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Built during World War I, the railroad bridge remained intact with German forces retreating across its span.Initially, officers in the 27th began calling for artillery to drop the bridge and trap German forces on the west bank.Over 8,000 men crossed the bridge in the first twenty-four hours after its capture as engineers frantically worked to repair the span.Infuriated by its capture, Hitler swiftly ordered the trial and execution of the five officers assigned to its defense and destruction.A massive explosion rocked the span, lifting it from its foundations.When the smoke settled, the bridge remained standing, though it had suffered some damage.Quickly eliminating this with fire from M26 Pershing tanks, American forces raced forward as they expected the bridge to be blown by the Germans before it could be captured.These thoughts were reinforced when prisoners indicated that it was scheduled to be demolished at PM.
Though a withdrawal over the Rhine would have been prudent to allow German forces to regroup, Hitler demanded that every foot of territory be contested and that counterattacks be launched to regain what had been lost.
In response, German forces were ordered to destroy the bridges over the river.
As the lead elements of the US 9th Armored Division approached Remagen, they found that the Ludendorff Bridge over the river was still standing.
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