[Congressional Record Volume 141, Number 42 (Tuesday, March 7, 1995)]
[House]
[Pages H2782-H2784]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


                              {time}  1915
                        REMEMBERING WORLD WAR II

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mrs. Vucanovich). Under a previous order of 
the House, the gentleman from California [Mr. Dornan] is recognized for 
5 minutes.
  Mr. DORNAN. Madam Speaker, I wish I had an hour because my subject 
certainly is worthy of it.
  Madam Speaker, 50 years ago today the House of Representatives came 
to a screeching halt, and so did the United States Senate. They stood 
in the aisles here and cheered because the United States had crossed 
the Rhine on the Ludendorf railroad bridge at Remagen. And in just 
these few minutes--I will expand my remarks later--but in just these 
few minutes I think again of Ronald Reagan's goodbye to his country 9 
days before George Bush was sworn in as President.
  In the close of President Reagan's goodbye after 8 wonderful years, 
he said, ``We must teach our young people about the history of our 
country, what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant.'' He mentioned D-day. 
He mentioned Vietnamese boat people, Vietnamese rescue at sea, with a 
refugee yelling up to an American sailor, ``Hello, freedom man.'' He 
mentioned all the sacrifices that had gone before us. He told the 
children of America, ``If your parents are not teaching you at the 
kitchen table the history of your country, hit them on it.'' I think 
that would be a very American thing to do.
  Listen to this moment in history that President Eisenhower said was 
absolutely stunning.
  Time magazine said it was a moment for all history.
  After the war, General Eisenhower was quoted:

       Broad success in war is usually foreseen by days or weeks, 
     with the result that when it actually arrives, higher 
     commanders and staffs have discounted it and are immersed in 
     plans for the future. This, however, was completely 
     unforeseen.
       We were across the Rhine, 600 people, by midnight. We were 
     across the Rhine on a permanent bridge, the traditional 
     defensive barrier to the heart of Germany, the Rhine was 
     pierced.
       Finally, defeat of the enemy, which we had long calculated 
     would be accomplished in late spring, the summer campaign of 
     '45 was now on our minds just around the corner.

  General Eisenhower's chief of
   staff, his alter ego, General Walter Bedell Smith, termed the 
Remagan Bridge worth its weight in gold. And a few days later it 
collapsed, killing 14 brave engineers.

  Let me give the names of our great heroes. The first ones across 
should certainly have gotten the Medal of Honor. When the young 
Brigadier General Hoge said, ``Get across that bridge,'' a young 
sergeant and a young lieutenant did not pause or say, ``But, sir, every 
sniper on the east side of that river is going to have my heart or my 
forehead in his gunsights.'' They just obeyed.
  The first man across was a sergeant, the backbone of the military, 
Sergeant Alex Drabik of Holland, a suburb of Toledo, Ohio. He was a 
squad leader in the 3d platoon.
  Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Ohio [Ms. Kaptur].
  Ms. KAPTUR. I say to the gentleman that Drabik was a very 
distinguished resident of my district for many years until his death 
about a year ago. We were very proud of his service. He was the first 
U.S. soldier across the Rhine.
  Mr. DORNAN. I wish he was here. If I were running this place, I would 
have him address a joint session of Congress. That is what this man did 
to save tens of thousands of Germans who did not vote for Hitler who 
were being wiped out. All the people in the concentration camps that 
lived because the war ended 3 months earlier and had stopped them from 
starving to death and all of the untold GI's and the Navy and Army Air 
Corps and Marines and everybody that died.
  By the way, today we were only day 17 of 36 days on Iowa Jima. The 
Navy shelling stopped today. The Marines were still pressing on to lose 
almost 6,000 people and 800 others killed in action.
  Here is Drabik. He was with the 27th Armored Infantry.
  The second man across was an officer, 2d lieutenant, and 
get this German-American name, Karl Timmermann, of West 
Point, not New York with the academy, but Nebraska, company commander 
as a 2d lieutenant, company CO, 27th Infantry Battalion, first officer 
over the bridge.
  Sergeant Joe DeLisio, of Bronx, NY, platoon leader of the 3d platoon, 
Company A. He cleaned out a machine gun nest that was set on the 
bridge.
  First Lieutenant Hugh Mott, Nashville, TN, platoon leader in Company 
B. I do not have time to go through them all: Doorland, Reynolds, 
Soumas, Windsor, Goodson, Grimball; Michael Chinchar, of Saddle River 
Township, NJ; Joe Petrencsik, of Cleveland; Anthony Samele, of Bronx, 
NY. I will put the story of this day the bridge over Remagan and what 
the final German commander said who was trying to blow up the bridge 
when he came back to see it months later. Every one of those men were 
the bravest and should have gotten the Medal of Honor. They all did get 
the Distinguished Service Cross.
  (The document referred to is as follows:)

                        A Dictionary of Battles

                         (By David Eggenberger)

       Rhineland (World War II), 1945. Before the last of the 
     German attackers had been driven out of the Ardennes bulge, 
     the Allies had resumed their offensive against the Siegfried 
     Line. Progress was so slow, however, that the large-scale 
     effort became necessary to effect a breakthrough to the Rhine 
     Valley.
       On February 8 the Canadian First Army (Henry Crerar) 
     launched Operation Veritable, a major attack southeast from 
     Nijmegen, Holland, between the Meuse and the Rhine. The 
     latter was reached on February 14. A converging thrust by the 
     U.S. Ninth Army (William Simpson), called Operation Grenade, 
     crossed the Roer River on February 23. The two advances 
     linked up at Geldern, Germany, on March 3. Two days later the 
     Allies had pressed to the Rhine from opposite Dusseldorf 
     northward, leaving only a small German bridgehead at Xanten-
     Wesel. The Canadians eliminated this pocket on March 10. 
     Meanwhile, to the south, the left wing of the U.S. First Army 
     (Courtney Hodges) attacked toward Cologne on February 23 to 
     cover the Ninth Army's right flank. This offensive swept 
     across the Rhine plain, while the U.S. Third Army of Gen. 
     George Patton punched its way through the Siegfried Line 
     north of the Mosselle River.
       On the central front the rest of the First Army and the 
     Third Army, both under the group command of Gen. Omar 
     Bradley, launched a broad attack on March 5 toward the middle 
     Rhine (Operation Lumberjack). By March 10 the Americans had 
     closed to the river from Coblenz northward through Bonn and 
     Cologne (which fell March 7), to link up with the Canadians 
     at Wesel.
       The rapid advance to the Rhine yielded a surprising and 
     rich dividend. On March 7 the U.S. 9th Armored Division 
     discovered the railroad bridge and Remagen still standing. 
     (It was the only Rhine bridge not demolished by the Germans.) 
     In a daring gamble, leading elements dashed across the Rhine 
     and seized a bridgehead on the east bank. Gen. Dwight 
     Eisenhower, supreme Allied commander in Europe, ordered the 
     new breakthrough hurriedly reinforced. Despite German
      counterattacks and determined efforts to wreck the bridge, 
     Hodges rushed three corps (three, five, seven) across the 
     river by bridge, pontoon, and ferry. By March 21 the 
     bridgehead had grown to 20 miles long and 8 miles deep. 
     (The Remagen success caused the Allies to shift the main 
     axis of their attack from Field Marshal Sir Bernard 
     Montgomery's 
     [[Page H2783]] northern group of armies to Bradley's central 
     force.)
       During the Remagen bridgehead build-up, the U.S. general 
     Jacob Devers' Sixth Army Group launched its own advance to 
     the Rhine (Operation Undertone). It took the form of a huge 
     pincers movement against SS Gen. Paul Hausser's Seventh and 
     First German armies. On March 15 the right wing of Patton's 
     Third Army attacked south across the Moselle River into the 
     Saar. Two days later Gen. Alexander Patch's U.S. Seventh Army 
     began hammering through the Siegfried Line, headed northeast. 
     By March 21 the joint U.S. offensive had crushed all German 
     opposition west of the Rhine except for a shrinking foothold 
     around Landau. Then on March 22 Patton's 5th Infantry 
     Division wheeled from south to east and plunged across the 
     Rhine at Oppenheim. Encouraged by light opposition in this 
     area, the eight Corps bridged the river at Boppard, 40 miles 
     to the north, on March 24. Germany's last natural defensive 
     barrier had now been breached in three places on Bradley's 
     front.
       The Rhineland battle inflicted a major defeat on three Nazi 
     army groups--Johannes Blaskowitz in the north, Walther Model 
     in the center, Paul Hausser in the south. Some 60,000 Germans 
     were killed or wounded and almost 250,000 captured. This 
     heavy toll, plus the loss of much heavy equipment, ruined the 
     Nazi chances of holding the Allied armies at the Rhine. 
     Americans killed in action totaled 6,570; British and 
     Canadian deaths were markedly fewer.
                                                                    ____

The Bridge at Remagen--The Amazing Story of March 7, 1945--The Day the 
                        Rhine River was Crossed

                            (By Ken Hechler)


                   The Significance of Remagen Bridge

       For almost three weeks after the capture of the Remagen 
     Bridge, American troops fought bitterly in the woods and 
     gullies of the Westerwald. They inched forward, expanding the 
     bridgehead hour by hour, pushing laboriously to the east, to 
     the north and to the south. Not until March 16, when American 
     forces reached the Bonn-Limburg autobahn, seven miles east of 
     the Rhine, did they have the maneuver space in which to fan 
     out. For the infantry and tankmen who slugged it out in the 
     bridgehead, for the military police and anti-aircraft men who 
     were strafed at the Rhine crossings by attacking planes, and 
     for the engineers who struggled in the face of air and 
     artillery fire to build pontoon and treadway bridges over the 
     river, capture of the Remagen Bridge seemed to stiffen rather 
     than weaken enemy resistance. To many of these men, it did 
     not seem that crossing the bridge had accomplished much.
       The capture of the Ludendorff Bridge materially hastened 
     the ending of the war. It was an electrifying development at 
     the moment, but it was followed a few weeks later by General 
     Patton's sneak crossing of the Rhine south of Remagen at 
     Oppenheim, and then by Field Marshal Montgomery's grand 
     assault across the river south of Arnhem after extensive 
     preparations and blasts on the trumpet.
       One of Karl Timmermann's fellow townsmen from West Point, 
     Nebraska, rumbled across a Rhine pontoon bridge with gasoline 
     and supplies, several weeks after Timmermann's exploit. He 
     commented that the Rhine seemed little wider than the Elkhorn 
     back home and certainly not as wide as the Missouri River. He 
     confidently told his friends that to cross a bridge like that 
     was small potatoes. For years afterward, he spoke up in West 
     Point American Legion meetings, in all the local bars, and at 
     the corner drugstore, disparaging what Timmermann had done at 
     Remagen.
       The Germans had a far different reaction. In his conference 
     with Field Marshal Kesselring two days after the capture of 
     the Ludendorff Bridge, Hitler told him bluntly that the 
     really vulnerable spot on the western front was Remagen, and 
     that it was urgent to ``restore'' the situation there. Hitler 
     took a personal hand in hurrying all available troops to 
     reduce the Remagen bridgehead. The 11th Panzer Division 
     wheeled southward from the Ruhr. The Panzer Lear and 9th 
     Panzer divisions followed, swallowing many gallons of 
     precious, high-priority gasoline. Many other divisions and 
     scraps of divisions joined in the frantic German fight to 
     contain the bridgehead.
       Field Marshall Model's Chief of Staff, Major General Carl 
     Wagener, summed up the German view as follows: ``The Remagen 
     affair caused a great stir in the German Supreme Command. 
     Remagen should have been considered a basis for termination 
     of the war. Remagen created a dangerous and unpleasant 
     abscess within the last German defenses, and it provided an 
     ideal springboard for the coming offensive east of the Rhine. 
     The Remagen bridgehead made the other crossing of the Rhine a 
     much easier task for the enemy. Furthermore, it tired German 
     forces which should have been resting to withstand the next 
     major assault.''
       The Remagen bridgehead was vital in helping to form the 
     southern and eastern pincers for the Allied troops that 
     surrounded and trapped 300,000 German soldiers in the Ruhr.
       As sorely needed German troops were thrown against the 
     Remagen bridgehead, the resulting disorganization and 
     weakening of defenses made it much easier for other American 
     Rhine crossings to be made to the north and south of Remagen. 
     Just as the loss of the bridge was a blow to German morale, 
     so did it provide a strong boost to American and Allied 
     morale. Not only did it make the end of the war seem close at 
     hand, but it also emboldened the combat troops when they were 
     confronted with chances to exploit opportunities. It 
     underlined the fact that the German army's soft spots could 
     be found through aggressive attacks, thereby spurring 
     American forces to apply greater pressure.
       After the war, General Eisenhower had this to say about the 
     significance of the seizure of Remagen Bridge: ``Broad 
     success in war is usually foreseen by days or weeks, with the 
     result that when it actually arrives higher commanders and 
     staffs have discounted it and are immersed in plans for the 
     future. This was completely unforeseen. We were across the 
     Rhine, on a permanent bridge; the traditional defensive 
     barrier to the heart of Germany was pierced. The final defeat 
     of the enemy, which we had long calculated would be 
     accomplished in the spring and summer campaigning of 1945, 
     was suddenly now, in our minds, just around the corner.'' 
     General Eisenhower's Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General 
     Walter Bedell Smith, termed the Remagen Bridge ``worth its 
     weight in gold.''
       President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with only six weeks to 
     live, shared the elation of the field commanders over the 
     significance of Remagen. The victorious Army Chief of Staff, 
     General George C. Marshall, had this appraisal to make: ``The 
     prompt seizure and exploitation of the crossing demonstrated 
     American initiative and adaptability at its best, from the 
     daring action of platoon leader to the Army commander who 
     quickly directed all his moving columns. * * * The bridgehead 
     provided a serious threat to the heart of Germany, a 
     diversion of incalculable value. It became a springboard for 
     the final offensive to come.''
       War correspondents on the scene added their eyewitness 
     accounts on the significance of seeing American troops on the 
     east bank of the Rhine. The Associated Press cabled on March 
     8: ``The swift, sensational crossing was the biggest military
      triumph since the Normandy landings, and was a battle feat 
     without parallel since Napoleon's conquering legions 
     crossed the Rhine early in the last century.'' Hal Boyle 
     wrote from the front that ``with the exception of the 
     great tank battle at El Alamein, probably no tank 
     engagement in World War II will be remembered longer than 
     the dashing coup which first put the American army across 
     the Rhine at Remagen.'' He added that the crossing of the 
     Rhine by the men ``who knew there was strong likelihood 
     the dynamite-laden bridge would blow up under them at any 
     moment has saved the American nation 5,000 dead and 10,000 
     wounded.
       ``It was a moment for history,'' stated Tine magazine.
       The nation expressed its gratitude to the heroes of Remagen 
     in numerous ways. Both the United States Senate and the House 
     of representatives interrupted their deliberation to cheer 
     the news. In the House, a spirited debate took place as to 
     which state could claim the first man to cross. Congress 
     Brooks Hays of Arkansas declared philosophically: ``I am sure 
     there will be glory enough for all.''
       All around the country, local civic and patriotic 
     organizations honored the men who had wrought the miracle of 
     Remagen. The feeling toward the Remagen heroes was perhaps 
     best expressed in an editorial in the March 10, 1945, New 
     York Sun, which concluded with these words: ``Great shifts in 
     history often do hang upon the developments of minutes. 
     Americans know, and the enemy has learned, that given the 
     least opportunity, American soldiers are quick to seize any 
     break and exploit it to the fullest. The men who in the face 
     of scattered fire and the great threat of the bridge blowing 
     up under them, raced across and cut the wires have materially 
     shortened a struggle in which every minute means lost lives. 
     To all who utilized that ten minutes so advantageously goes 
     the deepest gratitude this country can bestow.''
       Captain Karl Friesenhahn, the little German engineer who 
     was in charge of the engineer company at Remagen in 1945, 
     returned to Remagen in 1954. I saw him gaze over the ruins of 
     the bridge and he quietly asked what awards the American Army 
     had give to Lieutenant Karl Timmermann, Sergeant Drabik, 
     Lieutenant Mott and the other first Americans who crossed. 
     When I told him that they had received Distinguished Service 
     Crosses, Captain Friesenhahn replied with some feeling:
       ``They deserved them--and then some. They saw us trying to 
     blow that bridge and by all odds it should have blown up 
     while they were crossing it. In my mind they were the 
     greatest heroes in the whole war.''
                                                                    ____

                           Individual Awards


                      DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS

       The Distinguished Service Cross is the highest award which 
     is conferred only on members of the U.S. Army. It is second 
     only to the Medal of Honor, which is also awarded to members 
     of other branches of the service. The following officers and 
     men of the 9th Armored Division were awarded Distinguished 
     Service Crosses for their heroism at Remagen:
       Sergeant Alex A. Drabik of Holland (Toledo), Ohio, squad 
     leader of 3d platoon, Company A, 27th Armored Infantry 
     Battalion. First man over the bridge.
       Second Lieutenant Karl H. Timmermann of West Point, 
     Nebraska, company commander of Company A, 27th Armored 
     Infantry Battalion. First officer over the bridge.
       Sergeant Joseph DeLisio of Bronx, New York, platoon leader 
     of 3d platoon, Company 
     [[Page H2784]] A, 27th Armored Infantry Battalion. Cleaned 
     out machine gun nest on bridge.
       First Lieutenant Hugh B. Mott of Nashville, Tennessee, 
     platoon leader in Company B, 9th Armored Engineer Battalion. 
     Led engineers who ripped out demolition wires and cleared the 
     bridge of explosives.
       Sergeant Eugene Dorland of Manhattan, Kansas, Company B, 
     9th Armored Engineer Battalion. One of engineers who helped 
     clear the bridge of explosives.
       Sergeant John A. Reynolds of Lincolnton, North Carolina, 
     Company B, 9th Armored Engineer Battalion. One of engineers 
     who helped clear the bridge of explosives.
       Captain George P. Soumas of Perry, Iowa, company commander 
     of Company A, 14th Tank Battalion, the first tank company to 
     cross the bridge.
       First Lieutenant C. Windsor Miller of Silver Spring, Md., 
     platoon leader in Company A, 14th Tank Battalion, the first 
     tank platoon to cross the bridge.
       Sergeant William J. Goodson of Pendleton, Indiana, Company 
     A, 14th Tank Battalion. Tank commander of the first tank 
     which crossed Remagen Bridge.
       1st Lieutenant John Grimball of Columbia, South Carolina, 
     platoon leader in Company A, 14th Tank Battalion. Head of 
     first tank platoon to reach the bridge.
       Sergeant Michael Chinchar of Saddle River Township, New 
     Jersey, platoon leader of 1st platoon, Company A, 27th 
     Armored Infantry Battalion. One of first group of infantrymen 
     across the bridge.
       Sergeant Joseph S. Petrencsik of Cleveland, Ohio, assistant 
     squad leader in 3d platoon, Company A, 27th Armored Infantry 
     Battalion. One of first group of infantrymen across the 
     bridge.
       Sergeant Anthony Samele of Bronx, New York, squad leader in 
     1st platoon, Company A, 27th Armored Infantry Battalion. 
     Third man across the bridge.
       The following is a sample of the citation for the 
     Distinguished Service Cross:
     

                          ____________________