"The battle for the bridge is legendary"
OF THE WAR
fighting German soldiers, hundreds of casualties. Whenever Karl Busch
watches the Hollywood movie classic "The Bridge of Remagen" he has to
smile: "It is a myth that a big battle took place at the bridge." Yet
this myth has big staying power. The fact is that there was only a small
number of deaths during the capture of the bridge on March 7, 1945. Diplomacy
and not bullets decided the outcome. Karl Busch was 15 years at the time
and key translator during the dramatic capitulation talks.
It was by chance
and because of his knowledge of the English language that the then high-school
student became one of the main characters during these proceedings. It
was due to several lucky circumstances and Busch's bravery that the occupation
of the bridge took place without major casualties.
The bridge is intact!
Busch knows about alternative plans as well: "Before crossing the river Rhine the whole right side was supposed to be leveled with bombs between Neuwied and Bonn-Beuel". For this the Americans anticipated thousands of casualties. It was quite a positive surprise for the advancing GIs when they heard from the reconnaissance aircraft about the sighting of the intact bridge of Remagen in the morning of March 7, 1945.
While the US
troops change direction towards the river Rhine the Germans set up the
blasting of the bridge.
On March 7 the American troops capture the Ludendorff-Bridge and establish their first bridgehead on the right side of the river Rhine
The tunnel exit
at the "concrete bridge" on the other side of the "Erpeler Ley" was the
main location for the next hour and a half. The GIs took their posts outside
the tunnel exit and, according to Busch, randomly shot into the tunnel.
This was a highly dangerous situation, because there were not only the
about 300 soldiers and civilians in the tunnel, with Busch's mother among
them. "There were 4 train freight cars in the tunnel loaded with ammunition
and aircraft fuel. A single hit would have cause a devastating explosion"
While leaving the tunnel Busch remembers a war movie with René Deltgen. Continuously shouting "Stop firing!" he runs out of the tunnel. He was able to establish contact with the US troop leader Carl Timmerman. To Busch's surprise the talks quickly turn into capitulation negotiations. "When the 15 Americans heard that they were facing about 200 German soldier they became very nervous" Karl Busch remembers.
Observer: A GI watches the still intact bridge from the top of the "Erpeler Ley". On March 7, 1945, an aircraft pilot spotted the bridge while US troops were advancing towards the river Rhine
seconds" Busch defused the situation: Most of the people in the tunnel
were civilians and "war-weary soldiers" he tells the GIs. They in turn
tell him to get a German officer to them.
After the withdraw
from the tunnel was negotiated Busch received a surprising compliment.
"Well done" said Timmerman in perfect German. "He had German parents and
wanted to test me" thinks Busch, who made it through the negotiations
with "lots of fear". Not only avoid these negotiations many casualties,
but the US troops were able to transport many troops and supplies across
the river and according to Busch "able to end the war much quicker that
"Never a hero"
However, on March
17 the bridge could no longer avoid its destiny. While US troops were
trying to repair it, the bridge collapsed. Dozens of GIs were pulled to
their death. A late effect of the blasting assumes Busch. "During the
blasting attempt on March 7 the bridge was lifted out of its bearings.
Bearings that guaranteed its flexibility". Even if only a few ruins remind
the world of the iron giant, Busch cannot let go of the bridge to this
The bridge collapsed on March 17, after German blasting attempts days before caused heavy damage. Many US soldiers died in the collapse