Aerial photo of bridge ruins taken in 1953
Aerial photo of bridge ruins taken in 1953
Wikipedia (User: BArchBot) - Wikipedia
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Collapse of the Ludendorff Bridge

Later on March 17, ten days after its capture, the bridge suddenly collapsed into the Rhine. Twenty-eight U.S. Army engineers were killed while working to strengthen the bridge, and 93 others were injured. However, by then the Americans had established a substantial bridgehead on the far side of the Rhine and had additional pontoon bridges in place.

The collapse was not caused by a direct hit from a V-2, as the nearest 'strike' was 270 metres (300 yd) away. However, the bridge had been weakened by the earlier bombing attacks. Some speculate that the wear and tear of weeks of bombardment, combined with the vibrations produced when a V-2 slammed into the earth at 4,800 kilometres per hour (3,000 mph), was enough to bring about the collapse of the bridge.

The following day, Hitler sent a congratulatory telegram to the officer in charge of the V-2 rocket launching team at Hellendoorn. It is unclear whether Hitler was aware that there had been no direct hit by a V-2 rocket, but the fact that the bridge collapsed on the same day as the attack, was probably enough for Hitler to link the collapse directly with the V-2 bombardment.

Hitler, blind with rage, ordered a special court-martial, which sentenced five officers to death. Four of those Hitler had shot in the close-by "Westerwald". On March 17, 1945, the severely damaged bridge collapsed and took 28 American soldiers down with it.