Remagen Bridge
Ian Kemp

By the spring of 1945, the western Allies had one final barrier to overcome before entering the German heartland: the mighty river Rhine. The retreating Germans had destroyed all bridges save one, a bridge that was about to become world famous. On 7 March, 1945, lucky circumstances played into the hands of the US 9th Armored Division. The Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen hadn’t been blown yet, and offered a golden opportunity to establish a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Rhine before the Germans could launch a counterattack.

“Remagen Bridge” from Ian Allan Publishing is a book aimed at “military historians, wargamers and recreationists”. How well does it live up to this? The book is straightforward, describing the circumstances leading up to the capture of the bridge, the capture itself, and the aftermath. There are many photographs of the bridge and its surroundings, as well as lots of pics of military hardware. A handful of maps help the reader to get an understanding of the situation. For anyone looking for an in-depth description of the event, this is a good buy for the armchair general, but wargamers will find it wanting. If a book like this is to have value as a source for wargame scenarios, it must have more detailed maps, as complete TO&Es for the units involved as possible, and preferably a detailed plan of the objective. “Remagen Bridge” falls short here, and is therefore of very limited use to wargamers. As for “recreationists” (reenactors?), I doubt that they’ll find the detail needed for representations of the soldiers involved. While the book is stuffed to the gills with pics of the bridge from various angles and in different states of repair, and we are treated to photos of tanks, V-2’s and AA guns, there isn’t even a single pic of the heroes of Remagen, Lieutenant Timmermann and Sergeants DeLisio and Drabik.

There are other flaws and loose ends as well. While the author takes great care to convert measurements down to fractions (“The strain was increased as US engineers laid an additional 50 tons (50,802.5 kg) of timber decking across the bridge.”), there are some inconsistencies like how close V-2 rockets came to hit the bridge (300 meters on page 77, 500 meters on page 89). On pages 64-65, the Munitionspanzer IV is quoted to have a carrying capacity of four 60 cm rounds for the “Karl” siege mortar on one page, and six rounds on the other. Mistakes like those makes one wonder how accurate the other information is. Of the five German officers who were made scapegoats for the failure to defend and destroy the bridge, four were executed, but the book fails to mention the fate of captain Bratge (he became a US PoW, and thus cheated death).

Still, for an event that usually gets only a few lines in the history books, “Remagen Bridge” does a good job at presenting the event and the people involved in it, and is of interest for those who want a straightforward account. If the book had really been written with the wargamer in mind, it would have received another star. As it is, I give it three stars.

(Reviewed by B. Hellqvist)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy

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