I am a former member of Company A, 393 Regiment, 99th Infantry Division. I am an ardent reader of the Checkerboard. I read with interest the article, “Let’s hear about the Rhine Crossing,” written by Bob Fickett of Kaufman TX, wherein he suggested that you should cover crossing the Rhine River.
I also crossed the Rhine with the 99th, but I crossed it on the afternoon of March 16, when the German artillery bombarded it extremely heavily in an attempt to destroy the only bridge left standing. It was originally discovered by the 9th Division and when we approached the bridge to cross it, there were bodies of many of that division’s soldiers. After running at full speed to avoid the shrapnel as a result of the bombing, as well as the holes in the floor of the bridge, we came to a large open field. We saw an 88 artillery gun above the field pointed at us.
My foxhole buddy, Joe Genova and I proceeded to dig a foxhole and jumped in as six shells landed around the hole. The second one gave me a “million dollar wound” as I was hit by a large piece of shrapnel. I was taken by jeep to an airfield after being treated by a medic where I was hit. I was flown to a hospital outside of Paris where the shrapnel was removed. I received my Purple Heart and remained there several weeks and returned to my outfit as the war ended.
The reason I’m writing all of this is that there’s more to the story. First of all, the bridge did not fall down until March 17, which happened to be my 21st birthday. I was operated on for the removal of the shrapnel the night before, so how could I forget the date?
Secondly, the sister of a very dear friend married my general, Omar Bradley, a number of years later and I had the great pleasure of meeting him at the sister’s home. When I told him that I was in the 99th Division of his 1st Army, and that I was wounded at the bridge, his answer to me was “We really did not need the Ludendorff Bridge as we put down a portable bride soon after.” I forgave him for that remark several months after as he wrote a letter to me when I was honored by my Pythian Lodge. He was quite a guy and respected by all the troops under his command.
Oh, and the reason I called it a “million dollar wound,” was it helped to pay my way later through dental school!
Dr. Marvin Hamburg
6124 GreensPointe Dr.
Boynton Beach FL 33437