Winning the bridge

On Aug. 1, reenactors will play out the critical World War II ‘Battle for the Ludendorff Bridge,’ in Tidioute.

The sights and sounds of battle will be present once again in Tidioute on Saturday, Aug. 1, beginning at 3 p.m.  

The battle of the bridge at Remagen will be reenacted in Tidioute, where you will have an opportunity to see hundreds of reenactors organized by the 99th Infantry Division 393rd Regiment, Easy Company Reenactment Group (Battle babies), portray the “Battle for the Ludendorff Bridge” as it originally happened in Remagen, Germany, in March of 1945.   

This year is the 70th anniversary of the original battle.  

The streets of Tidioute will be full of action, as approximately 250 reenactors representing infantrymen of both American and German decent battle for control of the bridge.  

Remagen, Germany, is a small town located on the west bank of the Rhine River.

Its layout and size are very similar to Tidioute, organizers explained.  

Additionally, the Rhine River is similar is size to the Allegheny River.  

The terrain features of Remagen look very much like the Allegheny Region, said organizers, with the rolling mountains, deep valleys and several ridges.  

The bridge at Remagen was named after a German hero, thus the name Ludendorff Bridge, which was about 700 feet long. Just a little longer than the Tidioute Bridge, which is 551 feet in length.  

The German Ludendorff Bridge was the only bridge across the Rhine River that was captured by American forces during World War II.  

Visitors to the reenactment will see history come to life as U.S. soldiers drive the German army back across the bridge.  

Watch as the bridge is “blown up” using pyrotechnics, followed by the capture of the bridge and ultimately the defeat of the German forces.

The history of the battle

It was 1945, and the allied forces were on the offense and the German army was in full retreat.  

Lead elements of the 9th Armored Division arrived on a hill overlooking Remagen and the Ludendorff Bridge.  

Lt. Timmerman lead the column assigned to capture the town.  

To their surprise they found the bridge intact with the German army still retreating across it.  

The bridge at Remagen was the last remaining bridge on the Rhine River. Either the advancing allied armies or the retreating German army had destroyed all of the other bridges on the river.  

Orders were to “Capture the Bridge.”  

Lt. Timmerman’s column, led by a company of infantry, advanced into the lightly-defended village, and quickly made their way to the bridge.  

Between 3 and 4 p.m., the Germans were on the other side of the Rhine River, and they detonated the charges that were already in place.  

These explosives blew, lifting the bridge off its foundation.

When the smoke cleared, the bridge was still intact and still standing.  

History was made that day and the following day, as a sign was placed on the bride that read, “Cross the Rhine with Dry Feet, Courtesy of the 9th Armored Division.”  

Ten days later, the bridge collapsed, killing many of the combat engineers who were trying to repair the bridge. Hundreds of G.I.’s were killed and wounded fighting to protect this bridge.

Reenactment weekend

An encampment will be set up in the Limestone Ballfield, just south of the Tidioute Bridge. Visitors are welcome and encouraged to stop by to see and experience how it was back then.  

There will be WWII memorabilia for sale and on display, along with American and German uniforms, equipment and many more armored vehicles this year.  

Armored vehicles to be on display include a German Tank Stug III, a German Half Track, an American General Stuart tank, an M4 Armored Car, and an American Half Track.  

The best time to visit the encampment is Friday, from noon until sunset, and again on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

A special day for media to conduct interviews and take photographs has been scheduled for Friday, between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon.  

Viewing areas are available on both sides of the river, with limited nearby parking.  

There will be a special viewing area for veterans located at the intersection of King Street and Buckingham Street.  

For everyone’s safety, spectators are asked to remain outside the roped areas during the reenactment, and to follow instructions of the fire police and reenactment volunteers.

Other highlights for this year’s event include the Pennsylvania state VFW first place “voice of democracy” essay winner for 2014-15, Desiree McChesney, who will read her winning essay for all to hear.  

McChesney will also sing the national anthem at the opening ceremonies, which are set to begin at 2 p.m.  

There will be various food vendors in “Picture Show Park,” centrally located in the middle of Tidioute’s business district, along Main Street, a chicken barbeque on the Pennsylvania State Championship Fishing Tournament grounds, and souvenir items such as the borough’s “famous” hats and T-shirts.  

Note the Tidioute Bridge will be closed to vehicle and foot traffic from 2 until the completion of the event around 4 p.m.  

Be sure to determine which side of the river you want to view the event and plan accordingly.  

State Route 62 will be closed during the event from approximately 3:30 to 4 p.m.  

Plan for delays and drive carefully as Route 62 will be congested.   

For more information and to view photos of past events, visit remagenbridge.com, or like the event’s Facebook page “Tidioute World War II Reenactment.”

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