Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - Cologne to Heidelberg

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June 15th 2016
Published: June 15th 2016
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On March 7, 1945, a call came in to the Goldenrod Cafe in West Point, Nebraska. The caller, a reporter from the Omaha Herald, wanted to speak to one of the waitresses, Mrs. Mary Timmerman. He told her that her son, 2nd Lt. Karl Timmerman had just been the first man across the Remagen Bridge over the Rhine. Mrs. Timmerman was a German war bride from World War I. Her son had just become the first officer of an invading army to cross the Rhine River since Napoleon.

The Rhine River represented the last great barrier for Allied troops heading into Germany. The Rhine is a wide, deep, swift, and cold river with high bluffs for banks in most areas, and was a formidable challenge for crossing. The Germans had destroyed most of the Rhine bridges, but the Ludendorff bridge was still standing at about 1 P.M. German time when reconnaissance elements of the 9th Armored Division came to the bluff above Remagen and found the Ludendorff Bridge still standing. The Germans ordered to blow the bridge had delayed to allow as many German troops as possible to get back over the bridge before it was blown. The explosives and detonators that had been sent to blow the bridge were of low quality, and the German lieutenant tasked with blowing the bridge was in a nearby town drunk when the Americans arrived. Immediately recognizing the opportunity, Bradley immediately ordered the armored division to take the bridge and push as much across as possible. When the Americans first started across the bridge, the Germans did manage to detonate some of the explosives, but they did not bring down the bridge and the Americans went across under withering machine gun fire and seized control, removing explosives as they went. With the failure to explode the underpinnings of the bridge and destroy it, the Germans tried everything else they had to destroy it, including infantry and armored attacks, howitzers, mortars, floating mines, mined boats, a railroad gun, a giant 540 mm super mortar, and even frogmen swimming up the river. The first tactical use of the V2 rocket was directed at the bridge, with 11 missiles falling in the area and killing 6 Americans and a larger number of German civilians, but causing no damage to the bridge. The Americans counted 367 aircraft attacking the bridge, and claimed to have shot down 30% of them - the Americans had predicted that sort of attack and had moved to the area the largest concentration of antiaircraft guns in World War II. Ten days after its capture, the Ludendorff finally fell into the river, but by then the Americans had built alternative bridges and by the time of the American breakout from this beachhead across the Rhine on March 25 about 25,000 soldiers had gotten across with their vehicles and equipment. Both sides agreed after the war that capture of the bridge had shortened the war. In the days after its capture, those who had been delegated to blow it up were executed by Hitler's order. Today, the stone towers at each end of the bridge are about all that remains. The towers on the west side, which we visited, contain a small history museum in one tower and a peace museum in the other.

The Wormser Dom is a large church in Worms that was once the cathedral of the Bishopric of Worms, but is now simply a parish church. The edifice was consecrated in 1110, but some parts of the current building date back "only" to the 14th century. It was the site of the coronation of Leo IX in 1048, the Concordat of Worms which ended the investiture controversy (whether local clergy and bishops were to be named by the church officials or by the Pope) in 1122, and the marriage of Ferdinand II to Isabella of England in 1235, but is probably best known for the Diet of Worms (I just love that name with its rich culinary reference) which denounced Martin Luther as a heretic in April 1521. He was asked whether he would recant the "heresies" in 25 of his books. He is reported to have said: "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen."

He was condemned as a heretic and was to be arrested, but was taken in by Prince Frederick and given haven at Warburg Castle, where he began working on his German translation of the Bible. For a variety of mostly political reasons, he was never prosecuted for heresy, but two of his Augustinian followers were burned at the stake for heresy in Brussels in 1522.

When you visit the church today, it is probably much as it was in the time of Luther, but we found no reference to the events in the church.

We ended the day in Heidelberg drinking beer, eating currywurst, and just relaxing following an abortive attempt to visit the Christuskirche (it was close), the church where Patton's funeral service was held.

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