DEFEAT OF THE THIRD REICH
REMAGEN/CROSSING THE RHINE
By mid-January 1945, the ground lost during the Battle of the Bulge was regained and the Allies continued their advance into Germany. By March, American troops closed on the Rhine River. As Allied troops approached, the Germans destroyed bridges spanning the river but failed to blow up the Ludendorff railroad bridge at Remagen.
“When the orders were given to go, it meant don’t stop for anything or anybody; we could not even assist the wounded. This seemed cold and inhuman, as our buddies were our life. When we reached the ramp it was more understandable why we could not stop. That ramp became known as ‘Dead Man’s Corner’ for good reason. As we ran toward the bridge, we stepped and jumped over the dead and wounded. It was obvious why we could not clog the traffic.”
—B.C. Henderson, 99th Infantry Division
Third US Army Troops Cross Rhine—Troops of the Third US Army crouch low as enemy fire opens during their crossings of the Rhine in assault boats at Oberwesel, Germany. The Army first forged the River March 22, 1945.
—US Army Signal Corps, March 1945
“...you can only see the sky above, the framework of the bridge, and hear the rushing waters of the Rhine below. Not only did you worry about the German fire out in No Man’s area (the bridge) but the gaping holes, some large enough a tank could fall through. You have run and walked until you feel there is not another step left in you, and you begin to think it isn’t worth it because the Jerries will mow you down as soon as you set foot on the other side. But somehow that thought passes, and you just get up and tell yourself I’ll get him before he gets me.”
THE DRIVE INTO GERMANY
After the Rhine crossing, American troops began the race eastward, across central Germany. Soviet armies driving west met the Americans at the Elbe River near Leipzig on April 25, 1945. Although some fighting remained, the U.S. Army had driven far into Austria when the war came to an end on May 8, 1945.
“We joined [the 9th]…while the initial crossing at Remagen was still in its infancy. The Division crossed and started the great drive into the heart of Germany. We joined the leading elements at Leutesdorf and turned in many of the first pictures of the advance east of the Rhine. Some days as many as 90 stills and 1200 feet of movie film was exposed. The streets were dirty, littered with rubble, full of nails, buildings burned. Tanks rolled through and white flags appeared in all the windows. We moved rapidly from place to place in the city and got pictures of the battle, prisoners and other things of interest…”
—167th Signal Photographic Company, Unit 123
167TH AND THE WEHRMACHT
Spearheading the attack of the First Army in the spring of 1945, the 9th Armored Division drove rapidly into the German heartland, rolling along the autobahns built by the Hitler regime.
“A group of Krauts were seen crossing the field, waving a flag. A tank took off to pick them up, but found them to be German medics with one wounded Wehrmacht. After searching them, and finding only small pocket knives, they were told to walk down the road, to be picked up by Infantry, since they didn’t wish to return to their own lines.”
—Carmen Corrado, 167th Signal Photographic Company
“At one time we discovered a wounded Yank who had been hit by a sniper’s bullet. Immediately we took him to a hospital in the town, which we discovered as we drove up was still in German hands. Aid men dressed in German uniforms rushed to help. It was quite a surprise to us but the German doctors operated and cared for the wounded soldier… Heslop shot a couple of pictures and the film was rushed back.”
—167th Signal Photographic Company, Unit 123
MASSACRE AT LEIPZIG
Thekla concentration camp, in the suburbs of Leipzig, was the scene of an atrocity on April 18, 1945. As the 9th Armored Division encircled the city, SS guards at the camp set a barracks afire and shot prisoners as they tried to escape. Approximately 90 prisoners were murdered.
“Victims of mass burning of 250 Polish and French slave laborers at Nazi camp near Leipzig on April 19, 1945, the day before city was captured by 69th Division of the US First Army. The victims were herded into a building. A time bomb was exploded. Men who broke doors down to escape were machine gunned by Nazi SS Troops.”
—C B Sellers, US Army Signal Corps, April 20, 1945
“Leipzig fell and we were in town 20th April for pictures. There was no Burgomeister left, for he and half the city hall had committed suicide at a drinking party the night before.”
“…with [a] torn picture of his Nazi Fuehrer beside his clenched fist, the dead General of the Volkssturm lies on the floor of the office in City Hall in Leipzig, Germany. He committed suicide rather than face the first US Army troops who captured the city on April 19.”
“Elsewhere in Hitler’s Reich, Germans stopped killing others and began killing themselves. In Weimar, the mayor and his wife, after seeing Buchenwald atrocities, slashed their wrists. In Nürnberg, the local Nazi leader shot the mayor and then himself. In Berlin, where the Russians reported mass suicides, Propaganda Minister Goebbels’ chief assistant said that even Hitler and Goebbels has killed themselves. Hitler, reports went, had shot himself; Goebbels had taken poison.”
—Life Magazine, May 14, 1945