Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives popular in popular World War II outlet sale

Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives popular in popular World War II outlet sale

Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives popular in popular World War II outlet sale

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THE NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, LOS ANGELES TIMES, AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER 

“A band of brothers in an American tank . . . Makos drops the reader back into the Pershing’s turret and dials up a battle scene to rival the peak moments of Fury.”
The Wall Street Journal


From the author of the international bestseller A Higher Call comes the riveting World War II story of an American tank gunner’s journey into the heart of the Third Reich, where he will meet destiny in an iconic armor duel—and forge an enduring bond with his enemy.


When Clarence Smoyer is assigned to the gunner’s seat of his Sherman tank, his crewmates discover that the gentle giant from Pennsylvania has a hidden talent: He’s a natural-born shooter.

At first, Clarence and his fellow crews in the legendary 3rd Armored Division—“Spearhead”—thought their tanks were invincible. Then they met the German Panther, with a gun so murderous it could shoot through one Sherman and into the next. Soon a pattern emerged: The lead tank always gets hit.

After Clarence sees his friends cut down breaching the West Wall and holding the line in the Battle of the Bulge, he and his crew are given a weapon with the power to avenge their fallen brothers: the Pershing, a state-of-the-art “super tank,” one of twenty in the European theater.

But with it comes a harrowing new responsibility: Now they will spearhead every attack. That’s how Clarence, the corporal from coal country, finds himself leading the U.S. Army into its largest urban battle of the European war, the fight for Cologne, the “Fortress City” of Germany.

Battling through the ruins, Clarence will engage the fearsome Panther in a duel immortalized by an army cameraman. And he will square off with Gustav Schaefer, a teenager behind the trigger in a Panzer IV tank, whose crew has been sent on a suicide mission to stop the Americans.

As Clarence and Gustav trade fire down a long boulevard, they are taken by surprise by a tragic mistake of war. What happens next will haunt Clarence to the modern day, drawing him back to Cologne to do the unthinkable: to face his enemy, one last time.

Praise for Spearhead

“A detailed, gripping account . . . the remarkable story of two tank crewmen, from opposite sides of the conflict, who endure the grisly nature of tank warfare.”
USA Today (four out of four stars)

“Strong and dramatic . . . Makos established himself as a meticulous researcher who’s equally adept at spinning a good old-fashioned yarn. . . . For a World War II aficionado, it will read like a dream.”
—Associated Press  

Review

“A band of brothers in an American tank . . . Makos drops the reader back into the Pershing’s turret and dials up a battle scene to rival the peak moments of  Fury. . . . A thoroughly enjoyable battle story, and a tribute to the everyman warrior.”
Jonathan W. Jordan, The Wall Street Journal

“A detailed, gripping account . . . the remarkable story of two tank crewmen, from opposite sides of the conflict, who endure the grisly nature of tank warfare.”
George Petras, USA Today (four out of four stars)

“This singular book is redolent with war. I cannot remember another narrative in which my abiding sensory experience was tasting grit and smelling smoke so often.”
—Philip Kopper, The Washington Times

“Engrossing . . . a war story and a mystery.”
—CNN

“An amazing book.” 
—Fox News

“A superb book that combines a firsthand look at war with a story of healing.”
Sandra Dallas, The Denver Post
 
“Strong and dramatic . . . Makos established himself as a meticulous researcher who’s equally adept at spinning a good old-fashioned yarn. . . . For a World War II aficionado, it will read like a dream.”
Kim Curtis, Associated Press  

“This is narrative history at its best, told by a master storyteller.”
—Col. Cole Kingseed, Army magazine

“Well-written and fast-paced,  Spearhead is the story of a band of brothers from the 3rd Armored and is highly recommended.”
American Rifleman magazine

“[A] dramatic, haunting true story.”
AARP The Magazine

“A compelling, exciting adventure . . . an in-the-moment re-creation of the Allied breakthrough of the West Wall into Nazi Germany by a remarkable cadre of tank crewmen of the 3rd Armored Division.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“An engaging story of blood, sweat and tears . . . a wonderful homage to the Greatest Generation.”
David Kindy, The Providence Journal

“The tension, death, and courage that were everyday experiences for American tankers fill the pages of Makos’s book. This moving story of bravery and comradeship is an important contribution to WWII history that will inform and fascinate both the general reader and the military historian.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

About the Author

Hailed as “a masterful storyteller” by the Associated Press,  Adam Makos is the author of the  New York Times bestsellers  A Higher Call and  Spearhead and the critically acclaimed  Devotion. Inspired by his grandfathers’ service, Makos chronicles the stories of American veterans in his trademark fusion of intense human drama and fast-paced military action, securing his place “in the top ranks of military writers,” according to the  Los Angeles Times . In the course of his research, Makos has flown a World War II bomber, accompanied a Special Forces raid in Iraq, and journeyed into North Korea in search of an MIA American airman.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1 

The Gentle Giant

September 2, 1944

Occupied Belgium, during World War II

Twilight fell on a country crossroads.

The only sounds came from insects buzzing in the surrounding blue fields, and something else. Metallic. The sound of hot engines ticking and pinging, decompressing after a long drive.

With silent efficiency, tank crewmen worked to rearm and refuel their tired Sherman tanks before the last hues of color fled the sky.

Crouched behind the turret of the leftmost tank, Corporal Clarence Smoyer carefully shuttled 75mm shells into the waiting hands of the loader inside. It was a delicate job—even the slightest clang could reveal their position to the enemy.

Clarence was twenty-one, tall and lean with a Roman nose and a sea of curly blond hair under a knit cap. His blue eyes were gentle, but guarded. Despite his height, he was not a fighter—he had never been in a fistfight. Back home in Pennsylvania he had hunted only once—for rabbit—and even that he did halfheartedly. Three weeks earlier he’d been promoted to gunner, second in command on the tank. It wasn’t a promotion he had wanted.

The platoon was in place. To Clarence’s right, four more olive-drab tanks were fanned out, “coiled,” in a half-moon formation with twenty yards between each vehicle. Farther to the north, beyond sight, was Mons, a city made lavish by the Industrial Revolution. A dirt road lay parallel to the tanks on the left, and it ran up through the darkening fields to a forested ridge, where the sun was setting behind the trees.

The Germans were out there, but how many there were and when they’d arrive, no one knew. It had been nearly three months since D-Day, and now Clarence and the men of the 3rd Armored Division were behind enemy lines.

All guns faced west.

Boasting 390 tanks at full strength, the division had dispersed every operational tank between the enemy and Mons, blocking every road junction they could reach.

Survival that night would hinge on teamwork. Clarence’s company headquarters had given his platoon, 2nd Platoon, a simple but important mission: guard the road, let nothing pass.

Clarence lowered himself through the commander’s hatch and into the turret, a tight fit for a six-foot man. He slipped to the right of the gun breech and into the gunner’s seat, leaning into his periscopic gun sight. As he had no hatch of his own, this five-inch-wide relay of glass prisms and a 3x telescopic gun sight mounted to the left of it would be his windows to the world.

His field of fire was set.

There would be no stepping out that night; it was too risky even to urinate. That’s what they saved empty shell casings for.

Beneath Clarence’s feet, the tank opened up in the hull, with its white enamel walls like the turret’s and a trio of dome lights. In the bow, the driver and bow gunner/assistant driver slid their seats backward to sleep where they had ridden all day. On the opposite side of the gun breech from Clarence, the loader stretched a sleeping bag on the turret floor. The tank smelled of oil, gunpowder, and a locker room, but the scent was familiar, even comforting. Ever since they’d come ashore, three weeks after D-Day, as part of this M4A1 Sherman had been their home in Easy Company, 32nd Armor Regiment, of the 3rd Armored Division, one of the army’s two heavy tank divisions.

Tonight, sleep would come quickly. The men were exhausted. The 3rd Armored had been charging for eighteen days at the head of the First Army, leading two other divisions in the breakout across northern France. Paris had been liberated, the Germans were running back the way they’d come in 1940, and the 3rd Armored was earning its nom de guerre: the Spearhead Division.

Then came new orders.

The reconnaissance boys had spotted the German Fifteenth and Seventh Armies moving to the north, hightailing it out of France for Belgium and on course to pass through Mons’s many crossroads. So the 3rd Armored turned on a dime and raced north—107 miles in two days—arriving just in time to lay an ambush.

The tank commander dropped into the turret and lowered the split hatch covers, leaving just a crack for air. He slumped into his seat behind Clarence, his boyish face still creased by the impression of his goggles. Staff Sergeant Paul Faircloth of Jacksonville, Florida, was also twenty-one, quiet and easygoing, with a sturdy build, black hair, and olive skin. Some assumed he was French or Italian, but he was half Cherokee. As the platoon sergeant, Paul had been checking on the other crews and positioning them for the night. Normally the platoon leader would do this, but their lieutenant was a new replacement and still learning the ropes.

For two days Paul had been on his feet in the commander’s position, standing halfway out of his hatch with the turret up to his ribs. From there he could anticipate the column’s movements to help the driver brake and steer. In the event of a sudden halt—when another crew threw a track or got mired in mud, for instance—Paul was always the first out of the tank to help.

“I’m taking your watch tonight,” Clarence said. “I’ll do a double.”

The offer was generous, but Paul resisted—he could handle it.

Clarence persisted until Paul threw up his hands and finally swapped places with him to nab some shut-eye in the gunner’s seat.

Clarence took the commander’s position, a seat higher in the turret. The hatch covers were closed enough to block a German grenade, but open enough to provide a good view to the front and back. He could see his neighboring Sherman through the rising moonlight. The tank’s squat, bulbous turret looked incongruous against the tall, sharp lines of the body, as if the parts had been pieced together from salvage.

Clarence snatched a Thompson submachine gun from the wall and retracted the bolt. For the next four hours, enemy foot soldiers were his concern. Everyone knew that German tankers didn’t like to fight at night.

Partway through Clarence’s watch, the darkness came alive with a mechanical rumbling.

The moon was smothered by clouds and he couldn’t see a thing, but he could hear a convoy of vehicles moving beyond the tree-lined ridge.

Start and stop. Start and stop.

The radio speaker on the turret wall kept humming with static. No flares illuminated the sky. The 3rd Armored would later estimate there were 30,000 enemy troops out there, mostly men of the German Army, the Wehrmacht, with some air force and navy personnel among them—yet no order came to give pursuit or attack.

That’s because the battered remnants of the enemy armies were bleeding precious fuel as they searched for a way around the roadblocks, and Spearhead was content to let them wander. The enemy was desperately trying to reach the safety of the West Wall, also known as the Siegfried Line, a stretch of more than 18,000 defensive fortifications that bristled along the German border.

If these 30,000 troops could dig in there, they could bar the way to Germany and prolong the war. They had to be stopped, here, at Mons, and Spearhead had a plan for that—but it could wait until daylight.

Around two a.m. the distinctive slap of tank tracks arose from the distant rumble.

Clarence tracked the sounds—vehicles were coming down the road in front of him. He knew his orders—let nothing pass—but doubt was setting in. Maybe this was a reconnaissance patrol returning? Had someone gotten lost? They couldn’t be British, not in this area. Whoever they were, he wasn’t about to pull the trigger on friendly forces.

One after the other, three tanks clanked past the blacked-out Shermans and kept going, and Clarence began to breathe again.

Then one of the tanks let off the gas. It began turning and squeaking, as if its tracks were in need of oil. The sound was unmistakable. Only full-metal tracks sounded like that, and a Sherman’s were padded with rubber.

The tanks were German.

Clarence didn’t move. The tank was behind him, then beside him. It slowed and sputtered then squeaked to a stop in the middle of the coiled Shermans. Clarence braced for a flash and the flames that would swallow him. The German tank was idling alongside him. He’d never even hear the gun bark. He would just cease to exist.

A whisper shook Clarence from his paralysis. It was Paul. Without a word, Clarence slipped back into the gunner’s seat and Paul took over.

Clarence strapped on his tanker’s helmet. Made of fiber resin, it looked like a cross between a football helmet and a crash helmet, and had goggles on the front and headphones sewn into leather earflaps. He clipped a throat microphone around his neck and plugged into the intercom.

On the other side of the turret, the loader sat up, wiping the sleep from his eyes.

Clarence mouthed the words German tank. The loader snapped wide-awake.

From his hatch, Paul tapped Clarence on the right shoulder, the signal to turn the turret to the right.

Clarence hesitated. The turret wasn’t silent, what if the Germans heard it?

Paul tapped again.

Clarence relented and turned a handle, the turret whined, gears cranked, and the gun swept the dark.

When the gun was aligned broadside, Paul stopped Clarence. Clarence pressed his eyes to his periscope. Everything below the skyline was inky black.

Clarence told Paul he couldn’t see a thing and suggested they call in armored infantrymen to kill the tank with a bazooka.

Paul couldn’t chance some jittery soldier blasting the wrong tank. He grabbed his hand microphone—nicknamed “the pork chop” due to its shape—and dialed the radio to the platoon frequency, alerting the other crews to what they likely already knew: that an enemy tank was in the coil. In a Sherman platoon at that time, only the tanks of the platoon leader and platoon sergeant could transmit. Everyone else could only listen.

“No noise, and no smoking cigarettes,” Paul said. “We’ll take care of him.”

We’ll take care of him? Clarence was horrified. He had hardly used the gun in daylight and now Paul wanted him to fire in pitch-darkness, at what? A sound? An enemy he couldn’t see?

He wished he could return to being a loader. A loader never saw much. Never did much. On a tank crew, the loader was pretty much just along for the ride. That was the good life. A gentle giant, Clarence simply wanted to slip through the war without killing anyone or getting killed himself.

No time for that. The German tank crew had likely realized their mistake by now.

“Gunner, ready?”

Panicked, Clarence turned and tugged on Paul’s pant leg.

Paul sank into the turret, exasperated. Clarence rattled off his doubts. What if he missed? What if he got a deflection and hit their own guys?

Paul’s voice calmed Clarence: “Somebody has to take the shot.”

As if the Germans had been listening, they suddenly cut their power. The hot engine hissed, then went silent.

Clarence felt a wave of relief. It was a reprieve. Paul must have been biting his lip in anger, because he said nothing at first. Finally, he informed the crew that now they would have to wait to fire at first light.

Clarence’s relief faded. His indecision had cost them whatever advantage they’d had. And against a German tank, they’d need every advantage they could get, especially if they were facing a Panther, the tank of nightmares. Some GIs called it “the Pride of the Wehrmacht,” and rumor had it that a Panther could shoot through one Sherman and into a second, and its frontal armor was supposedly impervious.

That July, the U.S. Army had placed several captured Panthers in a field in Normandy and blasted away at them with the same 75mm gun as in Clarence’s Sherman. The enemy tanks proved vulnerable from the flanks and rear, but not the front. Not a single shot managed to penetrate the Panther’s frontal armor, from any distance.

Clarence checked his luminescent watch, knowing the Germans were probably doing the same. The countdown had begun. Someone was going to die.

The loader fell asleep over the gun breech.

Three a.m. became four a.m.

Clarence and Paul passed a canteen of cold coffee back and forth. They had always joked that they were a family locked in a sardine can. And like a family, they didn’t always see eye to eye. Unlike Paul, who was always running off to help someone outside the tank, all Clarence cared about was his family on the inside—him and his crew.

This had been his way since childhood.

Growing up in industrial Lehighton, Pennsylvania, Clarence lived in a row house by the river, with walls so flimsy he could hear the neighbors. His parents were usually out working to keep the family afloat. His father did manual labor for the Civilian Conservation Corps and his mother was a housekeeper.

With the family’s survival at stake, Clarence was determined to contribute. When other kids played sports or did homework, twelve-year-old Clarence stacked a ballpark vendor’s box with candy bars and went selling door-to-door throughout Lehighton. Just a boy, he had vowed: I’ve got to take care of my family because no one is going to take care of us.

Clarence checked his periscope. To the east, a faint tinge of purple colored the horizon.

He kept his eyes glued to the glass until a blocky shape appeared about fifty yards away.

“I see it,” he whispered.

Paul rose to his hatch and saw it too. It looked like a rise of rock, highest at the midpoint. Clarence turned handwheels to fine-tune his aim.

Paul urged him to hurry. If they could see the enemy, the enemy could see them.

Clarence settled the reticle, as the gun sight’s crosshairs were known, on the “rock” at center mass and reported that he was ready. His boot hovered over the trigger, a button on the footrest.

“Fire,” Paul said.

Clarence’s foot stamped down.

Outside, a massive flash leapt from the Sherman’s barrel, momentarily illuminating the tanks—an olive-drab American and a sandy-yellow German—both facing the same direction.

Sparks burst from the darkness and a sound like an anvil strike pierced the countryside. Inside the turret, without the fan operating, smoke hung thick in the air. Clarence’s ears throbbed and his eyes stung, but he kept them pressed to his sight.

The loader chambered a new shell. Clarence again hovered his foot over the trigger.

“Nothing’s moving,” Paul said from above. A broadside at this range? It was undoubtedly a kill shot.

The intercom came alive with voices of relief, and Clarence moved his foot away from the trigger.

Paul radioed the platoon; the job was done.

Through his periscope, Clarence watched the sky warm beneath the dark clouds, revealing the boxy armor and the 11-foot, 8-inch long gun of a Panzer IV tank.

Known by the Americans as the Mark IV, the design was old, in service since 1938, and it had been the enemy’s most prevalent tank until that August, when the Panther began taking over. But even though it was no longer the mainstay, the Mark IV was still lethal. Its 75mm gun packed 25 percent more punch than Clarence’s.

More light revealed the tank’s dark green-and-brown swirls of camouflage and the German cross on the flank. Clarence had nearly placed his shot right on it.

“Think they’re in there?” One of the crewmen posed the question, seeing that the Mark IV’s hatch covers hadn’t budged.

Clarence envisioned a tank full of moaning, bleeding men and hoped the crew had slipped out in the night. He had no love for the Germans, but he hated the idea of killing any human being. He wasn’t about to look inside his first tank kill. A shell can ricochet like a super-sonic pinball within the tight quarters, and he’d seen maintenance guys go inside to clean and come out crying after discovering brains on the ceiling.

“I’ll go.” Paul unplugged his helmet.

Clarence tried to dissuade him. It wasn’t worth looking inside and getting his head blown off by a German.

Paul brushed away the concerns and radioed the platoon to hold their fire.

Through his periscope, Clarence watched Paul climb the Mark IV’s hull and creep toward the turret with his Thompson at the ready. With one hand steadying his gun, Paul opened the commander’s hatch and aimed the Thompson inside.

Nothing happened. 
He leaned forward and took a long look, then shouldered his gun. Paul sealed the hatch shut.

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4.8 out of 54.8 out of 5
2,411 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Beech Simmonds
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Superb storytelling that you cannot put down. Brilliant!
Reviewed in the United States on February 21, 2019
I run a WW2 library page on Instagram and received an advanced copy of Spearhead in exchange for an honest review. The acclaimed author has done it again. Finding a fantastic set of characters from both the American and German side, following their fight until their stories... See more
I run a WW2 library page on Instagram and received an advanced copy of Spearhead in exchange for an honest review. The acclaimed author has done it again. Finding a fantastic set of characters from both the American and German side, following their fight until their stories entwine on the battlefield. The book follows the stories of tank gunners Clarence and Gustav through the European theater until their wars collide in Cologne as the Allies break into Germany. Adam Makos’ brilliant and descriptive storytelling paints a clear picture of the men and the battles. You can visualize these men and their crews inside the tanks, facing the perils of armored warfare. Adam Makos and his team spent a great deal of time researching the battlefields, on the ground with the veterans and this is evident in the amazing level of detail he has put to paper. As well as the two gunners we meet other characters from infantry and armored units as they fight together through some of the wars epic battles including the Ruhr Pocket where 325,000 German troops were captured. The reader is taken inside the tanks, through the trenches, streets and fields with these men who are swept up in the tragedy of war. A fantastic book that reads beautifully, anyone can enjoy this from WW2 enthusiasts to people who are new to the genre. I loved it and I’m sure you will too.
132 people found this helpful
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Writing Historian
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Hooked from the Moment I Began Reading it
Reviewed in the United States on February 19, 2019
This book arrived earlier today and I began leafing through it to see if I liked it or not. Turns out I did so I sat down and read it from cover to cover. Wasn''t sure if an accurate story of the soldiers from Company E, 32d Armored Regiment, 3d Armored Division,... See more
This book arrived earlier today and I began leafing through it to see if I liked it or not. Turns out I did so I sat down and read it from cover to cover.

Wasn''t sure if an accurate story of the soldiers from Company E, 32d Armored Regiment, 3d Armored Division, along with their supporting foot troops of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, who fought in the Battle of Cologne would be accurately told by someone who relied on interviews rather than wartime documents. But a quick look at the endnotes shows Makos did rely on wartime documents. In fact, he did an excellent job in terms of getting it right, with only one minor gaffe in the entire book (mistakenly identified the German Seventh Army as the Seventeenth Army)

Adam Markos has done an absolutely magnificent job capturing those events and taking the story further by examining the postwar experiences of the panzer crewmembers and US tankers during a dramatic afternoon captured on film by a Signal Corps motion picture photographer and recounted after the fact by Stars and Stripes correspondent Andy Rooney.

For those interested in more than Cologne, the author begins the tale by recounting events at the Mons Pocket in September 1944 before taking the narrative through the capture of Cologne and beyond.

I am gauging this book''s worth from the perspective of a professional historian who previously served in the US Army as a tanker in a number of different units between 1979 and 2006. Reading about Clarence Smoyer and Gustav Schaefer meeting after the war in the same square where they both fired upon a fleeing civilian car with tragic results almost brought tears to my eyes. It was very touching to see how wartime foes could become close comrades decades later. SPOILER ALERT - Herr Schaefer was not in the Panther whose destruction was captured on film. He was in one of the other two panzers in Cologne city center that day.

Highly recommended especially for those who aren''t deeply interested in World War 2 or armored warfare. This will prove to be an enjoyable and interesting read for those folks.

A number of photos are included, some are recognizable stock pictures that have appeared in other books but some were donated by veterans for the book. Some maps are included, but they give a "soda straw" rather than a wider view of specific events.
87 people found this helpful
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al
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
How Our Forefathers Fought The Good Fight and Won
Reviewed in the United States on February 19, 2019
I just received my copy today, I had to order this great book, after seeing a review about Spearhead in The Wall Street Journal. As I thumb through my copy, I know I will not be disappointed! I am a student of history, and keenly appreciate reading about WW II, especially... See more
I just received my copy today, I had to order this great book, after seeing a review about Spearhead in The Wall Street Journal. As I thumb through my copy, I know I will not be disappointed! I am a student of history, and keenly appreciate reading about WW II, especially American actions in France and Germany. My dear Uncle was a surviving combat medic under General Devers and later with General Anthony McCauliffe going into Germany. ... years ..later he reconciled with our German cousins . For me much of this is very personal in a familial sense. Author, Adam Makos is a gifted writer with much more to offer in the future. I must read his other works. The type set makes this edition easy to read. The colorized photo on the cover brings the past to life.The photos, maps and illustrations are very worthy additions to the narrative. The notes, index, sources, etc. are complete.Well done Random House, and a special thanks to Adam Makoas.!! WELL DONE!!
43 people found this helpful
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Dom
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This might just be my new favorite WWII book!
Reviewed in the United States on February 24, 2019
Wow! This is the best book I have read since Adam Makos'' A Higher Call. It is an intense and emotional journey through the end of WWII. I knew the boys in the Allied armored divisions had a rough job, but this really puts their fight into a new personal light. I... See more
Wow! This is the best book I have read since Adam Makos'' A Higher Call. It is an intense and emotional journey through the end of WWII. I knew the boys in the Allied armored divisions had a rough job, but this really puts their fight into a new personal light.

I remember watching the film on the duel with the Panther as a kid and always wanting to know more, now you can. This book will leave you saying wow and probably rubbing your eyes a bit at the end.

I was sitting on the edge of my office chair on numerous occasions glued to the pages reading as fast I could to see what would happen next. I can''t believe the things these boys went through to defeat the Third Reich. I love WWII history and I now have a much stronger appreciation of our WWII tanker veterans like Clarence Smoyer and his armored infantry comrades.

All I can say is Clarence''s story should be a movie! Do your self a favor and read this book!
42 people found this helpful
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Paul Smith
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great Story of a True World War 2 Hero.
Reviewed in the United States on February 22, 2019
I had the opportunity to hear this story sitting with Clarence Smoyer back in 2003 at a 3rd Armored Division Reunion. As the President of the 32nd Cavalry & Armor Association this story is part of our history as a Combat Cavalry and Armor Regiment. Adam Makos has written a... See more
I had the opportunity to hear this story sitting with Clarence Smoyer back in 2003 at a 3rd Armored Division Reunion. As the President of the 32nd Cavalry & Armor Association this story is part of our history as a Combat Cavalry and Armor Regiment. Adam Makos has written a great book of the story of "Spearhead" the Story of Cpl. Clarence Smoyer (Eagle 7). Clarence served in Easy Company 2nd Battalion 32nd Armor Regiment as a gunner on a Pershing Tank. His story tells of the Battle of Cologne and the tank battle that took place in front of the Kölner Dom, officially Hohe Domkirche Sankt Petrus, English: Cathedral Church of Saint Peter. This battle was a turning point of the First Army/ 3rd Armored Division invasion into Germany. I recommend this book to be part of your reading. VICTORY OR DEATH!!!
33 people found this helpful
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J. Good
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Truly an outstanding book. This one really takes you there.
Reviewed in the United States on March 11, 2019
I spent most of my year long tour of duty in Vietnam as a tank gunner. Later I spent a bit over 3 years in the 3rd Armored Division during the Cold War in Germany. While I am not a World War II veteran, i can relate to what those guys went through. This book really takes... See more
I spent most of my year long tour of duty in Vietnam as a tank gunner. Later I spent a bit over 3 years in the 3rd Armored Division during the Cold War in Germany. While I am not a World War II veteran, i can relate to what those guys went through. This book really takes the reader into the turret of a tank bouncing across Europe. The author has woven probably the best account of the human emotions of war that I have ever seen. Rather than just a cold, detached accounting of the war, this book takes you into the minds of the participants. It reads very well, and I would have finished it even quicker if I had not had to stop to wipe the tears from my eyes so often.
33 people found this helpful
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Marigold
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Infinite stars.
Reviewed in the United States on March 6, 2019
I probably have 800 books on WW2 in my Kindle and on my bookshelf. My father was in that war as were almost all of his friends and the fathers of my friends. For a long time after the war, no one really mentioned the war or spoke of it except in reference to time:... See more
I probably have 800 books on WW2 in my Kindle and on my bookshelf.
My father was in that war as were almost all of his friends and the fathers of my friends.
For a long time after the war, no one really mentioned the war or spoke of it except in reference to time: "That was before the war." "That happened after the war." Our parents and grandparents simply wanted to put it behind them.
Over the past few decades, these men (and women) have been coming out of the shadows and putting forth memoirs, biographies, journals and diaries and sharing them with us.
I have read dozens...hundreds....of them over the last 15 years.
Although I have also read and loved Makos'' other books, it is this one that puts it, frankly, at the top of my list of the Best of the Best of all my WW2 books....and I have read some great ones.
It landed in my Kindle on the day it was released and I consumed it within a day or so. I then turned around and re-read it just so I could glean what I might have missed in my first reading.
All of those young men''s lives and stories were brought to life by Makos so that I felt a personal connection to each one.
I will say that my two favorites were Robert Earley, the tank commander who had, at age twenty nine, enormous maturity and wisdom which kept his crew safe and well balanced as they lived through hell on earth. Even when not in actual battle, he was still on guard and kept his presence of mind.
Then there is the hero of this story: Clarence. What was he? Twenty one when he became the gunner of the Sherman and then the Pershing?
The reader cannot read about his decisions at this tender age without astonishment. I keep thinking about how he "saw" things....a slight shadow off in the distance; a few straight lines in the woods where there are never any straight lines; a glimpse of movement here or there; an odd sound.
He didn''t dismiss ANYTHING. He waited or probed and then, with amazing reflexes and eyes, got the first shot.
Clarence shot up a lot of tanks and buildings and, therefore, men died. He saw his friends and mentor, Paul Faircloth, slaughtered. Yet Clarence never lost his own decency or humanity.
The story toward the end of the book sums up this remarkable young man up perfectly. After one horrendous battle where his unit had been ambushed and received terrible losses, Clarence was in his gunner''s seat, taking a breather as they had won that skirmish, when he saw one of the Germans who had jumped from his own tank.....the same tank that Clarence had just destroyed. The German tanker was dazed and disoriented and stumbling about when it dawned on him that he was caught in the site of the Pershing that had just taken his tank out.
Clarence zoomed in on the German''s face and saw his fear and distress as he knew he was about to die.
Clarence''s thoughts at that moment perfectly sum up Clarence''s character. "The Germans are the ones who want to fight til the last man is dead. We are not like that and I don''t want to be."
Instead of blasting his enemy to hell, Clarence turned his cannon aside and then gently lifted it up and down in a nod to the man that was not going to die at that moment. Clarence watched as the German tanker turned and ran away.
What a book.
19 people found this helpful
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Dan Truitt
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Reads Like A Novel
Reviewed in the United States on March 19, 2019
My dad''s a WWII vet and also served in the Third Armored Division. He saw the Panther that Clarence Smoyers dueled with shortly after their fight in Cologne. I sent him this book a few days ago. "This made my day," he said. Reading this account gave me a much greater... See more
My dad''s a WWII vet and also served in the Third Armored Division. He saw the Panther that Clarence Smoyers dueled with shortly after their fight in Cologne. I sent him this book a few days ago. "This made my day," he said. Reading this account gave me a much greater understanding of the trauma my dad experienced during the war, and a softer stance to his subsequent personality difficulties as I grew up. God bless Adam Makos for keeping the memory of WWII vets alive and immediate.
13 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Miken
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Tiresome
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 13, 2019
I had to give up reading this book about 1/3 of the way in. The events portrayed are apparently all true and I have no reason to doubt it. It has photographs and official quotes that confirm it. However it reads like a novel written by an excitable schoolboy. The author is...See more
I had to give up reading this book about 1/3 of the way in. The events portrayed are apparently all true and I have no reason to doubt it. It has photographs and official quotes that confirm it. However it reads like a novel written by an excitable schoolboy. The author is apparently able to tell us detailed conversations and even the thoughts of all the characters in the book plus all kinds of minutiae that I doubt anyone could recall after 70 odd years. It''s full of unnecessary hyperbole . I gave up after tiring of reading for the tenth time about the Germans firing "green bolts" (anti tank fire). Maybe OK for you if you are 12 years old.
16 people found this helpful
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Steve
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Best ever
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 6, 2020
It was one of the best war books I''v read. I know the Cologne streets where the tank battle took place near the cathedral. The book shows the sheer chance of whether you''d survive or not in those World War II combats, with nothing held back in explaining the reality of the...See more
It was one of the best war books I''v read. I know the Cologne streets where the tank battle took place near the cathedral. The book shows the sheer chance of whether you''d survive or not in those World War II combats, with nothing held back in explaining the reality of the fighting, but also a nice touch on how the soldier, Clarence Smoyer went back to Cologne and met the German who fought against him in the tank battle in 1945. Excellent and highly recommended....
4 people found this helpful
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Tim S. C. Forster
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Well-written account of the final tank battles of WW2 from the perspective of those at the sharp end
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 31, 2019
The well-known Pershing - Panther duel at Cologne cathedral is the centre-piece of the book, but there are plenty of fascinating events leading up to it. The author does a good job weaving into the narrative the stories of tank crewmen on both sides ofthe conflict and the...See more
The well-known Pershing - Panther duel at Cologne cathedral is the centre-piece of the book, but there are plenty of fascinating events leading up to it. The author does a good job weaving into the narrative the stories of tank crewmen on both sides ofthe conflict and the character studies are well-rounded. There may be a little too much added detail for those looking for a purely historical narrative (the author sketches scenes and describes thoughts and feelings from the veterans'' points of view), but I felt that he achieved just the right balance. It reminded me a little of Ken Tout''s ''Tank!'' - which, in my view, is the best semi-fictional account of WW2 tank action ever-written. Recommended.
4 people found this helpful
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Thunderfinch
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An incredible book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 21, 2020
I read this over a couple of days and really enjoyed it, not that enjoy is the correct word when you read the horrors depicted in this book. What I enjoyed most (Sorry, most interesting) was the battle between the Panther and Pershing tank in Cologne. It''s a frequent film...See more
I read this over a couple of days and really enjoyed it, not that enjoy is the correct word when you read the horrors depicted in this book. What I enjoyed most (Sorry, most interesting) was the battle between the Panther and Pershing tank in Cologne. It''s a frequent film that appears on YouTube as one of the army film people were on scene. It was incredible to actually read about the men involved, and who was driving the car you see being fired upon. Well worth a read. Makes you realise that it''s politicians that should be fighting, not the soldiers.
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Me
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
About one of the few Pershing tanks used in Europe in WW2
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 1, 2019
Beautifully written story about a US tank group in Europe after D Day, based on first hand accounts from the survivors. The description of how the new US Pershing tank, of which only 20 saw action, compared with the German Panther and Tiger tanks, is fascinating.
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