Clarence Smoyer received the surprise — and the award — of a lifetime, when the Army bestowed on him the Bronze Star for his heroism as a tank gunner during World War II.
Flanked by a Sherman tank parked on the National Mall just behind the World War II Memorial, Mr. Smoyer and relatives of three of his late crew members received the medal during a special ceremony featuring dignitaries and more than 100 other veterans of the war.
“I remember all the young boys who lost their lives in the war,” Mr. Smoyer said after the ceremony. “So many men lost their lives. My cousin was killed over in France. Also, my brother-in-law was killed about the same time. They never had a chance to really live their lives. I always feel something for them.”
In urban combat on March 6, 1945, in Cologne, Germany, Mr. Smoyer — as the gunner — knocked out a Nazi super-tank beneath the Cologne Cathedral. The opening allowed American troops to overtake a key bridge over the Rhine River during the Allies’ push toward Berlin.
Mr. Smoyer is credited with destroying five German tanks during his service. Mr. Smoyer forfeited his eligibility for a medal of valor after being seen speaking with German children who asked for bubblegum.
The medal comes almost 75 years
after Smoyer’s act of heroism when he destroyed a Nazi tank in a dramatic duel in Cologne, Germany, that was captured on film by an Army cameramen and recently written about in the book “Spearhead,” by Adam Makos, whose father, Robert Makos, grew up in Plymouth.
Here is a link to a video about Smoyer’s story as detailed in Spearhead: https://youtu.be/w7DAS4Yqr5s.
On March 6, 1945, a German Panther tank had just knocked out two American tanks in Cologne, Germany, killing three men. To stop the rampage, Smoyer and his tank crew went and vanquished the Panther. Film of the duel went worldwide and Smoyer became known as “The Hero of Cologne.”
Smoyer, 96 of Allentown, is the only surviving member of the tank crew that won the infamous battle. The others — John Deriggi (of Scranton), Homer Davis, William McVey, and Bob Earley — were also awarded the Bronze Star posthumously. “I’ll wear this medal for all the guys who didn’t come home,” Smoyer said at the ceremony.
Photo courtesy Washington Times and Adam Makos