First Across the Rhine: The 291st Engineer Combat Battalion in France, Belgium, and Germany

David E. Pergrin, Author, Eric M. Hammel, With
David E. Pergrin, Author, Eric M. Hammel, With Atheneum Books $21.95 (337p) ISBN 978-0-689-12033-6
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
Pergrin's sterling battalion endured its baptism of fire in the Normandy breakout in the summer of 1944, played an important role in the Battle of the Bulge and in March 1945 opened the way for the climactic drive into Germany by building the first Allied bridge across the Rhine. Aside from the colonel's beaming pride in the courage and technical skill of his men, what makes this memoir of war, written with military historian Hammel, special is that the 291st battalion kept running into heavy-duty combat situations for which it was organizationally unprepared. The battalion found itself directly in the path of the German spearhead at the start of the Bulge and, in one of the European theater's crucial delaying actions, destroyed bridges, planted mines and defended roadblocks in the face of oncoming tank columns. Three months later, called on to construct an 1100-foot pontoon bridge at Remagen, the 291st accomplished a seemingly impossible task in 32 hours, despite fierce opposition. Photos. (June)
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