“Hero of Cologne” WWII Vet Has Passes Away At 99 Years Old

Many of those who led the way in World War II have now passed away, and that includes a hero named Clarence Smoyer.

He went to Kentucky when he was drafted in 1943 to begin his training and eventually, was sent to Normandy just before D-Day.

Photo: flickr/@USArmy

At the time, Smoyer was only 21 years old and he worked on a Sherman tank. While he was in France, he was injured three different times and even got a Purple Heart for a nose injury.

Eventually, in 1944, he was promoted from loader to gunner. It seemed as if he took to the new job quite naturally, and when the third armored division got to Germany, they stayed on the line until 1945 when they crossed into the country.

At the time, there were only 20 super tanks in Europe and Smoyer was a gunner on one of them. He eventually was able to earn the name “Hero of Cologne,” according to CBS Sunday Morning.

Photo: YouTube/CBS Sunday Morning

In the incident that almost earned him a Bronze Star, he fired at a car that went into an intersection at the same time as a German tank was also firing. He wasn’t able to see the tank so he fired at a building and that stopped the tank from moving forward.

When they encountered another German tank, he fired three shots and set the tank on fire. Perhaps this wasn’t something out of the ordinary but there was a cameraman who caught the scene on camera, so it became known to people far and wide.

Although he was in line to receive the Bronze Star at the time, he had gotten in some trouble and wasn’t able to accept it. There were some German children asking him for bubblegum, but he didn’t have any. When he asked a woman to explain to the children that he didn’t have bubblegum, a military policeman just happened to be there and he got in trouble for fraternizing with the Germans.

That was back in 1945 but in 2019, Smoyer was able to receive the Bronze Star.

He had gone to Washington DC for what he thought was a tour promoting the book “Spearhead” but they surprised him with the award.

He later got married to Melba Whitehead. They were married until 2017 and had three children together.

Since then, Smoyer has also passed away at 99 at his home in Leighton, Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Army Armor & Cavalry Collection announced his passing on Twitter, saying, “We are sad to announce the passing of Mr. Clarence Smoyer. Mr. Smoyer was a gunner in the 3rd Armored Division during World War II and was on one of the first T26E3 (later M26) Pershing tanks when he engaged a German Panther tank in the center of the city of Cologne in March ’45.”

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