1945, was one of the great feats. Movies have been made about it. Hitler tossed his V2 rockets, jet bombers, SS commandos at the last standing bridge across the Rhine trying to destroy it. True, other places did exist for Americans to cross, but they were far and in between. The bridge itself was a railroad bridge, lightly defended by engineers and Volksturm soldiers who really just wanted to survive the war.
Yet, several weeks went by as the overly cautious American steamroller crawled across, planned, inched forward, setup bridgeheads, sent out patrols to obtain intelligence. well, hindsight is always 20\20. In the Fog of War, the unknown is the greatest foe to the attackers. This was the case for the Americans at Remagen.
They had no real clue about what German force was opposing them. Their intelligence knew some things, ballpark ideas and facts, but nothing specific, so because the area is forested, the US steamroller crawled across, one toe at a time. Had the US known what the German 53rd Corps commanded by General Bayerlein consisted of, well, they would have simply blitzed across.
On March 10, the 53rd German Corps consisted of:
- 11 Panzer Division (4000 men, 25 tanks, 18 artillery guns)
- 9th Panzer Division (600 men, 15 tanks, 12 guns)
- Panzer Lehr division (300 men, 15 tanks)
- Feldherrnahalle Brigade (100 men, 5 tanks)
- 340 VG division (200 men with no weapons only)
- 130 Infantry regiment (2000 men)
- 208 Volks Artillery Corps (20 guns)
- Rocket brigade (20 rocket launchers)
- 654 Heavy Tank Battalion ( 15 JagdTiger)
- 243 StG Assault Gun brigade (10 AFVs)
Keep in mind, even these numbers do not tell you what condition they were in, whether the AFVs had enough fuel (many did not) to move, how many artillery shells were available to fire, what arms did the men have and their morale state, whether all of the artillery guns or tanks were actually operational or needing repair.
Even assuming all of the Corps' was ready, it was not much of a force for the American Juggernaut crossing at Remagen and elsewhere, to worry about. Yet they did. Fear of the unknown is a powerful deterrent.