In the last months of World War II, the U.S. 1st Army approaches the Ludendorff Bridge, the last, standing bridge across the Rhine River, and the last, natural barrier between the Allied forces, on the Western front, and Germany's industrial heartland. The battle-weary Americans reluctantly obey orders to capture the bridge intact, against a defence force of some 200 Nazi defenders who fight as best they can to avoid destroying it and closing the escape route of 75,000 15th Army comrades on the wrong side of the river Rhine.
The Bridge at Remagen is a fictionalized version of actual events. Lieutenant Hartman (George Segal) is the experienced mechanized infantry platoon commander who is promoted to command of the company ordered to capture the eponymous bridge. Major Paul Kruger (Robert Vaughn) is the Wehrmacht officer charged with defending the bridge. His superiors have been ordered to destroy the span immediately but have conspired with him to hold it open as long as possible, to facilitate the escape of the 15th Army trapped on the west bank of the river.
Lt. Hartman's infantry capture the town of Stadt Meckenheim unopposed but are ordered to continue their advance until encountering resistance. Their battalion commander, Major Barnes (Bradford Dillman), is anxious to please his superiors with combat accomplishments, (Lt. Hartman acidly remarks to friend and C.O., Captain Colt, that "Barnes jumps at orders like a dog at a bone").
The company arrives at the town of Remagen, and, after clearing the town, find the bridge intact. General Shinner (E.G. Marshall) orders its capture to Major Barnes: "It's a crap shoot, Major . . . We're risking one hundred men, but you may save ten thousand". Major Barnes readily agrees that risking Hartman's company is worth the possible gains — a foothold across the Rhine river and avoiding a costly assault-crossing elsewhere. Sergeant Angelo (Ben Gazzara), one of Hartman's squad leaders, highlights the mood of the weary men, by striking Major Barnes after being ordered onto the bridge.
Simultaneously, Major Kruger assumes command at the bridge, assisted by Captain Baumann (the engineer ordered to detonate the explosives) and Captain Schmidt, Remagen Bridge Security Command. Kruger has learned that the thousands of soldiers garrisoned there either have deserted or exist only on paper, and that his promised two tank battalions of reinforcements have been sent "elsewhere". Unable to counter-attack, he blows up the bridge, but the explosives used — "cheap, industrial explosive", Captain Baumann complained — are too weak to collapse the bridge to the river. As Major Kruger leaves to fetch reinforcements, the remaining Bridge Security soldiers surrender to the Americans. In the event, Lieutenant Hartman and Sergeant Angelo find themselves survivors; Major Kruger is executed for desertion of his post and for failure to execute his orders to destroy the Bridge at Remagen.
Because of shipping traffic on the river Rhine, West German officials did not allow the production of the film in that country. The film company then secured permission to shoot at Davle, a town in Czechoslovakia that straddled the Vltava river, and possessed a suitable bridge structure. During filming, the Soviet Army invaded Czechoslovakia to install a pro-Soviet, Communist Czech government, causing the film company to flee to the West in taxis.
India: Rescind "Shoot at Sight" Orders in Assam Investigate 45 Deaths, Displacement of 300,000 in Ethnic Violence
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