Miracle bridge story
I heard a story from an old engineer back in the 90’s.
After D-Day. Western US and British allied forces were getting stalled at various rivers past the landing sites. Every bridge was critical, but the Germans often collapsed them before allied forces could use them each time.
This engineer’s uncle twice removed told a story of how his unit captured a “Miraculous Bridge”. They scouted the bridge that Germans were nearly done rigging with explosives. The lieutenant ordered its taking and the entire company rushed in from the near side on foot. The Germans had a machine gun nest on the other end of the bridge. Somehow they were a bit slow to start firing. About half of the company was on the bridge when deafening explosions sounded from below in unison.
This started the slowest 2 seconds of his uncle’s life…
The entire bridge went airborne instead of collapsing. The uncle explained to him that there must have been some exactly uniform timing and uniform calibrated amount of all the explosive placements along the bridge supports underside. If they were offset by just a split second each, then the collapse would have proceeded as expected.
The uncle could see around how his entire company was moving in slow motion as the background scenery showed them in motion as if from the basket of a hot air balloon. He particularly noticed the company chaplain was kneeling, head down in prayer. He could not hear that prayer.
Then he heard and felt the crash of the entire bridge back down the supports. He heard the slow motion sound of his sergeant shouting “Charge !!!” He heard other yells from the men of his company. All of them rushing forward to the other end of the bridge. He saw the stunned Germans, unable to fire or effectively hit much against the infantry charge.
The Americans took that bridge that day.
Heavy equipment and tanks were able to cross it within the next few days.
Weeks later, they got news that particular bridge finally collapsed. Other bridges have since been rigged along side that Miracle Bridge to keep the heavy equipment, while several pontoon bridges were on either side to keep the masses of men moving toward new fronts.
I suspect the bridge is somewhere in France.
I vaguely recall the engineer retired soon after telling my team that story (or tall tail). The oil company then suffered layoffs, so I ended up in battery research, out of state, never to see those same guys again.
Internet searches for this same bridge story come up empty.
Can anyone here come up with more details on this Miracle Bridge story ??
@linkon Sounds like the Bridge at Remagen.
And to expand on AndrewAAGamer’s answer, it sounds like a mangled account of the Remagen Bridge incident. Several of the details fit, but the part about the entire bridge going airborne then crashing back down on its supports is a wild exaggeration of what actually happened – and probably a sheer impossibility in terms of physics and engineering, given that the bridge in question was a massive structure over a thousand feet long. The Germans did make an attempt to blow up the bridge, but they bungled it; all they caused was minor damage. My guess is that a chain of explosions powerful enough to send the bridge sky-high would have sent it airborne in millions of pieces, not as an intact structure.
The engineer did mention that his distant uncle’s company had two very devout lay Catholics in addition to the chaplain. His company / bridge survived the planted , triggered explosives, owing to the “Guardian Angel(s)” of any one or more members of that company.
The engineer told us the story of how Germans being habitually over precise, that factor worked against them in the explosive collapsing of this particular bridge in the middle of combat. The German explosives engineer was apparently untrained in setting timer offsets to the various trigger charges. Miniscule offset times using the same amount of explosive dynamite should have set sufficient torsion forces across the bridge to tear it down. Whether his uncle’s company was charging across or not at the time of explosions was not important. The over precise uniformity of explosions between the bridge and the support pillars resulted in its entirety of separation and launch. The landing of its entirety while still passable, was miraculous.
Another detail: The uncle was still able to hear his sergeant yell “Charge!!” through the loud ringing of his ears from the explosive noise. It was one of those movie-esque slo-motion memories.
Tall grasses on the Allied side of the bridge gave their company cover.
That side was recently abandoned by the Germans in preparation for the explosive collapse of that bridge. The German defenders were shocked at the appearance of his uncle;s company charging the bridge.
His uncle’s company arrived at a fortuitous time to take the lightly defended bridge before enemy engineers triggered the explosions. They may have been a scouting company for heavier units in the division. Not really geared for direct combat. However the slowdowns across various rivers after D-Day was understood by all. The Germans commonly destroyed bridges in their retreat to stall pursuit by Allied forces.
Imagine if this happened at every bridge during Market Garden.