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The Red Line by Walt Gragg

The Red Line by Walt Gragg

Author:Walt Gragg
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Published: 2017-04-17T10:05:15+00:00


CHAPTER 32

January 29—9:05 a.m.

102nd Parachute Regiment

The Rhine River Valley

The Rhine River valley is some of the most beautiful country on the planet. Covered in a black forest of evergreens thicker than found anywhere in America, deep mountain gorges cut by the proud river run for hundreds of miles as the lazy waters meander from Switzerland to the Atlantic Ocean. In the south, the river separates France and Germany. In the north, it runs through Germany’s largest cities on its scenic journey to the sea.

The six thousand four hundred men of the 102nd Parachute Division weren’t nearly enough to take and hold the bridges in the heavily populated areas to the north. They weren’t even going to try. They had a single task: cut the broad bridges in the south, separating France and Germany. In all, there were twenty bridges between the two countries. Six major expanses were absolutely critical to the parachutists’ plan.

They would do whatever was necessary to seize the six bridges. Once they were within their grasp, at the first sign of trouble, all six would be destroyed. The division would also take and hold as many of the smaller bridges as they could. Those they couldn’t ensnare would be damaged to the point where they’d be of no further use to the enemy.

The Russians anticipated stiff resistance from the Germans on the eastern side of the spans and from the French on the western ends. But in the first confusing hours of the war, even the most valuable of the bridges was being guarded by a handful of lightly armed German provisional guards.

The parachutists swooped down into the Rhine valley like the Mongol hordes. Six hundred attacked each of the major bridges, overwhelming the outmanned guards. In minutes, the Russians eliminated the German defenders. They controlled the eastern approaches to each of the major spans. The parachutists started working their way across the wide bridges. They had no idea what they’d find waiting for them on the French side. Cautiously, the Russians moved forward.

Leapfrogging from position to position, the blue berets neared the far ends.

The western sides had been abandoned. The three customs agents at each border checkpoint had fled at the first sound of gunfire. The Russians started preparing fortified positions on both ends. Demolition teams rushed to ready each for destruction at the first sign of trouble.

Groups of two hundred attacked the fourteen smaller spans. Within a half hour, twelve were in Russian hands. The final two had been destroyed.

Ninety minutes after their arrival on German soil, the parachutists held the southern half of the Rhine River. The fortification of their positions was rapidly undertaken. One way or another, the French would never be allowed to set foot on any of the bridges. And the Germans would never be allowed to take any of them back.

After little more than ten hours of war, a direct attack east by the French army was an impossibility.

Five powerful French armored divisions would arrive at the great river as the sun soared high on the war’s first full day.



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