An Upbeat News Story For a Change
BOSTON (AP) — For heroic World War II tank gunner Clarence Smoyer, the inside of a tank was his home and the crew was his family.
In that sense, the 95-year-old veteran returned home Wednesday for the first time since the war. One of the last surviving WWII tank gunners, Smoyer was surprised with a ride through the streets of Boston in a Sherman tank, one of the tanks most widely used by the U.S. during the war....
...Author Adam Makos tells Smoyer’s story in a new book, “Spearhead,” which was released Tuesday. Over the course of six years working together, Smoyer made off-hand comments to Makos about how he’d like to get aboard his old Sherman tank one last time to refresh his memories. Makos started making calls and Smoyer started doing physical therapy, in case it worked out.
Smoyer, who lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania, expected a taxi to take him from his hotel to the USS Constitution Museum for a book signing Wednesday. Instead, he found a 32-ton (33-metric ton) Sherman tank from 1944 waiting outside.A huge smile flashed across Smoyer’s face when he walked outside and saw the tank, saying it was a shock to see it.
“That tank saved my life,” he said.
The American Heritage Museum in Hudson, Massachusetts, sent the tank and reenactors representing infantrymen to walk alongside for the short trip to the museum. Service members from the USS Constitution and onlookers came outside to salute Smoyer and the tank as it rolled down the street...
...On March 5, 1945, Smoyer heard the company commander say over the radio, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne. Let’s knock the hell out of it.” They charged into the city.
Smoyer said he traded fire with a German tank, then shot at a building and toppled it onto the Germans. Eighteen-year-old German tank gunner Gustav Schaefer and his tank commander abandoned their tank and surrendered.
Smoyer advanced and encountered the German Panther by the cathedral. The Panther had just knocked out two American Sherman tanks, killing three men.
“We pull out into the intersection and the driver saw the tank. We were looking right into the barrel,” Smoyer said. “I fired once. Hit them. Sparks were flying. I fired another one, back more toward the engine compartment. I fired the third shot.”
Smoyer set the tank on fire so the German crew couldn’t fire back. American forces advanced to the Rhine River. Smoyer and his crew were photographed victoriously climbing out of their tank.
Makos met Smoyer through a friend in 2012. In 2013, they traveled together to Cologne so Smoyer could meet Schaefer, the German tank gunner.
The two veterans shook hands in front of the Cologne cathedral and put roses on the grave of Katharina Esser, a German woman who was killed in their crossfire. They kept in touch through Christmas cards, letters and Skype until Schaefer died at the age of 90 in 2017...
Full story at https://www.apnews.com/d46a19d62da14b06b390ba105adcb461