Rarely-seen photos show how 200,000 Allied troops crossing the Rhine

Rarely-seen photos of Allied soldiers using amphibious craft and a duck board bridge to cross the River Rhine in the final stages of World War Two have been documented in a new book 75 years later.

The powerful images tell the story of the momentous Operation Plunder, which involved a million men breaching the natural water barrier protecting northern Germany in March 1945.

The retreating Nazis blew up bridges along the Rhine to prevent Allied forces from advancing, so in response temporary floating bridges were built at breakneck speed to allow tanks and trucks to cross into Germany and support the 16,000 paratroopers who were already in enemy territory.

The powerful images tell the story of the momentous Operation Plunder, which involved 200,000 men breaching the natural water barrier protecting northern Germany in March 1945. Here, troops are seen crossing a floating bridge over the River Rhine, which formed a formidable natural barrier to the Allies' invasion plans

The powerful images tell the story of the momentous Operation Plunder, which involved 200,000 men breaching the natural water barrier protecting northern Germany in March 1945. Here, troops are seen crossing a floating bridge over the River Rhine, which formed a formidable natural barrier to the Allies' invasion plans

The powerful images tell the story of the momentous Operation Plunder, which involved 200,000 men breaching the natural water barrier protecting northern Germany in March 1945. Here, troops are seen crossing a floating bridge over the River Rhine, which formed a formidable natural barrier to the Allies’ invasion plans 

The retreating Nazis blew up bridges along the Rhine to prevent Allied forces from advancing, so in response temporary floating bridges were built at breakneck speed to allow tanks and trucks to cross into Germany. In this image, a British 79th Armoured Division Buffalo vehicle is seen crossing through floodwaters unleashed after the Nazis destroyed a dyke

The retreating Nazis blew up bridges along the Rhine to prevent Allied forces from advancing, so in response temporary floating bridges were built at breakneck speed to allow tanks and trucks to cross into Germany. In this image, a British 79th Armoured Division Buffalo vehicle is seen crossing through floodwaters unleashed after the Nazis destroyed a dyke

The retreating Nazis blew up bridges along the Rhine to prevent Allied forces from advancing, so in response temporary floating bridges were built at breakneck speed to allow tanks and trucks to cross into Germany. In this image, a British 79th Armoured Division Buffalo vehicle is seen crossing through floodwaters unleashed after the Nazis destroyed a dyke 

British troops carry an open plywood storm boat for the Seine River crossings in August 1944. The daring operation to cross the Rhine and invade into Germany hastened the end of the Second World War - which eventually came to a close a year later in 1945

British troops carry an open plywood storm boat for the Seine River crossings in August 1944. The daring operation to cross the Rhine and invade into Germany hastened the end of the Second World War - which eventually came to a close a year later in 1945

British troops carry an open plywood storm boat for the Seine River crossings in August 1944. The daring operation to cross the Rhine and invade into Germany hastened the end of the Second World War – which eventually came to a close a year later in 1945 

RAF armourers carrying 20mm cannon ammunition to an RAF plane, which had to make do with a partially flooded surface for take-offs and landings. The troops advanced in support of 16,000 paratroopers who had earlier dropped on the German side of the Rhine

RAF armourers carrying 20mm cannon ammunition to an RAF plane, which had to make do with a partially flooded surface for take-offs and landings. The troops advanced in support of 16,000 paratroopers who had earlier dropped on the German side of the Rhine

RAF armourers carrying 20mm cannon ammunition to an RAF plane, which had to make do with a partially flooded surface for take-offs and landings. The troops advanced in support of 16,000 paratroopers who had earlier dropped on the German side of the Rhine

An American lieutenant in the US First Army waits for German defenders to emerge from their sunken positions after he tossed a hand grenade into one of the holes

An American lieutenant in the US First Army waits for German defenders to emerge from their sunken positions after he tossed a hand grenade into one of the holes

An American lieutenant in the US First Army waits for German defenders to emerge from their sunken positions after he tossed a hand grenade into one of the holes 

A British infantryman removes a Nazi flag from a building after crossing into Germany following the river crossing on March 23, 1945

A British infantryman removes a Nazi flag from a building after crossing into Germany following the river crossing on March 23, 1945

A British infantryman removes a Nazi flag from a building after crossing into Germany following the river crossing on March 23, 1945 

Operation Plunder followed the Allies’ victory in the Battle of the Bulge on January 25, 1945, which ended the German Ardennes offensive. 

This forced the remaining Nazi troops to limp back to Germany and prepare to defend the River Rhine, Germany’s natural barrier. 

The ground operation involved Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group which launched the massive artillery, amphibious and airborne assault on March 23. 

Fierce fighting ensued, with much bloodshed on both sides as the Allies met determined resistance from machine gun nests.

But the daring operation proved successful and paved the way for the Allies to advance on Berlin.

The Canadian troops fanned out towards Holland, the British towards the German ports in the north and the Americans to the Ruhr Valley.

At this point, Prime Minister Winston Churchill reportedly told US General Dwight Eisenhower: ‘My dear general, the German is whipped. We have got him… He is all through.’

One photo shows British amphibious landing crafts – known as Buffaloes – transporting infantrymen through the flood waters of German destroyed dykes.

The ground operation involved Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group which launched the massive artillery, amphibious and airborne assault. The Allied forces successfully crossed the Rhine into Germany (pictured is a British Cromwell tank advancing through the rubble in the German town of Udem)

The ground operation involved Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group which launched the massive artillery, amphibious and airborne assault. The Allied forces successfully crossed the Rhine into Germany (pictured is a British Cromwell tank advancing through the rubble in the German town of Udem)

The ground operation involved Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s 21st Army Group which launched the massive artillery, amphibious and airborne assault. The Allied forces successfully crossed the Rhine into Germany (pictured is a British Cromwell tank advancing through the rubble in the German town of Udem) 

The daring operation proved successful and paved the way for the Allies to advance on Berlin. Pictured are British infantrymen in trenches along the Maas River's west bank in late November

The daring operation proved successful and paved the way for the Allies to advance on Berlin. Pictured are British infantrymen in trenches along the Maas River's west bank in late November

The daring operation proved successful and paved the way for the Allies to advance on Berlin. Pictured are British infantrymen in trenches along the Maas River’s west bank in late November

A tank is carried across the Rhine River on March 12 by a pontoon ferry. The operation depended on the ingenuity of military engineers as much as the bravery of individual soldiers, because a fast crossing was necessary in order to minimise casualties

A tank is carried across the Rhine River on March 12 by a pontoon ferry. The operation depended on the ingenuity of military engineers as much as the bravery of individual soldiers, because a fast crossing was necessary in order to minimise casualties

A tank is carried across the Rhine River on March 12 by a pontoon ferry. The operation depended on the ingenuity of military engineers as much as the bravery of individual soldiers, because a fast crossing was necessary in order to minimise casualties 

Royal Army Medical Corps personnel and infantry soldiers take cover in a shallow trench. Soon the Allies would move further into Germany as the Russians took Berlin

Royal Army Medical Corps personnel and infantry soldiers take cover in a shallow trench. Soon the Allies would move further into Germany as the Russians took Berlin

Royal Army Medical Corps personnel and infantry soldiers take cover in a shallow trench. Soon the Allies would move further into Germany as the Russians took Berlin 

This candid photo shows Field Marshal Montgomery (left) and other senior figures looking at maps on the bonnet of his staff car. Also pictured is General Brian Horrocks (next to Montgomery)

This candid photo shows Field Marshal Montgomery (left) and other senior figures looking at maps on the bonnet of his staff car. Also pictured is General Brian Horrocks (next to Montgomery)

This candid photo shows Field Marshal Montgomery (left) and other senior figures looking at maps on the bonnet of his staff car. Also pictured is General Brian Horrocks (next to Montgomery) 

RAF Air Marshal Arthur Coningham sits in a Rhineland farmyard watching Allied bombers fly past to attack the German defences

RAF Air Marshal Arthur Coningham sits in a Rhineland farmyard watching Allied bombers fly past to attack the German defences

RAF Air Marshal Arthur Coningham sits in a Rhineland farmyard watching Allied bombers fly past to attack the German defences 

Another shows troops running across duck-board bridges in the heat of battle.

A soldier can be seen carrying a gun waiting for German defenders to emerge from sunken positions after tossing a hand grenade into one of them.

And 15th Scottish Division troops are shown advancing past dead Germans on a wooden path.

A candid photo shows Field Marshal Montgomery and other senior figures looking at maps on the bonnet of his staff car.

There is also a powerful image of a British infantryman pulling down a Nazi flag with a bayonet.

The devastation of the war is apparent in photos of the rubble of German towns, and captured German POWs despairingly sit down with their hands on their heads.

One photo is of US First Army Lieutenant Karl Timmermann, the first American soldier to cross the important Ludendorff Railway Bridge.

US combat engineers cross a swollen northern Rhineland stream after retreating Nazis destroyed tanks to try and delay the Allied advance

US combat engineers cross a swollen northern Rhineland stream after retreating Nazis destroyed tanks to try and delay the Allied advance

US combat engineers cross a swollen northern Rhineland stream after retreating Nazis destroyed tanks to try and delay the Allied advance 

Gliders towed in formation towards their landing zone during Operation Varsity. This involved the transportation of 16,000 paratroopers who were dropped into Germany before the main Allied force

Gliders towed in formation towards their landing zone during Operation Varsity. This involved the transportation of 16,000 paratroopers who were dropped into Germany before the main Allied force

Gliders towed in formation towards their landing zone during Operation Varsity. This involved the transportation of 16,000 paratroopers who were dropped into Germany before the main Allied force 

British infantrymen climb aboard a 79th Armoured Division an allied tank as they fought to cross the River Rhine. The need to transport heavy machinery over the river posed a huge challenge to military engineers

British infantrymen climb aboard a 79th Armoured Division an allied tank as they fought to cross the River Rhine. The need to transport heavy machinery over the river posed a huge challenge to military engineers

British infantrymen climb aboard a 79th Armoured Division an allied tank as they fought to cross the River Rhine. The need to transport heavy machinery over the river posed a huge challenge to military engineers 

Major-General Matthew Ridgway (left), the XVIII Airborne Corps commander and Field Marshall Montgomery decorate Brigadier James Hill for bravery

Major-General Matthew Ridgway (left), the XVIII Airborne Corps commander and Field Marshall Montgomery decorate Brigadier James Hill for bravery

Major-General Matthew Ridgway (left), the XVIII Airborne Corps commander and Field Marshall Montgomery decorate Brigadier James Hill for bravery 

A US Navy Jeep-carrying landing craft motors past the fallen Ludendorff Railroad Bridge at Remagen on its River Rhine patrol following the successful crossing

A US Navy Jeep-carrying landing craft motors past the fallen Ludendorff Railroad Bridge at Remagen on its River Rhine patrol following the successful crossing

A US Navy Jeep-carrying landing craft motors past the fallen Ludendorff Railroad Bridge at Remagen on its River Rhine patrol following the successful crossing 

A section of the 15th Scottish Division's 6th King's Own Scottish Borderers advance past dead Nazi soldiers on the east side of the Rhine

A section of the 15th Scottish Division's 6th King's Own Scottish Borderers advance past dead Nazi soldiers on the east side of the Rhine

A section of the 15th Scottish Division’s 6th King’s Own Scottish Borderers advance past dead Nazi soldiers on the east side of the Rhine 

He was actually born in Germany before moving to Nebraska, and his German uncles reportedly fought against him in the Wehrmacht.

The photos are from the wartime archives of the United States Army Military History Institute (USAHMI) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Maryland.

Historian Jon Diamond, 65, from Pennsylvania in the US, said: ‘The Rhine was an expansive and historic defensive water barrier, a centuries-old marker of German sovereignty.

‘The last successful crossing of this barrier during wartime had been in the Napoleonic era.

‘These superb historic images recount the campaign to reach and cross the Rhine in March 1945.

‘We ponder upon viewing them about the heroic sacrifice made to maintain freedom over tyranny, lest we forget.’

Images of War, Montgomery’s Rhine Crossing, Operation Plunder, by Jon Diamond, is published by Pen & Sword and costs £15.99. 

A pair of US M24 Chafee light tanks disembark onto the east bank of the River Rhine after being carried over the water in landing craft

A pair of US M24 Chafee light tanks disembark onto the east bank of the River Rhine after being carried over the water in landing craft

A pair of US M24 Chafee light tanks disembark onto the east bank of the River Rhine after being carried over the water in landing craft 

A British Horsa glider at an East Anglia airfield early on March 24 as it takes off for a flight to Germany to support the Allied offensive

A British Horsa glider at an East Anglia airfield early on March 24 as it takes off for a flight to Germany to support the Allied offensive

A British Horsa glider at an East Anglia airfield early on March 24 as it takes off for a flight to Germany to support the Allied offensive  

The Ludendorff Railroad Bridge spanned the Rhine River from Remagen to the eastern side of the river before it was blown up by the retreating Germans

The Ludendorff Railroad Bridge spanned the Rhine River from Remagen to the eastern side of the river before it was blown up by the retreating Germans

The Ludendorff Railroad Bridge spanned the Rhine River from Remagen to the eastern side of the river before it was blown up by the retreating Germans 

Truckloads of pontoon boats lined up on military trucks for transport during the Allied drive across the River Rhine and into Germany

Truckloads of pontoon boats lined up on military trucks for transport during the Allied drive across the River Rhine and into Germany

Truckloads of pontoon boats lined up on military trucks for transport during the Allied drive across the River Rhine and into Germany 

The final push to defeat Adolf Hitler: How D-Day began the chain of events that led to the end of WWII

Waged across every inhabited continent, the Second World War was the most costly conflict in history, claiming the lives of around 57 million people.

By 1944, the tide was turning against the Nazis, particularly after the successful D-Day landings of June that year.  

Following Germany’s defeat during the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945, the surviving troops limped back to the Rhine to defend the frontier. They were eventually dislodged by a major Allied attack involving a million men.   

This is a timetable of the main events: 

1944

January 22: British and American troops land at Anzio.

June 4: Rome falls to the Allies.

June 6: D-Day invasion begins on the beaches of Normandy in the famous Operation Overlord.

June 13: First V-1 bombs land on London.

July 20: Bomb plot against Hitler narrowly fails.

August 15: Allies invade the South of France.

August 20: Battle of Normandy ends with the closing of the Falaise Pocket. Advance to the River Seine begins.

August 25: Paris is liberated.

September 3: Brussels is liberated.

September 17-26: Operation Market Garden, the “Bridge Too Far” airborne mission to cross the Rhine at Arnhem, fails with the loss of around 18,000 Allies.

October 5: British forces land in Greece.

December 16: German offensive in the Ardennes region launches Battle of the Bulge.

1945

January 17: Russian forces capture Warsaw.

January 27: Auschwitz concentration camp is liberated by Russian troops and the full horrors of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust slowly emerge.

January 28: The final shots are fired in the Battle of the Bulge, giving victory to the Allies, but at a heavy cost in men and equipment.

February 13: RAF launches carpet bombing raid on Dresden, followed by three further raids by US Air Force.

March 23 to 24: A million Allied troops cross the Rhine during Operation Plunder. 

April 12: US President Franklin Roosevelt dies.

April 30: With Soviet troops marching on the Reich Chancellory in the heart of Berlin, Hitler commits suicide in his Berlin Fuhrerbunker – shooting himself in the head as he bites on a cyanide pill.

May 1: Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and his wife kill themselves.

May 2: German forces in Italy surrender.

May 4: Montgomery receives surrender of German forces in Holland, north-west Germany and Denmark on the Luneberg Heath.

May 8: Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) as Admiral Karl Donitz, appointed President by Hitler before his death, unconditionally surrenders.

May 9: Nazi Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signs unconditional surrender to Red Army in Berlin.

August 6: “Little Boy” atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima by US B-29 bomber Enola Gay.

August 9: “Fat Man” atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki.

August 14: Emperor Hirohito announces unconditional surrender of Japan and papers are signed on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

August 15: Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day), or VP Day (Victory in the Pacific) is celebrated. 

Source

Spread the love
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Related posts

Leave a Comment