bigpigeon.us webpage WW II - Germany > ETO > Central Europe > Crossing the Rhine, updated by RAC 7 Oct '19.
By the beginning of Spring 1945, the western Allies had broken through the Siegfried Line and in most locations had reached the Rhine River. The weakly defended remainder of Germany lay beyond the final barrier of the Rhine.
In the west, German strength had been dissipated by their losses in the German counteroffensives in the Ardennes plateau and northern Alsace. In the east, Russian forces were approaching the German capital of Berlin.
The German military destroyed all but one Rhine River bridges as the Allies approached. Nevertheless the Allies managed multiple Rhine crossings, all successful.
In most Rhine crossings, Allied infantry first established a suitable beachhead on the east bank, often at night, as infantry crossed in a variety of small vessels. These beachheads helped protect engineering troops as they assembled modular pontoon bridges. Numerous bridges were built across the Rhine in March and April of 1945, some heavy enough to support armored vehicles.
In addition to support from US Army engineering troops in providing boats, improving local roads, and most-importantly building bridges, the US Navy assigned a task unit to each of the First, Third, and Ninth Armies, as shown on the following map. These task units included numerous vessels small enough to be trucked to the water near crossing sites.
In the following outline, I attempt to list all US Army Rhine crossings. The numbers correspond to the TASK UNIT numbers on the map to the right.
To the south, elements of the Seventh Army made two crossings at Worms between Oppenheim and Mannheim.
First Across the Rhine - The First Army on The Middle Rhine
Some historic trivial: The Ludendorff bridge was completed in 1916 during World War I. After World War I, the American Army and then the French Army occupied Remagen. It is said that at that time French engineers shrewdly modified the bridge to make demolition more difficult.
Next Across the Rhine - The Third Army's Rhine Crossings
Late in the evening of 22 March, the 5th Infantry Division began a Rhine crossing near Oppenheim against little resistance. It is thought that the accompanying photo of General George Patton documents Patton urinating into the Rhine River.
Subsequently the Third Army made two additional crossings downstream, to the south of Koblenz.
I have read that fourth and final Third Army crossing was made without loss of life:
The Major Rhine Crossing
Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group began the major Rhine crossing near Wesel one day after Patton's first crossing. The 21st Army Group included British, Canadian, and American armies.
The Ninth Army's Rhine Crossings
The Ninth Army began crossing near Reinberg fifteen miles upstream of Wesel early on 24 March.
The Seventh Army's Rhine Crossings
The Seventh Army was late arriving in the Rhine crossing area, and crossed the Rhine at Worms fifteen miles south of the Third Army's Oppenheim crossing.
The Seventh Army's crossing began early on 26 March.
The French 1st Army's Rhine Crossings
The French 1st Army anchored the south end of the front lines along the Rhine River. Although not refected on the following may, on 27 March 1945 the French sector was extended to include the entire upper Rhine River from Speyer south to the Swiss border.
The French largely depended on whatever supplies the US Army provided, and thus lacked the advanced amphibious equipment used by the other allied forces. Here is what I have read of the French 1st Army's Rhine crossings, in chronological order.
Sources for the WW II - Crossing the Rhine webpage
- The webpage header photo Churchill at the Rhine shows Winston Churchill leaving a US Navy landing craft on the east back of the Rhine on 25 Mar 1945 at the conclusion of Operation Plunder. The photo is courtesy of www.warhistory.com.
- The Rhine River Crossings by Barry W. Fowle - http://atloa.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Rhine-River-Crossings.pdf
- The dead paratrooper photo is courtesy of pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/pin/486529565965815166/
- The Upper Rhine, 22 to 28 March 1945 map is excerpted from a map found at pinterest.
- My information on French 1st Army crossings is courtesy of US Army in WW II, European Theater of Operations, The Last Offensive, Chapter 15, https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-E-Last/USA-E-Last-15.html.
Pottawattamie County, Iowa WW II Dead - Crossing the Rhine
(taken from the bigpigeon.us WW II Dead webarea)
(taken from the bigpigeon.us WW II Dead webarea)
- 03-07 - Central Europe - The Rhine Crossings: (four dead, updated 6 Oct ’19)
† Frahm, Leonard Carl - SN 19-032-134, US Army
347th Inf. Regt., 87th Inf. Div.; KIA 26 Mar ’45, on the Rhine at Boppard, S of Coblenz, Germany during a 3rd Army Rhine crossing; posthumous Silver Star.
† Frost, Darrell Finley - SN 37-692-444, US Army
Co. C, 310th Inf. Regt., 78th Inf. Div.; KIA 10 Mar ’45 at Remagen Bridgehead, Germany.
† Hoover, Everett L. - SN 37-734-846, US Army
7th Inf. Regt., 3rd. Inf. Div.; KIA 26 Mar ’45 near Frankenthal, on the Rhine River S of Worms, Germany.
† Miller, Raymond Detlef Jr. - SN 37-470-777, US Army
395th Inf. Regt., 99th Inf. Div.; KIA 13 Mar ’45 at Remagen Bridgehead, Germany.