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WWII 'Hero of Cologne' finally receives Bronze Star nearly 75 years after legendary showdown with Nazi tank
Army veteran Clarence Smoyer, the 'Hero of Cologne' who helped take the town of Cologne, Germany in March 1945 as tank gunner with the famous 'Eagle 7' M26 Pershing tank crew, finally received the Bronze Star nearly 75 years after his battlefield heroics.
Smoyer, 95, received his Bronze Star during a ceremony at the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.
The rest of the Eagle 7 tank crew — bow gunner Homer Davis, driver William McVey, and loader John DeRiggi — received their Bronze Star posthumously; their families accepted them on their behalf.
Their commander, Bob Earley, had previously received the Bronze Star.
Army Maj. Peter Semanoff pins a Bronze Star medal onto the lapel of World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer.DOD: C. Todd Lopez
Smoyer earned his nickname following the March 6, 1945 showdown in which his Pershing tank destroyed a German Panther tank in front of a cathedral, a battle captured on film and screened in theaters across the United States.
Smoyer was 21 at the time of the battle and had arrived in France with his crew just weeks after D-Day, according to Stars and Stripes,
Adam Makos, who wrote the book Spearhead about legendary tank showdown, called Cologne "Germany's fortress city," and Smoyer "recalled the fear he felt" as his crew entered the city, according to the Army release.
But Smoyer said his unit's commander told his soldiers, "'Gentlemen, I give you Cologne. Let's knock the hell out of it.' And we obliged."
During the battle, Smoyer's Eagle 7 crew encountered the German tank situated in front of a cathedral and "harassing American forces," Stars and Stripes reports.
The Germans had already killed several U.S. soldiers, and "left other crews paralyzed." But Eagle 7 decided to take a crack at it.
Spearheard author Makos described the full-frontal assault on the German Panther tank a "suicide mission." But the Eagle 7 crew "volunteered" and eased into the intersection in front of the cathedral, which put them "muzzle to muzzle" with the Nazis.
Smoyer then fired three shots at the Germans, saying that he "wanted that tank to burn up, which it did — it eventually caught fire."
The entire battle — 45 seconds, according to Stars and Stripes — was caught on camera by an American combat correspondent nearby, according to the Army.
Smoyer's sister even saw it at the theater afterwards and, after recognizing her brother, asked the theater to play it again the next day so their parents could see it.
Smoyer believed that he cost himself his own shot at a Bronze Star the day after the showdown, when a pair of German children approached him and asked for bubblegum
"I tried to explain to them I didn't have anything. I pulled my pockets out to show them they were empty ... [so] I took them by their hands and took them back to their mother." Smoyer said.
"And then I turned around and started to walk away, and the MPs pull up alongside of me, and ask for my name and rank. 'You're not supposed to be talking to the Germans' they told me. I think that caused me to lose the Bronze Star."
Speaking on Wednesday, Smoyer called receiving his Bronze Star "an honor."
"I will always honor that," he said. "I'll do that in remembrance of all the young boys that were killed over there."
Once again, the United States and the Taliban are apparently close to striking a peace deal. Such a peace agreement has been rumored to be in the works longer than the latest "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" sequel. (The difference is Keanu Reeves has fewer f**ks to give than U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.)
Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.
Now Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen has told a Pakistani newspaper that he is "optimistic" that the Taliban could reach an agreement with U.S. negotiators by the end of January.
75 years ago, Audie Murphy earned his Medal of Honor with nothing but a burning tank destroyer's .50 cal and insane bravery
Editor's note: a version of this post first appeared in 2018
On January 26, 1945, the most decorated U.S. service member of World War II earned his legacy in a fiery fashion.
Florida senators are pushing for Purple Hearts for service members wounded in the NAS Pensacola shooting
Florida's two senators are pushing the Defense Department to award Purple Hearts to the U.S. service members wounded in the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
The Navy Department is in the middle of a new force-structure review, which could change the number and types of ships the sea services say they'll need to fight future conflicts. But instead of trying to project what they will need three decades out, which has been the case in past assessments, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the services will take a shorter view.
"I don't know what the threat's going to be 30 years from now, but if we're building a force structure for 30 years from now, I would suggest we're probably not building the right one," he said Friday at a National Defense Industrial Association event.
The Navy completed its last force-structure assessment in 2016. That 30-year plan called for a 355-ship fleet.
When Oscar Jesus Temores showed up to work at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story each day, his colleagues in base security knew they were in for a treat.
Temores was a master-at-arms who loved his job and cracking corny jokes.
"He just he just had that personality that you can go up to him and talk to him about anything. It was goofy and weird, and he always had jokes," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Lopez, a fellow base patrolman. "Sometimes he'd make you cry from laughter and other times you'd just want to cringe because of how dumb his joke was. But that's what made him more approachable and easy to be around."
That ability to make others laugh and put people at ease is just one of the ways Temores is remembered by his colleagues. It has been seven weeks since the 23-year-old married father of one was killed when a civilian intruder crashed his pickup truck into Temores' vehicle at Fort Story.