|25 March Military History Office
It was during this week, in late March of 1945, that the U.S. Third Army under Gen. Patton, began its famous bridging and crossing operations of the Rhine. After the completion of the Battle in The Ardennes, Patton and his Army turned to the south and east attacking toward the Rhine. Without the luck of the 9th Armored Division, further to the north, who were able to capture the only intact bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, Patton's Third Army faced the necessity of bridging the wide river with their own resources. There had been a total of 22 road and 25 railroad bridges spanning the Rhine into Germany, but with the exception of the Remagen Bridge, they had all been destroyed.
In a special order to his men, Patton stated that from late January to late March, "you have taken over 6,400 square miles of territory, seized over 3,000 cities, towns and villages including Trier, Koblenz, Bingen, Worms, Mainz, Kaiserslautern, and Ludwigshafen. You have captured over 140,000 soldiers, killed or wounded an additional 100,000 while eliminating the German 1st and 7th Armies. Using speed and audacity on the ground with support from peerless fighter-bombers in the air, you kept up a relentless round-the-clock attack on the enemy. Your assault over the Rhine at 2200 last night assures you of even greater glory to come." (After Action Report, Third U.S. Army, page 313)
The first unit to cross was the 5th Infantry Division that used assault rafts to cross the raging Rhine at Oppenheim (west of Darmstadt and south of Mainz) in the early morning hours of March 23. The 150th Engineer Combat Battalion (ECB) inflated the floats for the bridge in the rear area, moved them to the river in trucks, and by daybreak had assembled them into rafts. By 1880 that evening, a class 40 M-2 treadway bridge was taking traffic. The following day, a second 1,280 foot class 24 bridge was completed in the same area. It was later upgraded to a class M-40 bridge. Without the benefit of aerial bombardment or artillery preparation, units landed quickly and established a beachhead that was seven miles wide and six miles deep in less than 24 hours. Several amphibious tanks of the 748th Tank Battalion crossed with the men of the 5th ID.
When daylight came, the Luftwaffe attacked the enclave with 154 aircraft in an attempt to dislodge the foothold on the east bank. Effective anti-aircraft fires brought down 18 of the attacking planes and destroyed 15 more.
By March 27, five divisions with supporting troops and supplies had crossed the three bridges constructed at Oppenheim. The entire 6th Armored Division crossed in lass than 17 hours. During the period of March 24-31, a total of 60,000 vehicles passed over these bridges. After consolidating on the east bank, the Third Army continued its drive to the east, capturing Darmstadt on March 25, and arriving in Frankfurt the following day.
Working as a well-coordinated unit, the Third Army relied upon trained veteran soldiers, dedicated leadership, an excellent working relationship with the XIX Tactical Air Command, a logistical train that moved all classes of supplies and personnel replacements quickly to the front.
See Barry W. Fowle, editor, Builders and Fighters: U.S. Army Engineers in World War II, Office of History, US Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Belvoir, VA, 1992. See especially Fowle, "The Rhine River Crossings," pp 463-476
|Narrative Narrative of Engineers Bridging the Rhine||The Pictures Pictures of the Crossing|
|The Story Crossing the Rhine River, the Story||Plans for the Bridge By Robert Pearl|
|Crossing The Rhine Story by Lt. Col. Bruce Reagan (ret.)|
5TH INFANTRY DIVISION
Office of the Commanding General
3 April 1945SUBJECT: Commendation.
THRU : Commanding General, XII Corps, APO 312, U. S. Army.
TO : Commanding Officer, 1135th Engr (c) Group, APO 403, U. S. Army.
1. Your command was in support of the 5th Infantry Division throughout an epic period of combat. On 22 March 1945 the division assigned the task of launching the first assault crossing of the Rhine River of this war.
2. During that memorable river crossing, your officers and men performed many outstanding feats. In the first wave of assault boats to cross the Rhine went elements of the 1135th Engineer Group, who swept the far shore and key road net for mines, and selected and prepared sites on the far shore for landing craft. Your Men continued to operate the assault boats and made many trips under sporadic, but accurate, enemy artillery fire. They constructed two bridges of extraordinary length across the Rhine in record time. The four ferries that they constructed aided immeasurably in the initial crossing of tank destroyers, tanks, and organic vehicles of the assaulting units during the most critical phase. As a direct result of your outstanding accomplishments an enormous number of troops and equipment was crossed over the Rhine River in a remarkably short time.
3. Due to the fine spirit of team work, superior planning and extensive technical knowledge of your officers and men this operation was a success. The entire service performed by your command while in support of the 5th Infantry Division has reflected the highest degree of training, skill, ingenuity and the highest standard of the Corps of Engineers and the military service at large.
4. Throughout our entire association together the manner of performance of the 1135th Engineer Group has been superior, and it is my personal privilege and pleasure to commend you, your officers and men on the eminently superior performance of such duty.
/s/t/ S. LEROY IRWIN
Major General, U.S. Army
|AG 201.22 (GNMLA) 1st Ind.
(3 April 45)
HEADQUARTERS XII Corps, APO 312, U.S. ARMY. 11 April 1945
TO: Commanding Officer, 1135th Engr (C) Group, APO 403, U.S. Army.
Let me add my own commendation to that of General Irwin's for the major role you played in the crossing of the Rhine River. The careful planning and magnificent execution of your mission were largely responsible for the successful overcoming of this formidable barrier by the XII Corps. Your performance must be regarded as one of this war's notable feats of engineering.
/s/t/ M.S. EDDY
Major General, U. S. Army
2nd Ind.HEADQUARTERS 1135 ENGR. C GROUP, APO 403, U.S. ARMY. 13 April 1945.
TO: Commanding Officer, 150th Engr. (C) Bn., APO 403, U.S. Army.
1. It is a pleasure to forward this very fine tribute to the 1135 Engineer Combat Group to you who have played such a major part in its success.
2. Since assuming the command of the 1135 Engineer Combat Group on 4 March 1945, it has been my pleasure to receive the highest type of cooperation from you and the officers and men of your command. This cooperation carried through in a most exemplary manner not only in the crossing of the Rhine but also in the crossing of the Moselle and Main Rivers. I should like to add my commendation and also my appreciation for the fine work that you have performed at these crossings. Your magnificent performance in the first assault crossing of the Rhine as well as the crossings of the Moselle and Main Rivers, will be recorded in history as a major contribution to the success of the United States Army.
3. I should like for each of you to accept my personal commendation and to express my appreciation to the officers and men of your command.
/s/t/ ALFRED D. STARBIRD
Col., 1135 Engr C GP.