Better Late Than Never

| September 19, 2019

A World Warr II tanker crewman was recently awarded the Bronze Star.

From the article: Smoyer, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was part of a famous March 6, 1945, duel in Cologne, Germany, where his Pershing tank destroyed a German Panther tank about three weeks after D-Day. The battle was captured on film and Smoyer became known as the “Hero of Cologne.”

Smoyer was told he would receive the Bronze Star, but a few days later he ran afoul of a minor disciplinary issue that cost him his medal. A military police officer saw him searching his pockets for bubble gum to give to a crowd of German children and charged him with fraternization with the enemy. Meanwhile, Smoyer’s tank commander and the military cameraman who filmed the battle received Bronze Stars of their own.

Smoyer’s story was detailed in “Spearhead” by author Adam Makos , and it was Makos who helped engineer Wednesday’s events. He helped convince the Army to reverse what he saw as an injustice. And he brought Smoyer to Washington on the pretense of a book-signing at the Pentagon. – article

The full article is here:


Category: Army, Veterans in the news, War Stories

Comments (17)

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  1. FuzeVT says:

    That’s a pretty cool story. The guys stands up pretty straight for being just shy of a century old!

    I am confused about the “three weeks after D-Day” comment. Unless they are talking about D-Day at Iwo Jima.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      I’m guessing it’s D-Day of Operation Grenade, but that’s just a guess.

      • FuzeVT says:

        That would work, too. I’m just guessing they don’t know what the heck they are talking about. That’s almost 9 months after “D-Day” (by which everyone who doesn’t know a lot about WWII automatically means the Normandy invasion).

  2. The Other Whitey says:

    I’m curious as to which D-Day they’re referring to. I’m guessing it’s Operation Grenade, the crossing of the Roer River.

    I think I’ve found the film footage of Smoyer’s M26 in action. Two YouTube videos.

    This one has some pretty good footage of the whole incident, including the Sherman that got ambushed by the Panther, and then avenged by Smoyer’s(?) Pershing. The close up of the commander and gunner bailing out of the Sherman is tough to watch, as the commander has lost a leg and, according to my limited research, bled out from the traumatic amputation before help could reach him. Unfortunately, the video’s poster seems to be some kind of neo-nazi lost-causer asshole if his captions are any indication.

    The second one includes period newsreel narration and commentary by one of the crew, not sure if it’s Smoyer. This one is edited to show the Sherman after the Panther.

    • Fyrfighter says:

      Good video TOW, though yeah, the guy that posted it and some of the commentators seem like neo-nazi douches. Funny thing, (kinda off topic, but it’s where my mind goes) there was lots of discussion about the Pershing hitting the Panther three times with it’s main gun.. apparently some felt like it was overkill, being mean to the Germans or something.. I chuckled, because I thought it was over kill tho throw three main gun rounds at it as well,(understanding that smoke etc. may have obscured how bad they’d already hit it), but mine was from the perspective of “why waste big ammo you might need later, light em up with the .50!”…

      In any case, damn good shooting by Smoyer, way to avenge the Sherman and her crew.

      • The Other Whitey says:

        Apparently the Panther’s bow gunner was spraying the Sherman as its surviving crew were bailing out, so the “unfair/overkill” argument holds no water. Plus a Panther was a sufficiently dangerous opponent that it was just common sense to make sure the damn thing was dead.

        I also read that the Panther made two dead-on-balls hits on the Pershing, both of which bounced. Since they were used to engaging Shermans and Stuarts, and American tank that laughed at their high-velocity AP rounds was a new experience for the German crew. The way the driver threw it into reverse and then backed into a pile of rubble seemed to indicate that the Panther crew was panicking as the Pershing traversed its turret towards them.

        I’m just thinking of Audie Murphy’s briefing to his new guys before his MOH action at Holtzwihr as recorded in “To Hell and Back”: “If they surrender, fine. If not, kill ‘em.”

  3. 5th/77th FA says:

    Was there another D-Day for the jump across the Rhine in Feb of ’45? Need to look into that.

    Glad the trooper finally got recognized for his actions. Too bad it took this long. Chickensh^tters gonna chickensh^t. Ran into officers like that; Thank God I never had to serve under one.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      My understanding of how they did things way back when is that every operation, amphibious or not, had a designated D-Day and H-Hour, and that they picked different letters for Operation Downfall because pop culture was already erroneously associating “D-Day” exclusively with Operation Overlord.

      I could very well be wrong.

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        IMO you’re right TOW. The author should have prefaced his article with D-Day for Operation Whichever. We students of history have a tendency to get rather nuts and bolts over the nuances of terminology. Nature of the beast or our burden to bear. The lay person or less well read can get confused by it. We probably picking nits here and maybe the book (haven’t read but want to now) will be more clear. Still doesn’t relieve the article writer the responsibility of providing the correct, concise info. I lumped the Rhine crossing into a catchall for that entire campaign. Buried somewhere (I hope) is an old book from the ’50s on that action. Need to hunt it up.

        BTW TOW, cool videos Tanks for the linkies.

  4. Mason says:

    God bless men such as this. Humble about his role all those years ago. No stolen valor from this guy. In fact, the US stole valor from him!

    P.S. The Pentagon couldn’t find someone above a Major to walk across the Potomac for this?

    • The Other Whitey says:

      It’s a shame they couldn’t scare up a Pershing. Shermans are cool, and I’m sure he’s plenty familiar with the inside of one, but he was gunning a Pershing at the time.

    • Martinjmpr says:

      P.S. The Pentagon couldn’t find someone above a Major to walk across the Potomac for this?

      My question would be: With the Major across the Potomac, who was making coffee and emptying the trash cans at the Pentagon? 😉

      I mean, I could see a mere Captain sweeping the floor or cleaning the latrines but I’m pretty sure you have to be at least a Field Grade to make coffee at the 5 sided puzzle palace!

  5. ninja says:

    GREAT one-on-one conversation story on Mr. Smoyer.

    It is worth the read:

  6. Andy11M says:

    Lost a Bronze Star over some bubble gum? Screw that MP.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Well, there WAS a war on and those kids were German, so his mistake was being nice to them.

      I’m just glad he finally got his award.

      • Martinjmpr says:

        He was winning “hearts and minds.” 20 years ahead of his time! 😀

        • OmegaPaladin says:

          I was unaware that fraternization with the enemy rules were that strict, even in WWII. Those were obviously civilians, and not engaged in supporting the war effort. Unless there was more to the story, it sounds like the MP had a giant stick up their ass.