Braunau am Inn, Austria

May 2, 1945


The Third Reich was in its final days when Allied forces approached Braunau am Inn on the Austrian border with Germany.  The 13th Armored Division of the U.S. Third Army dispatched a fast moving tank column from the 46th Tank Battalion to seize any remaining bridges over the Inn River at Braunau on May 1st.  Encountering scattered small arms fire along their route, the tankers arrived at the river 15 hours later only to find the Inn River bridge from Simbach to Braunau had already been destroyed.  American soldiers quickly crossed the river on the wreckage of the destroyed bridge.  Jaroslav Smejkal, a twenty-two year old Czech national who had been working as a forced laborer at a nearby aluminum plant at Ranshofen, photographed some of the first American troops to arrive in Braunau. 


On May 3, 1945 the 245th Engineer Combat Battalion arrived at Simbach and quickly began construction of the pontoon bridge which allowed the 13th Armored and the 80th Infantry Division to continue their pursuit of the retreating Wehrmacht into northern Austria.  The war in Europe ended less than a week later.


These photographs are courtesy of Smejkal’s granddaughter, Daniela Klenovcova, of the Czech Republic.




A group waiting to assist two men crossing the wreckage of the Inn River bridge, May 2, 1945.


Private photograph collection of Jaroslav Smejkal, Czechoslovakia.




An unidentified man crossing the wreckage of the Inn River Bridge, Braunau, Austria, May 2, 1945.  Note that he is apparently wearing gloves, the outline of his hat, and what also appear to be binoculars hanging from his neck.


Private photograph collection of Jaroslav Smejkal, Czechoslovakia.





Probably the same man who was seen crossing the destroyed Inn River Bridge at Braunau, Austria, May 2, 1945.   Smejkal told family members after the war that he remembered an English-speaking journalist at the bridge which could be a reference to one of these individuals.   Although he or they may indeed be war correspondents, or even Czech partisans, whoever they are they were likely on some kind of intelligence gathering mission for U.S. forces.  The man with the shoulder holster rig [which appears to be American issue] is carrying what looks like a movie camera and the man opening the car door has binoculars around his neck [judging from the gloves, his hat, and the binoculars he is the same man seen in the previous photograph crossing the destroyed bridge].  They are getting into what also appears to be a captured German Army car. 


Private photograph collection of Jaroslav Smejkal, Czechoslovakia.




An American soldier armed with an M1 carbine on the Braunau side of the Inn River Bridge on May 2, 1945.  Probably a member of the 13th Armored Division.


Private photograph collection of Jaroslav Smejkal, Czechoslovakia.