Just Days After the Taking of the Bridge at Remagen, General Dwight D. Eisenhower Writes His Wife Mamie That the War Is Going the Americans’ Way, and He Will Soon Be Following His Troops to the Rhine

The Germans are still fighting doggedly, however.

“Our attacks have been going well, and I suppose the newspapers are busy talking all about them. The enemy becomes more and more stretched, but he shows no signs of quitting. He is fighting hard…Day after tomorrow I start traveling again”

U.S. and British forces, with their Allies, had been fighting...

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Just Days After the Taking of the Bridge at Remagen, General Dwight D. Eisenhower Writes His Wife Mamie That the War Is Going the Americans’ Way, and He Will Soon Be Following His Troops to the Rhine

The Germans are still fighting doggedly, however.

“Our attacks have been going well, and I suppose the newspapers are busy talking all about them. The enemy becomes more and more stretched, but he shows no signs of quitting. He is fighting hard…Day after tomorrow I start traveling again”

U.S. and British forces, with their Allies, had been fighting in Germany west of the Rhine River since late 1944. After the great German advance in the Battle of the Bulge was turned back in January 1945, the tide turned to favor the Allies. The failure of this last major German offensive exhausted much of Germany’s remaining combat strength, leaving it ill-prepared to resist the final Allied campaigns in Europe. February saw the Allies continuing to clear the Germans out of the fatherland west of the Rhine. Now the problem was crossing that river, a natural barrier behind which the Germans could regroup, and one which the Allies would need to cross to continue their advance to win the war. Realizing its importance, the Germans blew up the bridges across the Rhine. That’s where things stood on March 7.

That day units from the U.S. 1st Army under Gen. Omar Bradley found themselves at the Rhine. Upon arrival, they were very surprised to see that one last bridge – the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen – was actually still standing, with the bridge wired and the Germans readying to blow it up with about 6,200 lb of demolition charges. There took place one of the momentous exploits of the war. German machine guns opened up on the American troops across the bridge from the towers that guarded the western approach to the bridge, and the German troops made the last connections to the detonator and twisted the handle, but the charge failed to detonate as planned. Knowing the Germans were trying to blow the bridge up, a company of American soldiers bravely deployed onto the west side of the bridge. The Germans finally got the demolition charges to detonate, but they inflicted incomplete damage to the bridge. The Americans crossed the bride and fought the Germans for the east side of it. The battle for the bridge ended with an American victory, the U.S. troops being the first invaders to reach the Rhine’s east bank since the time of Napoleon. The Allies proceeded to establish a large bridgehead there, ruining German hopes to regroup east of the Rhine and consolidate their positions. Eisenhower told Bradley to push five divisions across the Rhine to secure the bridgehead. Although the Ludendorff bridge collapsed on March 17, the Allies had built several pontoon bridges across the Rhine by then and had a strong bridgehead on the east shore.

To the south in the Saar region, Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army was dealing a devastating blow to the Germans, nearly destroying the German 1st Army. In a few days, they would eliminate the last German positions west of the Rhine. So things were going well all around under Eisenhower’s command.

At this juncture, Ike wrote his wife Mamie, reporting that battles were going the Americans’ way, but the Germans were doggedly fighting on. He also mentioned that soon he would be pulling up stakes and following the army into the German heartland, and dealt with her anxiety as a mother that her son John had been exposed to dangerous situations while with his father in 1944. Autograph letter signed, two pages, headquarters west of the Rhine River, March 11, 1945, to Mamie. “Darling, For the past 2 days I’ve had a bit of a sore throat but apparently escaped the ‘flu’, which has attacked many people, though in a fairly mild form. Our attacks have been going well, and I suppose the newspapers are busy talking all about them. The enemy becomes more and more stretched, but he shows no signs of quitting. He is fighting hard. I think John has about 2 weeks more of school. I had a note for him, asking me for a camera presented to me at the beginning of the war. It’s a very complicated type, but I guess he can work it. Anyway, I’m sending it on to him with some film. It’s amazing to read what you have to say about the ‘pitfalls’ of last summer. He scarcely left my side, going, I think to only one party – and that attended by a large number of people. So where he could have been in jeopardy is beyond me. He and I have many long and frank talks whenever we are together, and I must say I find him conservative and rather sedate. But he’s lots of fun, at that. I wish I could have him around all the time.

“Day after tomorrow I start traveling again. I’ll be on the jump pretty well for a week. I’m sure that you, dad, and mother must be having a fine time. Everyone coming from Washington says you look well and are going strong. Herman came back & found me with a bit of blood pressure again. But I hope to last out this business!!! Loads of love to you my sweet, & my best to the folks.  Always your Ike.”

On 19 March, Eisenhower told Bradley to prepare the 1st Army for a breakout from the Remagen bridgehead on March 22. The same day, Bradley gave Patton the go-ahead for an assault crossing of the Rhine as soon as possible. Patton crossed along with his men, and three days later Ike was on the banks of the Rhine with Winston Churchill to savor the moment. On March 28 the massive Allied Rhine crossing would be an accomplished fact, greatly discouraging the Germans. In a month, Hitler would be dead, and on May 8 – VE Day – the war against Germany would be over.

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