The Bridge at Remagen
When I was young and visited my Aunt Cokie and Uncle Billy in Corsicana, Texas, I often looked at a display case mounted on their wall. There were several medals in it, most of which were unknown to me. But even at that age I knew what a Purple Heart was, and there was one of those in the case. I don’t know if I ever asked him how he got it, or the others. If I did, he must not have told me much, or I’m sure I would have remembered. Because we recently did a search for his name (he is in his nineties and still going strong) and came across an interview where he tells something about his war experiences. He was not there for D-Day, but landed a bit later. He was at the Battle of the Bulge, where Kurt Vonnegut was captured. And the scariest thing was the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, where he and his unit were ordered to run the 700-foot length under heavy mortar and machine gun fire. Many good men lost their lives on that bridge, which the Germans were doing their best to destroy.
Uncle Billy says the action scenes in this movie were very realistic. Though the movie compresses what was a very long artillery battle, I can see what he’s talking about. The filmmakers used an incredible amount of explosives and smoke bombs on the bridge itself. And they found a town in Czechoslovakia that was planning to destroy the old part of town because there was coal under it. So they blew up a lot of real brick-and-mortar buildings in spectacular fashion. No way they could have afforded to actually build stuff like that. Also, in 1969 there were still great numbers of functioning tanks and artillery available, and a couple working B-26 Marauders still flying to make bombing runs over the bridge. All in all, this is one of the best re-creations of WWII combat I have ever seen.
As for the story … well, it’s pretty standard. George Segal commands a war-weary troop of the usual characters. On the other side is Robert Vaughn as a “sympathetic” German soldier, one who doesn’t like the SS and Hitler very much. Probably a made-up character. Anyway, don’t expect a great deal of characterization, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you like war movies—and I do, sometimes—this is a must-see.